Andover based conservation and education charity, Andover Trees United (ATU) is one of only three winners in Hampshire of this year’s prestigious King’s Award for Voluntary Service. This prestigious National Honour recognises outstanding contributions made to local communities by groups voluntarily devoting their time for the benefit of others. It sets the national benchmark for excellence in volunteering, with the work of those awarded being judged of the highest standard and is equivalent to an MBE.
Founded in 2011 by Wendy Davis to encourage all young people in the Andover area to learn about and look after the environment, Andover Trees United worked with local schools to establish a Tree Planting Day. Andover Trees secured land they called Harmony Woods which became one of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Woods in 2011 and the following year, HRH, The Princess Royal, in her capacity as head of The Woodland Trust, planted the first tree along with representatives from each of the local schools. The target was for 10,000 children to plant 10,000 trees over 10 years.
Andover Trees United is run and supported by a network of volunteers who come together to learn about and engage with the natural world. This is done through planting trees and maintenance of the woodland, as well as set days in which we facilitate a variety of activities that allows the community to learn about the wood. Activities include green crafts to woodworking, music and science.
They support young people beyond tree planting through ‘Plant For The Planet’ academies; the Nature in Harmony Exchange Project youth team; a graduate internship scheme; sessions for scouting, guiding, and young carer groups; school holiday activity programmes; arts activities; an annual community archaeology dig, and more.
In 2017, Andover Trees United established ‘Six Trees and Six Flowers’, a programme whose core aim is to support schools to combine the arts and nature to improve first hand understanding of and the opportunity to care for the natural world as part of mainstream teaching. The later ‘Voices in Harmony’ project was designed to provide this through the element of music and, as with all ATU projects, to involve and flow out into communities beyond the schools involved.
Hundreds of volunteers participate in ATU activities each year in one way or another. For the first decade of the charity’s life it was completely powered by volunteers – paid staff members have only been a recent addition – making them the reason for the charity’s existence. Their work is volunteer-led, and is designed to help members of the community to step up and help their community to achieve something important.
Founder, Wendy Davies explains;
“Firstly, I would like to say how honoured and grateful we are to have received this award, that will highlight all the hard work we have done. The KAVS award will hopefully bring us elevation, as the work that we do is still not as high a priority within UK society as it should be. Having our work acknowledged by an award so prestigious as KAVS is immeasurable. To have our volunteers valued so much and the tireless work they do acknowledged, gives us the motivation to continue.
This award will allow our community to see our charity and its efforts in a new light, that we hope will inspire and encourage more people to come be a part of our ever growing community, be it often or not. The level of this award will have the desired impact of letting people know the importance of the work that we do, because environmental work still struggles to have the level of urgency that is required, in people’s everyday lives that it needs to be.
The awards allow us to tell everyone involved, from the thousands of school children to the incredibly hard working team that has made it all possible, well done! The work you have done IS important and amazing. We hope it may also allow us to reach a much wider audience, giving us the opportunity to demonstrate that this model is achievable at community level, and has genuine benefit to people of all ages and the institutions within it. We hope to inspire communities outside of our own and promote the idea to policy makers to support the replication of the ATU model up and down the country.”