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Wild Heart Lands

Whilst species rich ancient hedges are often discussed with some common agreement, woodland ecology and palaeoecology can be a more controversial topic. New woods take a long time to become species rich. Many people are asking why (other than for fund raising) so much new tree planting is taking place and why natural regeneration is over looked. Natural regeneration of woodland and other habitats can offer robust solutions at a time when biodiversity is challenged.

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Planted trees can introduce disease and often do not thrive for a range of issues including a lack of mycorrhizal fungi in the soil which may create weak stock due to soil structure issues, phosphate and other nutrient deficiencies & even poor water uptake. Introduced tree stock may have no empathy with local conditions, cross pollination integrity, or local climate.

People often ask us about planting trees. Aided or unaided natural regeneration of local provenance with associated fungi and bacteria’s, suited to climate specifics, is far preferable to planting. But when this is not possible, the rule should be: the right tree(s) in the right place(s).

Woodland and peat-lands are excellent carbon sinks. Trees soak up heat and trapping carbon dioxide as they grow, they release it when they burn or rot. Research into large remaining contemporary ecosystems, for example, in rain forest areas or Siberia could help us to understand the mechanics of dynamic vegetation lifecycles, interactions and change. Good land management and re-wilding of nature could be equivalent to stopping global oil burning and could avert 11.3bn tones of carbon dioxide emissions a year, (equivalent to fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions for China) and providing 37% of all cuts needed by 2030 to offset climate change. If added to this veganism became wide spread, possibly the single biggest act that could be delivered to reverse climate change, significant progress could be made.

It has been argued that newly planted woodland will probably have less wildlife value than a single ancient or veteran tree that can be in its self a mini nature reserve. Ancient trees are hollow and beyond maturity, the crown may be consolidated and the girth noticeably larger than neighboring trees. Veteran trees are old trees (pre-ancient or mature) Different species reach maturity at different ages. Environmental and ageing factors cause features such as flaking bark, cavities, fungal decay, running sap, if it is oak it may have a staghead feature, they may be old coppiced stools or man-.made or natural pollards. We have the technology to transplant huge mature trees in order to “save them” from development sites; but should we not instead relocate the development sites.US White Oak specimen trees in urban areas are given deserved attention (as with UK trees that have been awarded tree preservation orders) but these great trees have lost their natural homes, their habitat envelopes.

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Holistic, biodiverse habitats with natural regeneration are vital. The impact of human activity and long-term vegetation change must be properly understood. Large herbivore grazing in woodland and within re-wilding areas has become a recognized though controversial tool to create diverse habitats. When animals used in smaller scale conservation grazing are sold for meat to generate income, a conflict of interest can arise. It is argued that animals can disturb natural balance, destroy invertebrates and produce methane & other waste. Historically (post glacial) Ireland had no large grazing animals. It would be expected that Ireland’s tree cover would have varied from places with grazing animals. However, palaeoecological research including counts and analysis of historical pollen, show no unexpected difference between tree species distribution & density (closed canopy or park woodland) in Ireland & other places that did have grazing animals. Natural regeneration is preferred for creating and expanding new wildlife rich woodland and ancient semi natural woodland. It is cheap and the trees generated are better adapted to local conditions and reflect natural composition. What could be easier than to keep our hand off and allow space for nature?

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Below: Healthy habitats nurture wildlife by providing expanse of shelter, food & places to breed & raise the next generation.

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Promoting learning and well-being in our community

We have created accessible community opportunities for people to improve skills, build awareness & gain independence for positive change. Anti bullying and building resilience continue as strong themes in our work. We have hugeley expanded our learning resources on wide ranging topics from crotchet to pollinators.

