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Friends of Big Wood Nature Reserve
Newsletter - April/May - 2024


DEAD WOOD SURVEY IN BIG WOOD - You are invited to join on 1st May

Dead wood can be dead good! It is important as part of the natural woodland ecology lifecycle, supporting a huge number of flora and fauna. It is one of the reason why modern woodland management is no longer tidy and why wood must never be removed from a nature reserve like Big Wood.

We don't however want trees to die before their time and have been concerned about the health of our Big Wood oaks for a while. Having been told by an expert that ‘to judge the health of an ancient wood you need about a hundred years of data’, we felt the urgency and started the process in 2019 by locating all the dead oaks and marking them on a map.

Ideally, this should be repeated every five years, which makes 2024 dead wood survey time, and we will need volunteers to help!

Help Us

If spending an afternoon exploring Big Wood is for you and you want to help from 2-4pm next Wednesday 1st May, or even afterwards with recording the trees on a new online map of the wood, please text Bruce Mackay on 07980-983-239.


Wildflower Walk - Saturday 18th May, 2.30pm 
Botanist Caroline Beattie-Merriman will be showing us the many wildflower species in Big Wood on her guided walk on Saturday 18th May. If you want to join, contact Bruce on to book, as spaces are limited. We ask for a £5 donation to help cover the costs. .

Moth Breakfast - Sunday 14th July 

Back by popular demand, after last April's entertaining event organised by Melanie Eddis, Dr Phil Sterling, a leading authority on the over 2500 different species of moths in Britain, will be back to (temporarily) trap moths and give us the benefit of his incredibly engaging knowledge. This time he'll be covering moths that emerge later in the season - and more willingly, we suspect, due to the warmer weather in July. The moths won't be on the menu for our breakfast of course; refreshments will be provided by the wonderful Big Wood volunteers. Free event, donations for food and drink welcome on the day.

Friends of Big Wood stall at the RA Summer Fair - Saturday 8th June

We are so lucky to have Big Wood as a tiny surviving remnant of this country's once widespread ancient woodlands. There will be lots of interesting information about the importance of ancient woodlands and the Woodland Trust, together with fun facts and nature quizzes for all the family. There may even be cookies!


As Peter Falk officially stepped down as chair of Friends of Big Wood at this year's AGM, we wanted to take the opportunity to thank him and honour his amazing work over the past decades on behalf of HGS green spaces, in particular Big Wood, HGS street trees and veteran trees. He has been inspiring us all to help preserve our precious ancient woodland and has brought his unique style and personality to bear on everything Big Wood. 

We wanted to present Peter with a gift, but couldn’t justify spending Big Wood funds, so, with the help of Deborah Calland and Barry Millington, we had a private whip round among the FoBW volunteers and a few other local organisations he has been involved in over the years. The idea was to raise money to plant a tree in his honour. It’s soon became clear that people really appreciate him and we raised £1,030, enough for several trees! In his capacity as tree planting coordinator with Barnet, Peter will be able to let us know in due course where these trees will be planted in the suburb. Thanks to everyone who contributed!

On the night, the presents for Peter kept coming. Kim created a delightful Big Wood photo collage, as well as an inspiring short film, which was played to the Friends present and will be uploaded onto the FoBW website. Lotte Rasmussen organised a huge chocolate cake to share, as well as an impressionist painting of Big Wood volunteers, together with Bruce Mackay. Not to be outdone, Asher Budwig arrived with an astonishing tree cake, which was reportedly enjoyed by the Falk family and then polished off by a herd of school children the next day. 

Peter has achieved a lot, but he is of course by no means the only person making sure our precious Big Wood is preserved. We rely on all of you, and are very grateful for your support of this wonderful, restorative piece of nature in our suburb! 


We had really good feedback about the talk by Barnet tree officers, Grant Thornhill and Mark Chandler, who illustrated the challenges and opportunities faced by them in the management of the borough's mature tree canopy. If you missed the talk, or want a recap click here for the slides. 


A big thank you for supporting Big Wood for all our benefit by being members of the Friends of Big Wood. If you haven't renewed your membership yet, please do so now. 

As you will have noticed, we have moved the bulk of the membership renewal admin work over to Membermojo, a GDPR-compliant software widely used by small charities and voluntary organisations. Any queries, contact 


Many thanks to the members who have already renewed their subscriptions for 2024. This is a reminder to the rest to pay their subs for the year. 




Barnet Council have recently brought out a Greenspaces Volunteering Handbook. It includes straightforward health and safety guidance to ensure that all volunteers remain safe while working in the borough's green spaces. If you take part in the activity mornings, please click on this Volunteer Handbook link and read the document. Get in touch if you have any questions.


Litter remains a problem and some of us regularly pick up litter as we go round the wood. If any one else wants to help and would like a litter picker, please contact us. We have a number of Friends who are regularly are picking up litter but please can all the Friends help to keep the wood clear of litter. 


We reported on the importance of dead wood. The official UK standard for healthy woodland habitat requires 20m3 of deadwood per hectare and most woodlands in the UK, including Big Wood, is below this level. It is important therefore that all dead trunks and fallen branches are left where they fall or are left standing.

A reminder that ageing trees and dead wood are vital for a healthy woodland habitat. A huge swathe of the woodland ecosystem relies on tree wear and tear- hollows, dead branches and fallen trees. 


There is a marvellous short clip about the management of oak trees and the importance of not compacting the roots in Kew Gardens following the great storm of 1987. Anyone who is interested click on the following:-

Remember that all details are here on our web site so do signpost your local friends and neighbours to visit the site and encourage them join the Association and to be Friends Of Big Wood.

The Friends of Big Wood Organisation is aware of the new General Data Protection Legislation. Organisations such as ours, which keep a register of names purely for recreational reasons, are exempt from the new regulations. We would advise you all that the data stored is purely to enable us to provide information about Big Wood and no information will be passed to any third party. If, nevertheless, you would like your details deleted from the list, please email us

Thanks for being a Friend of Big Wood! We had an entertaining AGM in March, with a joyful appreciation of Peter Falk's work as retiring Chair of the Friends of Big Wood, and an interesting talk by the Barnet tree team. But more of that later.

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