Rebecca Speight: The Overstory and Understory of the Woodland Trust

Jul 15 2019

CEO of the Woodland Trust Rebecca Speight joins David Oakes in this episode of Trees A Crowd

David Oakes

David Oakes


Rebecca Speight


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About this episode:

Rebecca Speight is currently the CEO of the Woodland Trust and will shortly be taking over the reigns of the RSPB. Beccy began her foray into the Natural World to satisfy her “sense of connectivity”. Following years working for the National Trust she was ultimately appointed to her current role in 2014, where she heads up the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK (for which David has proudly become an ambassador.) In this in-depth conversation, she discusses the devastating decline in ancient woodland – which has almost halved in the past 50 years, elaborates on the “Young People’s Forest” project which aims to inspire and engage new generations on environmental concerns, and talks about the landscapes and literature that have come to shape her as an individual working for our beautiful and historic country.

David's thoughts:

Beccy (like all people worth knowing!) has an obvious passion for literature. So what better place to start than with a list of the books and writers she mentions in this episode:

Beccy’s Books:

“The Overstory” by Richard Powers

“Bark Skins” by Annie Proulx

“What has nature ever done for us?” by Tony Juniper

“The hidden life of trees” by Peter Wohlleben

The works of Wendell Berry

The works of Robert MacFarlane

(And I would suggest that this list would be much longer if I actually questioned her with the objective of attaining her ideal reading list!)

Beccy, following the interview, asked me to become an ambassador for The Woodland Trust – something I was honoured to accept. With that in mind I hope this episode has given you an insight into why this organisation is worthy of your kindness and attention. Please support The Woodland Trust if you feel so inclined.

If you’ve no money – why not plant a tree?

I remember reading at university (or perhaps it was upon extracurricular reading having first watched “The Wickerman”) how Pagans after childbirth would bury the placenta beneath a sapling, that the tree would grow from this enriched soil and that it would become that newborn babe’s birth tree. It would accompany them through life. It would more likely than not survive them past death.

Trees are incredible; forests exponentially so. Trees are a legacy – they have value far beyond wood to burn, ships to build, CO2 to offset… etc…

Pick up an acorn the next time you see one. Wrap it loosely in some damp toilet paper. Germinate that seed like you may well have done as a child at primary school and forgotten ever having done all those years since. It may well have a profound impact upon you.


Politics included in this paragraph – feel free to skip. I went to interview Beccy in Grantham shortly before the 31st March ‘19, the Brexit deadline. I watched it approach and then I watched it dissolve. I’m now writing this blog the day after Hunt and Johnson had a TV debate about their plans for their respective Prime Ministerships. Politically, our country remains in turmoil, and, if last night’s debate is anything to go by, environmental concerns remain at the bottom of most prominent politician’s lists. Projects such as HS2 are still supported. Air pollution levels are being missed. British land management is still a mess – the play thing of the wealthy and the money launderer. And although we now run near to no coal power plants, our power needs must keep running towards the renewable. But, also since recording, Extinction Rebellion has grown in prominence, David Attenborough is becoming more politically vocal – loudly so – and those not in Parliament are starting to shout for much needed change. Awareness is heightening. Comprehension is increasing. Legislations are shifting, just slowly. I wonder what this blog will say as we approach the 31st Oct ‘19; as we approach the next Brexit Deadline…

















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