Phil Smith is one of our longest standing volunteers at Avon Needs Trees, having started back in 2020 when we purchased our first site, Hazeland, an amazing 34 acre mixed habitat site in Wiltshire.

Since then, he’s continued to support us with tree planting and tree care in Wiltshire, as well as assisting us with events and surveys.

Phil has written a guest blog to tell us all about his experience volunteering at Hazeland, what he enjoys most about the role, and the wildlife he’s seen (including a number fantastic photos he’s has taken on site!)

“Hi, my name is Phil Smith and I am a volunteer at Avon Needs Trees. During Covid I saw an advert on Facebook for local tree planting at Hazeland and signed up. I already supported a few conservation projects in Wiltshire but one of the main attractions of ANT was tree planting, where most other projects I have been involved with resulted in cutting back or removal of trees.

It made a nice change to put something back. It’s a very simple action of digging a hole and putting a sapling into the ground, but it gave me an immense sense of satisfaction knowing that my small effort will have such a positive long term benefit on the woodland and surrounding environment.”

“Covid restrictions severely limited human interaction, but Hazeland provided me with the opportunity to meet like-minded people, from different backgrounds, with varying levels of skills and experience. ANT had been given official permission to continue planting on site, albeit on a much more limited basis and in line with covid restrictions. Volunteer numbers increased as we moved out of lock down and familiar faces still return, there’s always time to catch up during coffee and lunch breaks.”

“I’ve had an interest in nature from an early age, especially birds, butterflies and dragonflies. Hazeland has a good selection of all these. I have supported several open days, such as the bird morning chorus – this involved a leisurely walk around the site listening to the birds, it’s surprising how many people hear the birds but carry on their normal day without knowing which bird it is. Their calls are unique and just listening to the can be extremely therapeutic and calming in a busy world. Listen out for a Wren, for such a tiny bird it has a powerful voice.”

“I also supported the Butterfly survey, this runs weekly between the months of April and September and requires you to walk a specific route around the site and count the number of butterflies seen. Over the coming years we will hopefully see an increase in numbers and variety of species giving ANT an indication how the growth of the woodland is improving the diversity at Hazeland.

Hazeland is next to the river Marden so it has an excellent selection of dragonflies and damselfly, unusual for Wiltshire is the Golden-ringed Dragonfly which normally likes acidic areas, it is one of the biggest dragonflies the UK has and is very spectacular with its long black and yellow abdomen.”

We would like to give a huge thank you to Phil and the rest of our volunteer team for their ongoing hard work and support! You are truly vital to our work and our mission would simply not be possible without you!

Feeling inspired and want to get involved? We’re got plenty of volunteering opportunities at ANT, from supporting us with tree planting and care on our sites, to helping us spread the word at outreach events across the region. Visit our Volunteer Portal to find out more.


Photos (top to bottom): Phil Smith at Hazeland, Sam Smith mulching, Comma butterfly, Red Kite, Golden-ringed Dragonfly.