The Charter for woods, trees and people – Being a Charter Champion

The Charter for woods, trees and people – Being a Charter Champion

Woodland Wonder

Everyone loves trees right? They are beautiful, stunning, ancient, environmentally essential and take minutes to destroy hundreds of years of growth.

I live next to woods which are beautiful, old and home to special birds such as March Tit and Tawny Owls, which in winter sometimes venture down to our garden. I also regularly hear the calls of Tawny Owls as I lie in my bed. How special is that?

It’s easy to worry about deforestation abroad but to forget that we are not protecting our own trees and woods enough.

So why is it that our trees don’t have proper protection? I live in an area of outstanding beauty where trees are meant to be protected as if they have a tree conservation order on them.

Yet, we’ve had an unscrupulous builder buy a house in our beautiful lane next to ancient woods, cut down two huge old trees hoping nobody would catch him and was only stopped by neighbours. More than eighteen months on, the trees haven’t been replaced and he is able to apply to planning without complying with an order to replant the trees. The law seems ridiculous to me and we need to make sure that people who cut down trees to get around planning regulations should be fined and stopped from applying for planning in the places that the trees use to be, otherwise they benefit from their crime.

I really hope the new tree charter makes the difference.  It is for that reason that I am a charter champion.

Stumps of cut down tree next to one that is left of the same maturity

The Charter for woods, trees and people

Led by the Woodland Trust, more than 70 organisations from across multiple sectors are working together to create a Charter that will guide policy and practice in the UK. They believe the people of the UK have a right to the many benefits brought by trees and woods.

On 6 November 2017, the 800th anniversary of the influential 1217 Charter of the Forest, they will launch the Charter for Trees, Woods and People. They believe the people of the UK have a right to the many benefits brought by trees and woods. The new charter will recognise, celebrate and protect this right.

The Tree Charter will draw its strength from the hundreds of thousands of people across the UK that sign. Please sign the tree charter today

The Issues:
Why do we need trees?
Trees and woods are hugely valuable for our health, happiness and children’s development
Our woodland heritage is even richer and internationally more significant than we realised.
The UK is one of the top consumers of wood products in the world
They provide:
Clean air
Natural flood defences
A mask for noise
Improved physical health and mental well-being
Cooling urban areas
Pollution absorption
Wildlife habitat
Recreational spaces
Contact with nature
Sensory outdoor learning resources

What are the threats?
Infrastructure development (building homes, railways and roads)
Pollution and climate change (changing weather and temperatures are challenging for trees)
Pests and diseases (increasing all the time – whole species such as Ash could be lost if not helped)
Lack of protection for ancient woodland in planning policy (UK has just 2% ancient woodland cover, yet more than 500 ancient woods are under threat)
60% of wildlife species are in decline across the UK
Decline in enrolments in forestry education (lack of awareness of forest jobs in young people)
Big trees dying of old age but not being replaced (especially in cities)

These are The Tree Charter Principles announced today.

We believe in:

Thriving habitats for diverse species
Urban and rural landscapes should have a rich diversity of trees, hedges and woods to provide homes, food and safe routes for our native wildlife. We want to make sure future generations can enjoy the animals, birds, insects, plants and fungi that depend upon diverse habitats.

Planting for the future
As the population of the UK expands, we need more woods, street trees, hedges and individual trees across the landscape. We want all planting to be environmentally and economically sustainable with the future needs of local people and wildlife in mind.

Celebrating the cultural impact of trees
Trees, woods and forests have shaped who we are. They are woven into our art, literature, folklore, place names and traditions. It’s our responsibility to preserve and nurture this rich heritage for future generations.
A thriving forestry sector that delivers for the UK<
We want forestry in the UK to be more visible, understood and supported so that it can achieve its huge potential and provide jobs, environmental benefits and economic opportunities for all.

Careers in woodland management, arboriculture and the wood supply chain should be attractive choices and provide development opportunities for individuals, communities and businesses.

Better protection for important trees and woods
Ancient woodland covers just 2% of the UK and there are currently more than 700 individual woods under threat from planning applications because sufficient protection is not in place.

We want stronger legal protection for trees and woods that have special cultural, scientific or historic significance to prevent the loss of precious and irreplaceable ecosystems and living monuments.

Enhancing new developments with trees
We want new residential areas and developments to be balanced with green infrastructure, making space for trees. Planning regulations should support the inclusion of trees as natural solutions to drainage, cooling, air quality and water purification. Long-term management should also be considered from the beginning to allow trees to mature safely in urban spaces.

Understanding and using the natural health benefits of trees
Having trees nearby leads to improved childhood fitness, and evidence shows that people living in areas with high levels of greenery are 40% less likely to be overweight or obese. We believe that spending time among trees should be promoted as an essential part of a healthy physical and mental lifestyle and a key element of healthcare delivery.

