As a dramatic year draws to a close, we have decided to a spread a little happiness with the Forest Holidays Nature Awards; our unofficial celebration of nature in 2016.
There were lots of high spots for us, including pine martens being helped along to a resurgence, 500 trees planted in the National Forest by our support centre, and Gerry, our Forest of Dean Forest Ranger running a 75 mile ultra-marathon to raise money for the Barn Owl Recovery Project.
So here they are, the results of our own little office poll for The Forest Holidays Nature Awards.
Nature champion of the year
WINNER: SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH – Who could deny this amazing nonagenarian the top prize? Planet Earth II was a tour de force which not only thrilled us but educated us too and kept the big issues of nature conservation high in the public’s awareness.
RUNNERS UP: OUR FOREST RANGERS – In their own way, on a daily basis, our Forest Rangers brought the conservation message to life by their actions and by their sheer enthusiasm as they shared their knowledge with guests young and old. Actions such as that ultra-marathon by Gerry, our Yorkshire Forest Rangers, Howard and Robin raising £100 for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust by taking groups on night vision sessions before mulled wine and mince pies in the Forest Retreat, and Gerry’s charity dog walk, to name but a few.
Animal of the year
WINNER: THE PINE MARTEN – a rare species that nearly disappeared, these cheeky creatures have decided to set up home at our Strathyre location. We are so taken with them that we are now backing Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust to research the feasibility of helping pine martens to ‘translocate’ to England.
RUNNER UP: THE HEDGEHOG – we wrote about the plight of the hedgehog recently. Hedgehogs have a special place in all our hearts and we truly hope that 2017 is a better year for them.
Tree of the year
WINNER: THE GIANT REDWOOD AT DEERPARK - one of our best kept secrets, the giant redwood at Deerpark is over 160 feet tall. It was planted when the species was introduced into Britain over 150 years ago, just after the death of Lord Wellington. This is why is why in the UK, the species is also known as Wellingtonia.
RUNNER UP: THE MAJOR OAK AT SHERWOOD FOREST – world famous and deservedly so, this veteran oak tree in Sherwood Forest is reputed to have harboured Robin Hood and his Merry Men.
Natural event of the year
WINNER: THE PERSEIDS – the year’s most spectacular event was undoubtedly the appearance of the Perseids shooting stars in August. It was the best display for many years, and our Perseids post was one of our most popular ever, so this one is the People’s Choice!
RUNNER UP: BLUEBELLS AT BLACKWOOD FOREST – They came late this year but they made up for it in sheer colour and abundance. When the forest floor at Blackwood Forest is carpeted in swathes of azure, sunlight dappling through the canopy of tall beech trees, you know that summer is not far behind.
Nature charity of the year
JOINT WINNER: THE NATIONAL FOREST – The National Forest became our chosen charity this year. Since the National Forest began, 20 years ago, they have planted over 8 million trees across 200 square miles in the middle of England. This creates wildlife habitats, benefits the environment and provides a recreational and educational space for everyone. We have had a great time planting trees, building bug hotels and raising much need funds for them by giving all guests an opportunity to donate when they book a cabin.
JOINT WINNER: – THE WILDLIFE TRUSTS – It is almost impossible to document the many, many conservation and education projects that The Wildlife Trusts carry out. There are 47 local Wildlife Trusts that work tirelessly to conserve and protect wildlife and raise awareness of how we can all help. All our locations have close links with their local trust and this year we put on lots of activities in support of their Wild About Gardens campaign.
TV programme of the year
WINNER: PLANET EARTH II: Essential viewing that left us in no doubt about stark realities of wildlife survival. Who can forget the film crew chasing across Madagascar to plant themselves in the middle of a plagues of locusts?
RUNNERS UP: BBC WINTERWATCH, SPRINGWATCH AND AUTUMNWATCH. We love these intimate glimpses into British wildlife, bringing us closer to the natural world that surrounds us and keeping us in the edge of our seats for real time updates.
A vintage year
For us at Forest Holidays, it was a vintage year. We celebrated our 10th birthday, we improved and expanded our locations and we won some great awards. Our locations teams carried on being the superstars they are, not only looking after guests but being involved with local organisations, raising funds for local charities and working with wildlife organisations and we are so proud of them.
As for the natural world, while we all know that human actions often threaten wildlife, the good news stories tell us we can also make a positive difference. What have been the highlights of your year in nature?
Wildscreen's photograph of David Attenborough at ARKive's launch in Bristol, England © May 2003 [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons