Blog: Meet The Size of Herefordshire

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Jeremy Bugler, Co-ordinator for The Size of Herefordshire, introduces us to this exciting initiative and discusses how you can help them.

Size of Wales’s campaigns to protect and preserve the world’s rainforests are plain wonderful. Size of Wales is the gold standard in rainforest protection and rightly widely known. But have you heard of the Size of Herefordshire?

The county of Herefordshire is roughly a tenth of the area of Wales, a minnow in comparison. However, it lies right on the border with Wales and, in normal times, its people cross back and forth, often daily and without knowing it, to go to work, to shop, and for pleasure. Many Herefordians even have Welsh surnames — Pritchards, Pughs, Prices, Jones’ abound!

Until 2015, Herefordshire had no major campaign to protect rainforests. This changed when, by luck, my wife Sue and I met Heather and David Stevens at a supper in Pembrokeshire. Heather said, over the soup I think, how she was fed-up of hearing Wales continually used as a comparison for environmental disasters: “last year Brazil cut down an area of rainforest the size of Wales”… “A huge plastic dump is swirling about in the Pacific, twice the size of Wales”, and so on.  However, she had done something about it, setting up a charity called Size of Wales to protect rainforests and turn this metric into something positive.

Being hugely impressed, we got a group of friends together and agreed to set up a similar campaign. Plagiarism, if you like, but surely the best kind. There followed a period of faffing about, rejecting some ideas (like becoming a charity—too complex), and embracing others. Helped by a grant from the Waterloo Foundation (founders, yes, Heather and David Stevens), we got going, designed and launched a website, and started collecting money for the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) and Cool Earth.

One of the first ideas we implemented was from a climate change consultancy called Acclimatize who suggested designing an online donations map. Dividing Herefordshire into 10-hectare squares, people could `buy’ a square which would equate to a similar area in the rainforest. Indeed, people were able to sponsor their own village, parish, or farm. This ingenious map was designed by Ian Short of Pragsys, based in Newport.

By that time, we had decided to concentrate our efforts on one area of rainforest, in north-east Peru where the indigenous peoples the Wampís and the Awajun live. In fact, the Wampís occupy 1.3 million hectares – more than ten times the area of Herefordshire. So, it turns out that each square of Herefordshire bought certainly protects much more than 10 hectares of Wampís territory. Gradually, the map of the county is filling up (click here to find it).

We also raised funds for our chosen charities through the familiar litany of clothes swaps, quizzes, and other events. Then in 2017, we did something bold: we funded two supporters, Dan Haworth Salter and Malcolm Bell, to go to Peru and create a documentary about the efforts of the Wampís people to protect their ancestral forests. They captured the story of the despoiling of the Wampís forest by gold-mining, oil prospecting, and logging, showing both a very angry and articulate Wampís people. It was premiered at a special event in the Hay Festival and can be found on our website.

Trailer for the Size of Herefordshire film

The film has been massively helpful in raising funds at events, including one in Hereford attended by one of the Wampís leaders, Shapiom, whose eloquence wowed the audience. Shapiom was brought over to Europe by the FPP to tour its great cities: Paris, Amsterdam, London – and, of course, Hereford.

One disappointment in our fundraising efforts has been getting the county’s major landowners to support our campaign by sponsoring their land areas. Undaunted, two years ago Sue decided to do something on our own farm. She divided one of our good fields in half and, over three acres, launched a scheme to plant it full of trees. Each tree can be sponsored for £20—three-quarters of which goes to the FPP, while five remains with us for the trees, stakes, shelters, and costly new fencing (needed for our deer problem!).

Sue, Jeremy, and their dogs planting trees on their farm.

In just over a year, 850 trees of a great range of hardwoods have been planted, protected, watered and loved. Seven hundred of these have been sponsored, donating over £10,000 to the FPP. This sum is matched through the wonderful generosity of Size of Wales.

Just 150 trees remain to be sponsored, although achieving this is proving hard in these COVID times. If you want a tree, there are a few ways to do so:

Sponsors are welcome to visit and even plant a tree at Woodlands Farm, Blakemere, HR2 9PY.

Now for the final haul: We have raised over £70,000, with a target of £110,000. We have programmes for schools ready, with materials about rainforests to offer them, along with many other ideas. Wish us luck!

 

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