Blog - woodland ownership
Sorry, you’ve bought a woodland?
That’s the most common reaction among friends, family and colleagues when mentioning our latest project. So I thought it would be fun to share a little about why we have in the hope it will help others who may be considering it. We’ve always had a love for the outdoors; I grew up practising my Scout skills on Dartmoor and Exmoor and my wife hiking and living on the North York Moors. Fast forward 19 years and with boys of 8 and 11 we had spent days and days during Co#%d outside. We’d chat about the environment, ecology, camping and escapism amongst other things. I’d dreamt of owning a woodland for years and we could now think about making it a reality. I must confess that it’s taken a year or so of convincing my wife that rather than having money sat doing nothing in savings, thinking about a camper-van or extending the house - it would be much more prudent to leave something for future generations and critically much more fun to learn about and apply our ideas from those Co#%d chats in our own woodland and more so to share some of that with our family and friends. What blew me away in the process was how much the boys would help. The ideas were flowing; camping, hammocks, making fires Bear Grylls style, bird/owl/bat box making and installing, planting new trees, wildlife trail cameras, dens, bird hides, benches, swings, obstacle courses, tree houses, a pond, a zip line, a zip line over a pond! You get the idea. The boys’ ideas have spurred us into investigating and learning about the interconnectivity of many of these ideas; bracken control by digging a pond to encourage a new natural wetland habitat, new wildlife, opening an area above for bats and birds, the potential for new mammals, creating an area for relaxation and quiet reflection. We might also be creating entrepreneurs as the boys have realised they could earn some pocket money by selling poles or netting kindling or even one day carving spoons. They’ll keep us on our toes that’s for sure. And how about something for me? Apart from the gadgets I’ve been secretly buying, the latest project is a compost loo with a view - made from old pallets. Ticks off the categories of environment, sustainability, ecology and escapism all in one hit. And we’re only at the beginning, what else might come in the future? Four weeks have rolled by since the purchase, many of those same friends and family now say things like “it’s so great how much the boys are into it!”. Isn’t it just?!…and in reflecting on the title of this post; no, we’re not sorry at all! Far from it! To track our progress and time as a woodland owning family please follow us on Instagram @grange_close_wood. Jethro.
When we first had our wood, we didn’t worry about a toilet. “Go behind a tree” we told visitors. And the campers went off into the woods “prospecting” with a trusty spade. No problem. But the years went by and we started to have visits from little girls, and older ladies, and we realised we were in trouble. So we dug a hole. And over it we placed a large strong box, upside down, with a round hole in the top. And over the hole we fixed a toilet seat. On a post at the side, we hung a toilet roll. Simple, really. The rhododendron bushes were pretty thick just there, but for added privacy we erected a screen of dark cloth from the market, supported by poles. And since that day, I have been collecting ideas from other woodland owners on the best way to do it: to be hygienic, civilised, and environmentally friendly. The best advice I had was to buy from the Centre for Alternative Technology a wonderful book called “Sanitation without Water” by Uno Winblad and Wen Kilama. Tens of millions of people, to this very day, are surviving and flourishing, day in, day out, without toilets as we know them. And although none of us woodland owners expects to be in this sort of situation, the book has some very useful tips. “People need to choose the latrine that is best for their area and for their traditional culture.” Hence the toilet seat, which transforms the very primitive arrangement of just squatting instantly into something fairly acceptable. Though, as a ten-year-old said to me the other day, “That’s the weirdest toilet I ever saw”. The book recommends sprinkling dry ashes over excrement to prevent flies from getting to it, and this also much reduces the odour. We collect the old ashes before lighting the new fire, keep them dry in a big pot with a water-tight lid, and sprinkle them with a soup ladle. Apparently, the mixing of urine with faeces inhibits the rotting which will naturally render the bacteria harmless. So we now follow the advice of the book, and spread a layer of vegetable waste, or just leaves, in our toilet each time we visit. Of course, the hole gets filled up, and when it is near the top, we cover it with a good layer of earth, and dig another hole. Moving our screen is fairly easy. Other people have told me they use a pail inside their box: one of those straight -sided containers used in wine making. Then they empty it in a hole far from the clearing where they picnic or camp. They actually have walls and a roof on their toilet; when it rains we just hold up an umbrella! Getting closer to the natural scheme of things, another owner showed us her “compost toilet” with logs arranged in walls round the four sides of the hole, and a nice smooth round one to the front for sitting on. She assures us it is very comfortable. Her screen is simply poles, tepee style, clad in branches. A friend who visits frequently is slowly replacing our dreadful curtains with fine traditional hurdles, made from our own hazel. And for a lock, a simple branch on stilts across the track leading to the toilet will suffice - after all no toilet in our own culture is complete without a lock, however notional! This blog was originally published in 2006, but is often searched for - so we have brought it forward. Below is a link to another offering on the subject, from a woodland owner: https://www.themoonandthefurrow.co.uk/blogs/news/building-a-compost-toilet
At last, my own wood.
