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Forestry Commission centenary marked with outdoor exhibition at Bedgebury Pinetum, Goudhurst

By Angela Cole

This year a series of events shines a light on our forests in Kent.

The Forestry Commission's centenary is a once in a lifetime opportunity to shine a spotlight on forests, and the benefits they bring to people, the economy and the environment as well as a chance to introduce more people to the commission’s work and inspire an appreciation of forests today and for future generations.

From the largest ever survey of forest wildlife in the Big Forest Find to projects to boost health and wellbeing, new artistic works and a focus on education, there’s something for everyone.

Bedgebury Pinetum Forest Sunset
Bedgebury Pinetum Forest Sunset

In Kent, the Forestry Commission cares for two sites: Jeskyns Community Woodland near Gravesend and Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest in Goudhurst, both of which currently have the Zog children’s trail up and running, based on the book by Julia Donaldson.

Events throughout the year started with the Forestry 100 Running Series, which kicked off at Bedgebury at the weekend, and the outdoor art exhibition Art of the Trees which opens today.

Created as a partnership between the Forestry Commission, the Friends of Bedgebury Pinetum and the Florilegium Society, which makes botanically accurate artwork from life, it features more than 100 drawings and paintings based on the annual life cycle of coniferous and broadleaved specimen trees in the pinetum.

The Art of Trees at Bedgebury Pinetum marks a century of the Forestry Commission this year Illustration by Jackie Copeman
The Art of Trees at Bedgebury Pinetum marks a century of the Forestry Commission this year Illustration by Jackie Copeman

They range from native trees such as the oak (Quercus robur) to significant trees in conservation terms, such as the Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha), which is classed as “extinct in the wild” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Collections manager Dan Luscombe said: “Planted with thought, Bedgebury’s spectacular trees are the structural elements that give the pinetum landscape its well-recognised views and vistas. You know exactly where you are from these shapes alone.”

Bedgebury Pinetum Picture: Fraser Allen
Bedgebury Pinetum Picture: Fraser Allen

The images will be displayed on weather-proof boards among the trees. The exhibition is free to view but standard vehicle admission fees at Bedgebury apply.

Also coming this year will be the Big Forest Find from Saturday, May 25 to Sunday, June 2, and is the biggest ever survey of England’s forest wildlife.

The information recorded via the iNaturalist app aims to help to paint a better picture of forest biodiversity today and to enhance forest wildlife for generations to come.

Bedgebury Pinetum
Bedgebury Pinetum

Various wildlife and conservation experts and organisations will play a supporting role to help record finding on species during the week. The Big Forest Find is part of the Year of Green Action, a year-long drive to help people to connect with, protect and enhance nature.

In September the Forestry Commission will mark the landmark year by releasing a book – British Forests - which examines the commission’s unique history and work and features Britain’s forests and illustrations.

Bedgebury Pinetum
Bedgebury Pinetum

Its release coincides with the anniversary of the passing of the Forestry Act a century ago. On September 1, 1919 the commission was set up giving it responsibility for the country’s woods. Eight Forestry Commissioners were charged with promoting forestry.

* The Art of Trees runs at Bedgebury until Monday, September 30. Go to forestryengland.uk to find out more.

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