Our outdoor activities offer physical exercise and self awareness; they explore control and reflection and are of particular use for mental health service users and participants suffering from stress and low self esteem. We have held discussions with members of our community with Alzheimer’s or caring for those with the condition & local orchard owners, to open up orchards to benefit this group of people. Our environmental projects empower people in a stimulating natural environment and build community cohesion. We use “nature nurture” wellbeing tools to develop holistic learning skills. Natural music, natural art, natural weaving and plant dies can be explored. Nature observation and empathy offers transformational learning and insight into re use, creative application, craft skills and practical solutions planning and executive function skills. Sketching wild flowers and flora ID encourages calm observation of detail and difference. Fauna ID encourages compassion and empathy for the natural world. Participants develop basic skills, use simple tool and developing pride in and understanding of their own achievements; they can develop spatial awareness, motor skills and understanding of the value of landscapes. Children are included and encouraged to use all of the senses to make natural observations, experiment with natural materials and explore habitats. Earth stories and natural measuring, understanding horizons and perspective are popular activities. We received positive feedback on our partnership work from Woodborough preschool committee.

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We continue to work on a range of key adoption initiatives. In March we cooperated with a small group to lobby Central Government to expand the number of adopted children covered by the Virtual schools and virtual heads to make the service more diverse and inclusive. We have extended our resource on attachment parenting and PACE parenting (playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy) creating information tools that encourage positive family relationships. We are promoting awareness of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Our cultural learning interventions can have a positive social impact and increase attainment and self esteem in hard to reach learners.

A PowerPoint has been produced, as a teaching tool, on belief-systems and equality.

We were given the nice forest craft snowman (below) as a “thank you” for helping with a winter woodland celebration at Little Adventurers Forest School. Activities included burning a camp fire yule wishing log and making evergreen woodland garlands.

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Our Kozy-Kitchen healthy eating project project is still in demand after 31 years. We have expanded our resources on sugar free diet & recipes; plant based dietary magnesium; B12, vegan life and orchard fruits. Our “Natures plant larder” project remains in popular demand. It covers basic skills and specific skills, such as identification, food preparation, cooking, reading recipes accurately, measuring ingredients and understanding healthy eating and wellbeing.

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The Dawn Chorus Trials Garden and Nursery and our “Grow-How, helping to grow” project

The Dawn Chorus ” Grow-How: helping to grow” project was established in 1985. We aim to share best practice in growing organic heritage plants, including wild flowers, food crops and native trees and shrubs. This summer has been busy. 30 heritage vegetable varieties, 25 heritage fruit varieties, 30 wildflower varieties & 35 native tree & shrub varieties have been propagated & grown on in the Dawn Chorus trials garden to distribute & use for educational purposes & as part of our learning/skills development initiative. Lincolnshire Snake Beans are growing well, to produce seed for the UN” Year of the Pulse” project 2016. Heritage vegetable plants have again been given to local schools and nurseries for children’s educational activities.Our “Grow How: helping to grow” project, developed social media tools that have been take up by people looking for practical solutions.

Below: we have been growing heritage lettuce “Stoke” from our own seed for twenty years. We have experimented with growing Gerkins for pickles.

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We create wild life habitats and showcase beneficial gardens. Hedgehog feeding & monitoring is continuing with groups of hedgehogs being fed & catalyzing publicity for the wider community to be involved in hedgehog welfare. Biological records are maintained, eg: a hummingbird hawk moth recorded on red valerian, then became a popular social media post. Volunteers and children have been comparing designs of insect hotels and pictures have been put on to social media to draw attention to the project.

We think that organic practice is important. 80% of flowering plants, including food plants, are pollinated by bees, yet pesticides are decimating our beneficial insect population. Just think, a single wheat grain treated with neonicotinoid ( the most widely used pesticide on the planet) will kill a song bird.

People often ask us about garden manure. Herbicides in farmyard manure & in some horse manure (picked up from pasture grazing & hay) can  contain aminopyralid – a hormone-type herbicide which goes under several trade names. It kills most vegetables & fruits if it gets in to compost or soil & it lasts in soil for many years. Remember also that herbicides & insecticides in most manure makes compost non organic. People using well rotted manure made into compost that has stood for over a year are finding gardens destroyed by residue from  herbicides, whilst pesticides kill beneficial insects, worms & soil biodiversity; they are not biodegradable & persist in soil causing damage for years.

