Paul & Gus's Tiny Tour: connecting with Tiny Forest communities across the UK - Earthwatch

Paul & Gus’s Tiny Tour: connecting with Tiny Forest communities across the UK

Tiny Forest and GoodGym volunteer Paul Salman, and his dog Gus, took to the road in their campervan on a Tiny Tour during 14 – 24 August, visiting seven Tiny Forests from Oxford to Nottingham. Travelling almost 200 miles over 11 days, Paul met with fellow GoodGym volunteers and local communities to encourage them to connect with their local Tiny Forest. He led a variety of activities at each forest including yoga, forest maintenance, and citizen science!

Read on to learn more about Paul’s experiences on tour and a few hiccups along the way! 

1. Yoga ta go to at Witney Tiny Forest

The Tiny tour has started with a two hour trip from London to Witney, the home of the first Tiny Forest in the UK. This is the Mecca of the UK Tiny Forests. It is now three years old, enormous, with all the fences and gates having been removed.

It’s dense, tall with a variety of native species. It’s physically difficult to get inside to do some of the citizen science required, but that makes it all the more fun! We started with some introductions of representatives from the council and Earthwatch Europe. This included a biodiversity officer, and the deputy mayor, and the mayor.

We had local people, GoodGym members, and even somebody from Northumbria. We had occasional drizzle, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those who came. After the introductions we did some yoga.

This lasted about half an hour and included simple, standing postures, squats, balances, and presses followed by stretches. It was then time to do some citizen science, including water drainage, soil analysis and biodiversity surveys amongst many more.

You can visit your local Tiny Forest at any time and complete these surveys. It’s all good data for the scientists and excellent fun for the family. Neatly explained on the website, look up your Tiny Forest here. Or maybe even visit one on your next day trip or holiday. That’s what I am looking to do over the next few days. Thanks to Sarah from GoodGym for helping out with the community day!

2. Tiny Forest Meadow Lane, Oxford, plays the generation game!

This was my second visit to a Tiny Forest on my Tiny Tour with Gus. It will be memorable for all the different generations that visited the site on a beautiful summer’s day. We had warm temperatures and white billowing clouds as lots of families visited the site over two sessions in the morning and the afternoon.

One of the most popular citizen science sessions was the ground dwellers survey. Especially amongst the children. This consisted of finding one of the numbered concrete slabs within the forest, lifting it to reveal what creepy crawlies could be seen. The kids found it fun just trying to find the slabs within the dense shrub before identifying and uploading the organisms seen.

All this data will be used by Earthwatch to compile information that can be used for future planning. We also did a soil survey, looking at filtration and compaction of the soil. How does the Tiny Forest affect the soil over time? We will have to wait and see, but we need more data over time, so whenever you get an opportunity please visit. You can become a Tree Keeper and get regular updates on what’s happening at your local Tiny Forest.

Thanks to everyone who came along today and please come again, and bring the next generation to help look after the Tiny Forests in Oxford (and 200 other locations!).

Thanks to the leaders and helpers from GoodGym and Earthwatch!

3. Tiny Tour: alternating between despair and hope

My campervan started to break down when the alternator failed. With the battery not being charged by the engine I had power failure lights come on for ABS, power, steering and airbags. This was not good, so I decided to try and get my campervan fixed and with a heavy heart abandoned this Tiny Forest mission. Very kindly Sophie Cowling (who came to help me) and Divya Kumar from Earthwatch continued with the mission.

“Exploring how Tiny Forest’s sequester carbon is exciting and unusual research. There is no empirical evidence documenting carbon sequestration and growth dynamics in Miyawaki forests. Both of which are influenced by canopy structure and soil properties, which is especially unusual at our Tiny Forests sites. I’m excited to help understand how carbon and growth at our unique sites differ to conventional tree planting.”

Sophie Cowling, Earthwatch scientist

4. Tiny Tour Frigate! Carbon and measurements captured in Walsall

It’s always fun to find your Tiny Forest for the first time, where is it, what is it going to be like? Frigate Bird Lane was hidden away behind some houses, lonely and unattended. It was evident that many of the trees were lost within the weeds, but after a few minutes, I realise that many were still alive and maybe starting to emerge.