So! My story begins many, many years ago when I had a dream to own my very own woodland. Of course I didn’t believe it would ever come true, however, a dream’s a dream and one day I decided to go for it. I sold my house and downsized in a big way so that I had funds to realise my dream. Then the search began, three years of searching. Everything I found was too far away, too expensive, too big, too small……!! Then, I fell on one for sale with Woodlands.co.uk, just five minutes from home and 6½ acres – perfect! I will never forget the day of completion. I was soo excited and couldn’t wait to get the key to my gate so I could officially walk through my very own woodland. As I struggled through the bracken and brambles, which in themselves were a delight…. Little birds popping out, discovering little plants, blackberries, raspberries, self-set holly bushes, oak trees… It was just wonderful. The majestic Silver Birch trees towering over me giving sneak previews of the sky above. The smell was just amazing…. Was it my imagination or was the air so pure with subtle scents of the tree and plant species. I was truly in my element. My intention was to spend as much time there as possible so setting up camp was a priority, along with a pathway so as not to disturb any wildlife/budding growths when clambering through the dense overgrowth. I cleared an area for the ‘camp’ which was soon to consist of a fire pit, stumps from the larger fallen trees for seats, a frame from cut off trees to throw a sheet of tarpaulin over - should the rain come. This little secret area became a huge part of the early days at the woodland. There’s nothing quite like boiling a kettle on an open fire, cooking lunch using the branches collected. The smell, the warmth not to mention the smoke to keep the unwelcome little bug visitors away!!! Imagine my excitement when 7 deer came strolling past for the first time which gave me the idea to have an area to encourage them to visit so that we could hopefully see them regularly. Over the next few months, pathways were developed so that all areas of the woodland could be accessed with various areas of interest including a sensory garden, allotment, orchard, natural pond, various picnic areas, deer watch area, an ‘observatory’ to shelter us in the evening / night where we hide out and watched the night wildlife (deer, rabbits, owls), and our very own 'Hartley Hare' !!!). On clear nights, watching the stars through the telescope is just amazing… there’s no light pollution so the sights are just amazing. Then there’s the memorial garden, inspired by my sister who I lost to Covid in March 2020. And, who could have a woodland without a bit of Winnie the Pooh – a tribute to Hundred Acre Wood!!! I have put bird boxes up to encourage varieties including Tree Creeper, Blue tits, Great Tits, Sparrows,, Nuthatches, Owls and baskets for Sparrow hawks, Hobbits and Buzzards. The original disappointment as squirrels moved into the Barn Owl box and Pigeons into the Tawny Owl box soon became delight as the babies arrived. It was so lovely watching the busy parents rearing their young. Then, the following season, guess what….. yes!!…. A Barn owl nested!! Friends and family just love to visit the woodland to enjoy the magical relaxing atmosphere; to explore the pathways leading to the various little nooks and crannies to search for plants, insects and just to sit quietly, listening to the birds and the rustle of the leaves. To anyone who has never thought of owning a woodland before, just imaging the freedom, the space, the never ending discoveries of plant life, tree life, wildlife and with imagination, you can make more than one dream come true. To anyone who is thinking of owning a woodland…. Do it! You will have nothing but pleasure and peace, and experience an immediate shift in your mental wellbeing and, if like me you have physical disabilities, the change of pace, the air, the green will have a positive impact on your aches and pains!!! Thanks to Lesley for the above enthusiastic account of her woodland adventure.
10 reasons to buy a woodland in 2017
2017 could be the right year to take the plunge into woodland ownership: 1. Money in the bank continues to yield virtually nothing, so putting some of your savings into a woodland means having an investment that you can actually enjoy; 2. Like it or not, 2017 will be the year of Donald Trump and the uncertainty and apprehension that this brings. In an uncertain world, having a wood of your own which you can escape to is a great reassurance; 3. A recent survey showed that teenagers with smart phones check them on average 150 times a day: a woodland is an antidote to overdosing on screen time. Your children or grandchildren may be suffering a "nature deficit" and being able to visit a woodland is a good way to make up this shortfall and help them grow up more healthily; Read more...
Bird Decline Indicates Homogenised Woods
With under-management diminishing woodland bird populations, landowners are being encouraged to act. The population decline of woodland birds has been well documented in the national press: headline grabbing stories of the cuckoo’s demise and the lesser spotted woodpecker’s struggle for habitat are given plenty of column inches. We wanted to get to the bottom of why woodland birds are in decline, what this means for the woods, and how the problem is being addressed? Read more...
Re-introductions and rewilding
Rewilding is a word that has been used often by the media in recent times. Broadly speaking, it refers to the re-introduction of species to areas or habitats where they have 'died out', in some cases hundreds of years ago. The list of animals considered for rewilding varies, but the elk, wolf, lynx, wild boar, beavers and bears are possible candidates. Bears probably disappeared from the UK sometime in the 12th century, the lynx in mediaeval times, and the last grey wolf was recorded as being killed in Scotland in the 1700s. The loss of such species may be associated in part with hunting but also the loss of forest and the clearance of woodland over the centuries. Read more...
Chainsaw Maintenance Pt 3 – Fixing A Slack Recoil Starter
In our last chainsaw maintenance video Paul Collins shows us how to fix a slack recoil starter on a chainsaw. Read more...