Access to trees for everyone
Everyone should have access to trees irrespective of age, economic status, ethnicity or disability. Communities can be brought together in enjoying, celebrating and caring for the trees and woods in their neighbourhoods. Schoolchildren should be introduced to trees for learning, play and future careers.

Addressing threats to woods and trees through good management
Good management of our woods and trees is essential to ensure healthy habitats and economic sustainability. We believe that more woods should be taken into management and plans should be based upon evidence of threats and the latest projections of climate change. Ongoing research into the causes of threats and solutions should be better promoted.

Strengthening landscapes with woods and trees
Trees and woods capture carbon, lower flood risk, and supply us with clean air, clean water, shade, shelter, recreation opportunities and homes for wildlife. We believe that the government must adopt policies and encourage new markets which reflect the value of these ecosystem services instead of taking them for granted.

Help shape the future:

Add your voice to the Tree Charter and help create a future in which trees and people stand stronger together: Sign the charter and they’ll plant a tree

Work With Me

If you would like to know more about I do or what services I offer, you can find out more below.

Find Out More

Giving a talk at Timsbury Nats

Giving a talk at Timsbury Nats

Last night, on Monday 20 March 2017, I did my second talk at Timsbury Nats called Born to Bird: Antarctica and Beyond. They are on the other side of the Chew Valley, where I live. My ringing trainer Mike Bailey lives there and is involved in the group.

They are such a lovely group, who sent me a card signed by the whole committee when I was being victimised by Islamaphobic trolls. I think that’s why I love talking to local nature groups so much.

My talk was about my world birding trips from 2014 onwards, including Antarctica. The last time I spoke for them was October 2014, 2 1/2 years ago, so I think I’ve improved a bit since then! It was really great to write and give an almost completely new talk, so let me know if I’ve talked to your group before but you would like me back.

The first photo is me jumping into a pool full of icy seawater, an Antarctica tradition and the second and third are of me getting up close to a Gentoo Penguin.

Young conservationist Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig getting out of Antarctic sea water
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig
Young conservationist Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig with a Gentoo Penguin, Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig
Young conservationist Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig “hugging” a Gentoo Penguin, Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig
Rockhopper and Chinstrap Penguin, Antarctica
Photograph taken by and copyright Young conservationist Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig

Work With Me

If you would like to know more about I do or what services I offer, you can find out more below.

Find Out More

The dark side to John Muir – Mendip AONB Young Rangers at Chew Valley Ringing Station

The dark side to John Muir – Mendip AONB Young Rangers at Chew Valley Ringing Station

In June 2015, I signed up for the Mendip Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) Young Rangers programme. I found out about it the previous year at the Chew Valley Bird-fair, but they only recruited every two years and so I had to wait for the next intake.

Blackdown, Mendip Hills
Copyright Mendip AONB

We started in September 2015 for the two-year conservation programme based on the Mendip Hills, not far from where I live in the Chew Valley, South of Bristol.

Everyone who started was either 12 or 13 years old and we all lived in places on or around the Mendip Hills. Quite a few of the others lived in Cheddar, so it was good for me to meet young people from new places. It is a two-year course, where you have to attend once each month and try something different each time. A lot of the focus is on the Mendip Hills and on its conservation.  Some months we visit somewhere to learn about the history of the place, like Wells Museum, and other times we visit places like a local quarry.

Mendip AONB Young Rangers, Navigating Session, Mendip Hills (Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig 3rd from left)
Copyright Mendip AONB

At the end of the two years, we get the John Muir Gold Award for Conservation. That is fantastic, but there is a bit of me that feels uncomfortable with that. John Muir was a Scottish American conservationist living in the USA who did a lot for conservation, lobbying for the formation of Yosemite NP, California in 1864. We visited the park last summer and it is really, really beautiful. However, there is a lot more to John Muir, and a lot that is very unpalatable to me. This blog post in Scientific American is essential reading

“I was raised in the mountains of Northern California and walked the trails near the site of this [native american] massacre as a child. But I had never heard of John Savage nor the terrible events that lay behind the formation of Yosemite National Park, a picturesque symbol of the conservation movement and a vacation resort for millions. Rather it was John Muir, that storied wanderer and founder of the Sierra Club, whose name was synonymous with this national treasure. When my brothers and I climbed out of the family station wagon to witness the majesty of this glacier-carved valley, it was Muir’s name that adorned the signs along the manicured trails and the celebrated volumes in the gift shop. If the indigenous population was mentioned in any of the brochures or trail guides I have no memory of it and I left with no indication that the region had once been inhabited. The impression I received was that Yosemite had always been a pristine wilderness, as sparse and pure as the Ansel Adams portraits that hung on my family’s wall for years afterwards.

