A guest blog by Paul Bunton. Over to you, Paul:
At the heart of our celebrations marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, planting commemorative woods up and down the country, will be the creation of our flagship site: 460 acres of new woodland in the National Forest in Leicestershire.
Currently the site is currently a blank canvas, with its mixture of formerly opencast coal mining land, arable and rough grassland with many of the fields surrounded by mature native hedgerows and dotted with individual trees. There is also a small area of ancient woodland (Normanton Wood). The site has good access with a number of public rights of way established. One legacy of the coal mining is a series of stone tracks which were used by the lorries for taking the coal off site – now redundant, these will be ideal for promoting all-ability access.
Engaging people in new woodland creation projects from the outset is always integral to what we do. Local people will have often have suggestions for the development, others are just happy the project is going ahead, some are not concerned either way. However with any woodland creation project we undertake at the Trust – especially when it’s a project of significant size like this one – it’s important to seek out people’s views and comments as to how the new woodland will take shape, and how the design can be enhanced to maximise the potential for people and for wildlife. We also need to take in consideration the constraints the site may have upon it, such as views, topography, ground conditions etc.
To help us with the consultation and design process for this new woodland, we commissioned Slider Studio to build us a ‘Stickyworld’ website. This innovative planning tool sounds a bit grand, and is certainly very clever! It’s essentially a website which gives the viewer a 360 degree panoramic photos of the site. You can zoom in and out of these and then pan around. You can also move to various locations on the map so you get a nice rounded picture of what’s there. It’s a sort of virtual walk around the landscape.
Included on the website are videos of local people and staff to help introduce the project. The great thing about it is that this also allows people who haven’t had the opportunity to visit the area to get a really clear visual reference as to what it’s like now.
One of the other cool features are the yellow ‘stickynotes’ which allows you to post directly on the images with comments on how the site could develop. One challenge will be encouraging people to do exactly that! This will be a great way for the Trust to keep people up to date with the project as we take it forward. We want to build dialogue and really do make the most of this interactive planning tool, which has already been used in addition to the public meetings we have held locally. We will use the website to upload images, text and plans for the site as we move forward. We hope it will inspire more people to get involved – or if they can’t get to the site, they can still see how we are progressing and comment from the comfort of their armchair.
The Stickyworld website can be viewed here – http://youcanplan.stickyworld.com/ Have a go yourself!
Paul Bunton, Project Manager
Paul Bunton joined the Woodland Trust back in 1996 to work on the Millennium Woods Project – Woods on your Doorstep, helping groups set up community woodlands to mark the year 2000. He then went on to manage the Community Woodland Network which was a website based resource for supporting woodland groups nationally. More recently Paul has been working in the People Engagement Team, implementing projects at our woodland sites that encourage more people to get involved in our work, including artwork, adventure trails and interpretation projects – and not forgetting lots of tree planting!