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We plan Summers filled with fun, bringing people and communities together. This resource project feeds into social, therapeutic and educational activities that share and develop skills for employability and enrich peoples lives and wellbeing. The programmes increase the confidence and achievements of vulnerable people and promote mindfulness and healthy diet whilst offering people “a change of scene” by getting them out into nature and encouraging green gym activities. Our working partner John, said: “healthy earth creates healthy life”. Below: children’s activities, fun  cress growing and pea-pod play.

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We have a riot of seedlings and cuttings in propagation. The abundance of energy in the sprouting seedlings encapsulates the potential of green economy and sustainable communities. We work alone and in partnership to deliver environmental learning. This Dawn Chorus project is much in demand in the communities: stimulating organic horticultural and nature conservation activities; inspiring healthy food growing; developing understanding of the issues surrounding pollinating insects and soil and water conservation and saving heritage seeds.

Below: seedlings of heritage cress; globe artichokes and Indian mustard.

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We have grown large leaved sorrel with seed provided by the Real Seed Company, so when our volunteers visited Burtom Agness walled garden on a field trip in 2019, we were delighted to find this crop.

Nature Mandalas

Mandala is the Sanskrit word for circle. Mandalas often have radiating patterns and can be found in nature; a good example is tree rings. Our stress-busting nature mandala events allow everyone to join in with this creative yet tranquil activity.

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The patterns can be simple or complex. We use natural materials or, as part of our healthy eating projects, plant-based food items. Would you like to join us to make huge mandalas with piles of apples as part of our orchard projects?

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Food Growing and Heritage Plants: project overview.

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Above, fields of British wildflowers in the East Midlands.

Our heritage plants projects include ancient trees, traditional orchards, heirloom vegetable growing and seed saving as part of a sustainable plant-based diet, and wild plants and flowers.

Below: child feeling heritage French beans, pumpkin bed and traditional orchard medlar fruit.

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We raise awareness of the importance of open pollinated plants and the need to create a healthy environment for pollinating insects.

Below insect pollinated heritage garden plants.

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Activities In National Insect Weeks

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Our volunteers carried out a butterfly count and monitored bees and spiders during this years national insect week. Photographs shown here are by volunteers and supporters. Below: spider by our supporter Christina Cudworth Franson.

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This year monitoring took place in Nottinghamshire, Doncaster, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire.

National Insect Week

 

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Our records have been submitted to Nottinghamshire Geological and Biological Records Office for many years. This year we have designed a new volunteer species monitoring form and our volunteers are interested in linking in with East Midlands iSpot based at Nottingham University.

The two photographs below are by our volunteer and supporter Gaina Cee 2014:

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Warren Priest is looking for help in identifying 400 species of beautiful moths. Warren photographed the moths in Sikkim Province India. A link to Warren’s photographs can be found in our links section. If you can help, please contact us in the first instance.

Making dead-wood piles for insect habitats, is always a popular activity with our volunteers.

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Our volunteers made daily photographic records of this wild bee colony in the run-up to National Insect week 2013, posting it on twitter at the start of the week.

National Insect Week

We planted native pollen & nectar plants. The nations starving bees can not fend of virus attack and are weak in the face of agri-chemical poisoning. Our publicity campaign during the week asked supporters to plant for bees & butterflies and be organic gardeners.

Remember to plant for night pollinators. Whilst plants such as annual poached egg plant, Limnanthes douglasii (which can grow in poorly drained clay soils) is great by day, Matthiola longipetala, known as night-scented stock or evening stock, is a species of ornamental plant is brilliant in the evening.

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Volunteers and Friends.

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VOLUNTEER TALK:

What people are saying about us: “Dawn Chorus Educational Initiative is an absolute authority on engaging people on urgent issues that matter. The influential community education programmes, led by this Community Interest Company, make a real difference to the lives of people who are welcomed and encouraged to participate in admirably passionate activities that celebrate our heritage in style and offer high rewards to animals and the environment”,   Sarah B., supporter.

