My wife and I decided on the purchase of a small wood a few years ago. We were able to research financial, legal and physical practicalities on-line and www.woodlands.co.uk was the most useful site in our search for a suitable wood. We visited nine or ten woods across the South of England, from Devon in the West to Kent in the East. We were looking for a wood between 3 and 6 acres up to a spend of about £40K. Some people spend as much on a car, whilst for us non-drivers - a wood is a much better, permanent investment, especially when financial products are looking risky.
But we weren’t just looking for somewhere to bank money but a place of natural beauty and quietude to enjoy and preserve. Our wood had to be accessible from London by public transport but still a rural gem away from built habitation. We were ideally looking for a bluebell wood with a good mix of tree cover -- not a conifer plantation.
I can honestly say, and my woodland neighbour concurs, that Lath Wood out a much larger, wood was the best that we saw, an “ancient” wood planted many years ago with Sweet Chestnut beneath mature oak and beech standards coppiced until about twenty years previous. It can be reached by train to the pretty, nearby working village and a good walk over the North Downs AONB.
We found it a very green wood in beautiful shades of light, especially in the early morning. We have taken photographs to quiet stunning effect which my wife uses to paint from. The bluebells are thick in the spring and the sweet chestnuts plentiful in the fall and we have picked the biggest parasol mushrooms on our walks that you will ever see!
I arranged a visit by a Forestry Commission officer who saw that the trees were in good health and gave useful advice on woodland management to encourage diverse wildlife habitat. Although not strictly necessary for coppicing, he issued us with a felling licence for three years. Woods have very long life cycles compared to gardens, nothing needs to be rushed! Some people do leave woods to look after themselves, but a well-managed wood is an improved environment. Several acres of the larger wood were coppiced three or four years ago and the new growth is about shoulder high now with the usual dense ground cover! We intend to get to work this winter by clearing a camp , laying a living hedge-wall, “singling” chestnuts which have grown tall and coppicing an area of denser, lighter growth. We are looking forward to a few camp fires with family and friends (a wood pigeon or two in the pot) and using our camp as a base for walking.
My wife was a little anxious about the woodland venture at first but is now wholly convinced that, after house and home, it was the best buy of our lives together. It is a real privilege to being custodians of a bit of our scarce woodland heritage!
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