It’s fascinating to think how the trees compete and effectively evolve within their own ecosystem and hierarchy. With over 200 Tiny Forest in the UK, being studied in great detail by the Tree Keepers and Earthwatch scientists, we should have a really good dataset to understand how our native trees develop.

So I started to work on measuring the trees. This meant clearing some of the weeds to gain access to the tags. Then I measured the girth and height of the tree and input this data online. It was engaging and fun, and the four hours I spent passed quickly.

I also spent some of my lunch time doing a butterfly survey again, uploading this information to the website. I can really recommend spending a little time doing this. Make sure you have a tape measure, a good pair of gardening gloves and don’t wear shorts!

5. Treerrific participation at Hinckley Tiny Forest! Tiny Forest – big weeds!!

Three GoodGym members came to the Tiny Forest at Hinckley to meet Louise from Earthwatch and local people interested in helping with citizen science and weeding. Sun, cloud, warm temperatures, it was a classic summer’s day (or maybe not, we didn’t have rain!).

Many Tiny Forests have benches to provide a nice place to gather. Louise from Earthwatch introduced the session, which included carbon capture, soil, filtration, compaction, biodiversity, and climate. We also did yoga for both sessions which seem to go down well with adults and children alike.

We had children and adults of all ages getting involved with measuring, counting and uploading information via the Tiny Forest website. We had lots of weeding to do and even found a dead Christmas tree to remove! It was a treerrific session, one of the best I have been involved with. Let’s hope it’s planted some seeds in the youth to take care of our trees and the environment around them.

“Such a great day, so many families took part it was lovely to see the children get excited about nature and help them do all the activities as well as lots of weeding. Such a great initiative.”

Kimberly, GoodGym

6. Hide and seek at Holt Drive Tiny Forest

Eight Goodgymmers, two kids and one puppy joined Paul and Gus in Loughborough to help out at the Tiny Forest at Holt Drive.

Taking part in yoga, we then set to work to locate 100 trees with small blue tags with a metal disc. Kim, Oliver and Ashley went straight in, the kids sending Kim in first to check for any spikey weeds and nettles, wise trick there! They found one with Oliver then finding another, think it pays to be small in this game. With lots of hunting around Dave came to the conclusion that maybe the magpies like the shiny discs because we only found three in total.

Everyone enjoyed being out in the fresh air and it was lovely to meet one of our newest members’ puppy, Nova, she was just the cutest along with Gus of course. Well done team, so far the Tiny Tour event most supported by Goodgymmers, it was great to meet Paul and Gus and find out about the fantastic work going on with Tiny Forest.

Written by GoodGym volunteer Sarah Horner.

7. All’s not well at Bulwell Park Tiny Forest!

Bulwell Park Tiny Forest in Nottingham was my last visit on the Tiny Tour. Access is easy with an unrestricted car park, facing a large open space with outdoor equipment, table tennis tables, an open playground and of course a Tiny Forest!

I brought all the equipment over and met with Grace, who had come from Bristol for Earthwatch. As we chatted, Leah, another GoodGym member, came along to help out. Later on a mother and two girls came along and got involved with some carbon capture measurements and ground dweller observations.

The forest itself was rather sadly neglected, and had recently been weeded by the local council. The trees looked stunted, and the centre of the forest looked thin. I imagine the young saplings were badly affected by the drought, but they are still there, and will hopefully recover well. I finished with a litter pick between the Tiny Forest and the playground. Then looked to start my long journey home.

I just wanted to say a big thank you to all the staff of Earthwatch, who have joined and supported me on this Tiny Tour. Your work is incredibly worthwhile. Please keep it up. I know many of us will look to support you with your activities and future projects.

Thank you Paul and Gus!

big thank you to Paul and Gus, and everyone who came out to join the Tiny Tour, from us here at Earthwatch. We have loved being a part of Paul’s journey, hearing about his experiences and connecting with communities from Oxford to Nottingham. 

Our Tiny Forests need help during their first few years of growth as weeds can take over. If you’d like to become a Tree Keeper volunteer, connect with nature and help look after your local Tiny Forest find out more here

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