It was this skewed interpretation of U.S. wilderness that John Muir had successfully promoted, a vision that has haunted the conservation movement ever since. In his famous nineteenth-century travel writings in the Sierra Nevada Mountains Muir described Yosemite not just as a picturesque marvel of nature, but as something divine that was beyond human frailties. The landscape of the “Sierra Cathedral Mountains” was a “temple lighted from above. But no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite,” he wrote. It was a place that was “pure wildness” and where “no mark of a man is visible upon it.”

[T]he main canyons widen into spacious valleys or parks of charming beauty, level and flowery and diversified like landscape gardens with meadows and groves and thickets of blooming bushes, while the lofty walls, infinitely varied in form, are fringed with ferns, flowering plants, shrubs of many species, and tall evergreens and oaks.

It’s not that Muir didn’t encounter native peoples in his travels. He did, but he found them to be “most ugly, and some of them altogether hideous.” For a wilderness as pure as his holy Yosemite, “they seemed to have no right place in the landscape, and I was glad to see them fading out of sight down the pass.” But, ironically, these “strange creatures” as Muir described them were the ones responsible for many of the features that gave Yosemite Valley its park-like appearance, the “landscape gardens” that Muir so valued. It is this forgotten legacy that has undermined many of the successes in the U.S. and even the global conservation movement today, one that traces directly back to John Savage and John Muir and the first protected wilderness site that later became the model followed around the world.”

I am not sure whether to accept my John Muir Gold Award or not; I have worked hard for it and it is recognised highly here. I think not, though I might refer in my CV to being entitled to receive it. For those who have been involved in race issues, what is your advice?

Of the twenty young people who started the course with me, two have dropped out, but the rest of us are good friends.

Mendip AONB Young Rangers – Caving Session, Mendip Hills (Young Birder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig)
Copyright Mendip AONB

On 18 March 2017, Mendip AONB Young Rangers visited Chew Valley Ringing Station which was organised by me and my Dad, Chris Craig who is Treasurer. My trainer, Mike Bailey, gave a talk about the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and why we do ringing (banding), about the SSRI and the types of nets and traps we use.  I then helped give a bird ringing demonstration, led a tour of the site and did some birdwatching. After that, we spent the rest of the day taking part in coppicing to create a new net lane. That was lots of fun and I think that everyone had a good time.

Mendip AONB Young Rangers – Ringing Session, Mendip Hills (Chris Craig 2nd from left)
Copyright Mendip AONB
Mendip AONB Young Rangers – Ringing Session, Mendip Hills (Chris Craig 4th from right) Young Birder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig 2nd from left
Copyright Mendip AONB

It was great to organise a session that connected the group to nature as so much of the conservation work we have done doesn’t actually involve that. Much of the Mendips is overgrazed with little vegetation or trees, so it would be good for it to be re-wilded, but we haven’t learnt anything contentious like this.

Mendip AONB Young Rangers, Beach cleaning Session, Mendip Hills
Copyright Mendip AONB


Mendip AONB Young Rangers Posters – Caving Session, Mendip Hills (Young Birder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig)
Copyright Mendip AONB

Work With Me

If you would like to know more about I do or what services I offer, you can find out more below.

Find Out More

British Red Squirrel – A Guest blog

British Red Squirrel – A Guest blog

This is a great guest blog by local-to-the-South West charity British Red Squirrel (this is their Facebook Page:

If you are not already aware, British Red Squirrels are at risk of extinction and so the charity wants to protect red squirrels and assist in their growth, educating and raising awareness across the UK. It’s a really important topic and I hope you will read the post and support them.

Figure 1 Seasonal Red Squirrel © Olivia Kennaway

At this time of year, our native wildlife has one thing on its mind – reproduction! We, humans, have tampered with our environment so much that some species are really struggling. At a local level, we continue to destroy habitats. A few predator species like the magpie can take advantage of this, with less suitable nesting sites for small birds, harvest mice and dormice. At least magpies are a native species.

Figure 2 Grey Squirrel eating bird

The American grey squirrel is not. Through no fault of its own, it was introduced to the UK in 1878 as a novelty. There are now estimated to be over 3 million. The problem is they are hugely destructive to our trees, shrubs and bulbs, as well as predating on our birds, bats and dormice.

