The past year has certainly had its challenges and we have all had to adapt to new ways of working, whilst maintaining social distancing. As a project, the impact of Covid-19 in 2020 prevented the yearly hands-on Observatree training events for our volunteers and a switch to digital communications has helped tremendously.

We needed to alter some of our activities and be responsive to fluctuating circumstances such as differing national and regional lockdowns. Given the face-to-face volunteer training events that were planned for last summer unfortunately had to be cancelled, we were able to offer an online alternative. A valuable series of technical webinars, which covered a variety of topics on tree pests, diseases and their surveillance, were delivered by staff from our Observatree partners and included contributions from some of our volunteers.

Our Lead Volunteers started hosting weekly Zoom sessions which have proven to be so popular that they have continued to take place, allowing all of the Observatree volunteers to network and learn from each other. They screen share photographs of pests and diseases, describe the symptoms, and the surrounding environment, while holding discussions about the possible causes such as late frosts. These friendly sessions have also proved useful for sharing information about educational resources and any forthcoming webinars and sessions which are already available online. Whether it is sharing advice on support for new volunteers, or learning how to file Observatree information, all of our volunteers are welcome.

As relaxations of national and local lockdowns permit, many of our volunteers continue to be active in surveying for tree pests and diseases. As an outdoor, typically solo activity, following social distancing guidance is possible and our volunteers have worked hard to provide us with tree health reports.

We are pleased to report that during 2020, 2180 survey reports were completed. This is a fantastic achievement in itself, never mind having to contend with Covid-19. Of those reports, 394 were for trees with a suspected priority pest or disease and 165 were recorded for ‘other’ pests and diseases. The remaining 1621 reports were for healthy trees.

We would like to say a big thank you to all our incredibly valuable volunteers who provided us with 1876 volunteering hours during a very difficult 2020. As we move forward into 2021, our work continues. Over summer we will be surveying for Oak Processionary Moth (OPM), supporting the work of the Forestry Commission’s OPM team. We also undertake a lace bug survey to provide valuable data to entomologists at Forest Research. And we continue our essential tree health monitoring and surveillance across Britain, contributing to early warning and detection that is so important.

Working together, face to face or digitally, we are doing all we can to protect the future of our wonderful landscape.