The importance of beech forests


Its Anna again, reporting on my way back home from Angermünde where I volunteered for the BEECH POWER Project focusing on empowering communities in the surroundings of UNESCO World Heritage Beech Forests in order to boost sustainable development in respective areas. With the winter at our doors I thought I would share with you what kept me during the last months of my volunteering experience apart from looking under the hood of reporting, project meetings and forest management documentation writing.

We started off strong in September by organising Participatory Strategy Development workshop on the 1st and 2nd of September. It took place in Altkünkedorf, small village belonging to the municipality of Angermünde, which is also the gate to the UNESCO World Heritage component part of Beech forest Grumsin that lays in its vicinity. Number of participants coming from NGOs, Angermünde City Administration, tourism sector, the Biosphere Reserve Schorfheide-Chorin, local forest owners and interested citizens gathered during a one day workshop and two consecutive evenings. During the workshop the participants developed ideas and activities within different strategic target areas crucial in the region. And I got the chance to learn how a workshop like this comes together, help with organising it, and meet some of our European project partners that were able to join us for the workshop in person. That also included the representative of the Slovenia Forest Service who came to see our pilot workshop in order to follow it with workshops for the Slovenian component parts which were taking place in the upcoming weeks to where we were invited in return.

But before we had another exciting activity to take care of. On the 7th of June, the City of Angermünde organized a competition of video messages connected to the World Heritage component part `Beech Forest Grumsin` as a part of the German UNESCO World Heritage Day celebration. The price was a guided tour through the Beech Forest Grumsin core zone and picnic with local products which we invited the participants for on the 12th of September. And I was able to come along and enjoy a perfect day in the forest.

And then I happened to sit on the train to Slovenia just couple weeks later on my way to attend the Strategy development workshop for the UNESCO World Heritage component part of virgin beech forest Krokar organised by our project partner Slovenia Forest Service in the village of Osilnica. Apart from being able to compare the similarities and differences in the execution of both workshops I also had a perfect possibility to observe the importance of site-specificity in creating strategic documentation for sustainable development as the Krokar component part deals with different problems under different circumstances compared to Grumsin. After the workshop I was taken on an amazing field trip to the accessible viewpoints where the outstanding beech forest was presented to me while discussing the topics of the workshop directly in the area.

What followed my return from Slovenia was by far one of the most challenging yet satisfying experiences for me. Our BEECH POWER team had a Citizen Engagement Activity to prepare! The CEA of mine called KREATIV WALD was coming together since August but with the date approaching it became the number 1 priority culminating on Monday of the 12th of October.

That day we welcomed 30 children from the Angermünde region at our KREATIV WALD activity - an autumn holiday outdoor artschool organised in collaboration with local NABU - Nature Experience Center Blumberger Mühle. The goal of the activity was primarily for the local children to bond with their unique natural environment and understand its importance in an active and inspiring way. On Monday the children experienced an exciting day in the UNESCO World Heritage beech forest Grumsin full of environmentally educational games, storytelling and art activities connected to the protected site prepared by the Blumberger Mühle team. On Tuesday and Wednesday the programme continued with days full of crafting under the guidance of local artists from local artgroup UmKunst, drawing inspiration from the nature.

Despite having to cancel planned closing ceremony in form of BBQ due to bad weather and Corona restrictions we received overwhelming positive feedback coming from the participants and their families. That assured us that our efforts to organise an activity that not only educates children but creatively engage them with nature while setting a foundation for ongoing collaboration between different local actors and communicating the impacts of European policies on the local levels have been successful and appreciated. To keep these ideas alive and to serve as an example for similar activities in other component parts, we produced a video in German and English. Big shout out goes to IVY who supported us in carrying out the activity as well as everyone on the Blumberger Mühle team, our 2 artists Inga and Johanna and everyone on our BEECH POWER team! It was an amazing experience and as my time volunteering got to its end, I know that I will have something great to remember and I will always be grateful for having this opportunity to join the IVY family and the BEECH power team.


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