Figure 3 Grey Squirrel with egg from nest

Our native red squirrel has lived in harmony with our flora and fauna since the last ice age – of course, they also eat many of the same things – but they are on average less than half the weight of a grey, eat much less and are generally much less destructive. Reds were being driven to extinction, that is until passionate volunteers in the north of England showed, over the last 20 years, that if they carried out grey control, the reds could survive and indeed thrive. This work has now been extended to other areas of the UK. Reds have been in steep decline predominately due to the greys which are territoriality aggressive and out-compete them for food – plus greys carry, but yet are immune to the squirrel pox virus, which the reds are highly susceptible to. It is estimated that there are less than 140,000 reds left in the UK. There are none left in the wild in the South West, but in East Devon Escot Park has built a walk through ¾ acre safe haven for reds, protected by a sheet metal circumference, which squirrels can’t climb. This was completed in 2010 and is completely free for visitors to visit. (there are other native species to visit, and gardens, for which there is a charge –

Figure 4 Red Squirrel on tree

Red Squirrel South West was formed as a charity ultimately to return red squirrels to the peninsular but also to provide a national, and international non-political forum for reds – We need to build connectivity in the South West – a tide of contacts and volunteers to achieve a suitable environment for the return of our reds. It is working in the Borders where more and more people are realising that they really can help to save this iconic native mammal – and they have a straight line to defend across Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Northumberland. We have a peninsular with sea on two sides – let’s do it!

Figure 5 Red Squirrel talk>

Like us on Facebook!

Work With Me

If you would like to know more about I do or what services I offer, you can find out more below.

Find Out More

Being the Friends of the Earth Magazine Earth Matters’ Front Cover

Being the Friends of the Earth Magazine Earth Matters’ Front Cover

Last December, Friends of the Earth UK asked me if I would be interviewed for their magazine. I do quite a few interviews so said yes, thinking nothing of it.

The following week, Friends of the Earth asked if their photographer could come down to Bristol and take a few photographs. They wanted photographs of me ringing, so I fixed for him to come the following Saturday morning to Chew Valley Ringing Station.

The morning went like this:

8.30 am BBC Points West News camera crew and reporter Alice Bouverie to film about Black2 Nature

9.30 am Andrew McGibbon Friends of the Earth UK photographer with assistant

10.45 am Quick change of clothes from birding gear to trendy city clothes

11.30 am Shopping with my friend in Bristol’s Cabot Circus

With my trainer Mike Bailey and BBC Points West film crew

When Andrew arrived, he told me that he was shooting for the front cover of their magazine. That didn’t phase me, as I thought he meant that I was going to be in a little box on the front cover with the other people being interviewed.

With Andrew McGibbon from Friends of the Earth

In January the magazine editor e-mailed my mum. She said that she just wanted to check a fact. I had said that I had been taken on my first twitch when I was 9 days old and she was just checking if it was meant to read 9 weeks or 9 months.  Mum had to e-mail back to say that I was right, they had taken me to the Isles of Scilly when I was only 9 days old to see a Lesser Kestrel!

I didn’t hear anything more until the end of January when Andrew tweeted me with a photograph of the front cover of the Friends of the Earth members magazine, “Earth Matters”.  I was stunned and embarrassed to see my face on the front of the magazine with my quote “beauty all around me”. Was that really me?

This was at a time when there were unpleasant things going on for me on Twitter, so this was amazing and made me feel above it all. The magazine hasn’t been posted out yet though so all I had seen was this photograph.

The whole of that was unreal in itself, but the next thing was even more unbelievable.

A couple of weeks later, I had a previously arranged meeting at the Friends of the Earth Head office in London with Paul De Zylva who is very senior there, to talk about Black2Nature and the environmental sector. First, I got to look around their fantastic and trendy offices which are in old printworks, with an igloo and treehouse for quiet and creative working. I definitely would like to work there and try it all out.

As we walked around the office, everywhere I looked there were 4-5 magazines spread out on desks and tables, all with my face on them, starting in the reception. There were also huge TV screens around the office, all with my face across them.  As we wandered around, staff did a double-take as they recognised my face but maybe didn’t know where from initially. I also got to see Andrew, which was lovely. He said he was really proud of my cover and the full-page photograph of my inside and said that he thought it was probably the best Earth Matters cover ever! As a teenager, I was of course hugely embarrassed, but when I actually picked the magazine up and saw it in real life, I suddenly felt really proud.

I doubt very much that I will be the front cover of a magazine like that again, but even if I am, there is no way I’ll ever have the experience of walking around the Friends of the Earth offices like that and seeing my face everywhere. That was an incredible experience. Thank you Friends of the Earth and I would encourage you all to join up.

A couple of weeks later, the magazine was posted out to Friends of the Earth members and I started hearing from people I knew as they received their magazine. My image was the full size on the A4 envelopes sending out the magazines. A teacher at school brought in the magazine and put it up on the staff notice board. It was great that so many people I knew were members of Friends of the Earth.

This is a link to an on-line shortened version of the magazine

Work With Me

If you would like to know more about I do or what services I offer, you can find out more below.

Find Out More