“Through the encouragement of behavioral change and by offering people opportunities to learn skills and get involved in making hands on practical contributions, Dawn Chorus is making a lasting, positive impact on social, environmental and animal welfare in our local communities. The activities build self confidence and personal satisfaction, drawing on the calming tranquility of nature, the arts and respect for each other and for animals, whilst growing understanding and appreciation of horticulture, wildlife, landscape conservation, culture  and heritage”,   E. Barley, supporter.

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Each year Dawn Chorus thanks our volunteers by holding a volunteers Valentine snowdrop walk. Previous popular walks when our volunteers have been blessed with glorious sunshine and  fabulous displaies of snowdrops,  have taken place in Lambley, Stansted, Lincoln Epperstone.  The walks end with visits to local churches and refreshments. In 2015, glossy ibis, lesser spotted woodpecker & a little owl were spotted in same field at same time by Dawn Chorus volunteers on the volunteers valentine snowdrop walk, well done volunteers of all ages.

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Volunteers week, at the start of June, the Dawn Chorus & Juno Enterprise message was delivered directly to 18,000 third sector partners & supporters, with the help of social enterprise & third sector network partners. We especially thanked the volunteers who work at our partner animal sanctuaries, for the hard work they do. They turn up every day to work outside even in the worst of weathers. Animal sanctuary volunteers do some of the hardest, heaviest & dirtiest work. It is often very upsetting. Animal sanctuary volunteers have to feed  & care for animals every day, even on Christmas day; Kirkby Pet Rescue volunteer Celia said: “day off, what is that?”

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Dawn Chorus Educational Initiative works in the community and has built social capital which can be drawn on at times, such as now, when economic capital is short. Our studies  demonstrate that our contribution to building social & voluntary capital makes the community  more resilient and self-starting, directly addressing social issues and having economic value; feeding into the local economy.

What you can do to help: Bake off: can you bake a few cakes, sell them to your friends & forward the money to our good causes…then sit back and take all the praise for your great baking? Cup cakes & cookies? Yes Please!

Help us as we strive to enrich lives, foster enterprise and build communities. From the Nottinghamshire coalfields to orphanages in the poorest countries of Africa, you can make a huge difference by helping people to gain skills and learn about well-being, food growing, sustainability, the natural environment, animal welfare, arts, crafts and cultural heritage.

We are asking you to hold bake sales, or office cake sales to raise vital funds. We can supply you with easy but irresistible recipes and leaflets to tell your friends about the important work that they will be supporting by buying your delicious cakes. email: info@dawnchoruseducationalinitiative.org.uk

COZY KITCHEN: Dawn Chorus volunteers have been running Cozy Kitchen since 1992. It is a virtual place for friends to share vegan recipes and chat about volunteering. Many popular recipes have been shared over the years and are often on our Facebook page by popular request, such as our Dandelion Fizz, traditionally made on St. Georges day.

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Your friends would love you to organise a bake sale or work place cake sale, to raise much-needed funds for Dawn Chorus good causes; we can send you leaflets to let your friends know about the good work that they will be supporting through eating a yummy cake!  You could make the cake below, in a square tin and cut it into squares to sell to raise funds for our important work. Find the recipe by following our link to  “veganindulgence”, a blog by our supporter Andrew Jones.

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Andrew Jones helps to run the “Earthwise” group and says: “It is a great pleasure to be asked to write this for Dawn Chorus. I became vegetarian in April of 2012 after reading the “animal issue” of Resurgence magazine but have always felt that it was really a stepping stone to veganism. Over the following months I became more and more uncomfortable with eggs and dairy and gradually began phasing them out. I became officially vegan in October 2012 and it has been the best decision ever and a lot more easy than I ever thought. Why am I vegan? Because ultimately we do not have any physiological need for animal products in our diets, and indeed to the contrary they cause a whole host of disease. So if we don’t “need” them I have to ask – is the continued abuse, exploitation and slaughter of animals for what is essentially a palate pleasure morally acceptable? Unequivocally the answer is no! Add to this the damage the meat and dairy industry causes to our environment and it is a no brainer really. I started my blog to showcase excellent and indulgent vegan eating.  I hope you can make and enjoy my cake.”