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My Wood ~ by Matt Marples

My Wood

Some of you may know me as I’m the Regional agent for East Anglia. I own my own wood and wanted to share with you my wood over the year. I’m often asked by owners on what commitment in terms of work a wood entails. This will depend on the woodland and your needs and aspirations. However, I thought it might be useful to give a regular update on my own woodland.

I’m blessed with the best wood in the world or that’s what I think. It’s my wood.   It’s called Snipes wood after one of my old dogs and it is 150 metres from my back door and surprisingly despite spending my working life in woodland - I love every moment I spend in it yet do very little work with it. First thing every morning I walk around the wood with “Stig “the dog and love seeing the sun rise as I head back for home.

The woodland is made up of overgrown oak, ash and hornbeam coppice that was used to fire the local brick works. This was deemed to be an almost perfect mix of heat and burn rate for the kilns. The wood was expected to be coppiced but the brick works closed decades ago and the trees are now nearly fully grown.

They sway enormously in the wind with the ash trees shedding limbs at an alarming rate. Most foresters would fell the wood for timber, but I love it just the way it is. My part of the woodland is just over 8 acres and this gives me enough fire wood from dead or dying trees to run two wood burners and my mother’s open fire. I suppose this amounts to 7-10 tones of wood per year. However, this is winter work and I can now just enjoy my wood as it bursts into life with the onset of spring.

The wood has a large pond made from the excavation of clay for bricks and I’m occasionally visited by wild ducks and herons however its main use is a swimming pool for my dog. At the end of summer I pull out some of the weed and remove any fallen branches from it as the year goes on but so far it’s been maintenance free.

This time of year is just magical in my wood. The buds have just started to pop on my hazel and the bluebells now carpet the soft underbelly of the wood in green. In just over a month the woodland floor will be bright blue as they flower.

A wide electricity pylon ride splits the far end of my woodland. Last year I cleared this of the scrub and bramble and I have been rewarded by an infusion of Primroses. These flowers really are the first sign of spring and along with the daffodils on the southern bank they scream goodbye to winter. I hope to be able to increase the wild flowers here as well as the areas of wild strawberry that mark summer.

I really feel my wood is shaking off the winter and stretching its arms to waken to the sounds and sights of spring. It is impossible not to feel invigorated at this time of year even if the only thing I’ve done is walk through the wood.

Owning woodland is not an onerous task. I’m often asked by buyers how much time and effort will it take and the answer is it’s really up to you. Every wood needs some love and care but unlike gardens if you miss a month or even a year it’s not going to be tragic. The main thing is to enjoy your wood and the time you spend in it. Doing the jobs as and when they need doing.

Posted in: Diary of Long Wood, Energy, sustainability & economics, Woodland Activities ~ On: 22 March, 2012

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9 comments so far

1 April, 2012

hello matt,
i too have a wood- much smaller than yours at only 2.4 acres, but with a similar composition of coppiced hornbeam, and oak and ash, plus grey poplar on a damper area (there is a meandering small stream on two sides). At present the ground cover consists of numerous wood anemones and celandines in flower,cuckoo pint and bluebells (latter only in bud as yet), plus ladies smock and lesser spearwort in the damper margins.Also some interesting Fungi, Location is Weald in Kent. I have one question you may be able to answer.. hornbeams were last coppiced 1947, and like yours are very tall. I am worried that in time the lack of light in summer may lead to a loss of ground cover… or does the fact that the bluebells etc are spring flowering mean that there is sufficient light penetration without ever recoppicing. i would be grateful for your advice, Linda

28 March, 2012

Yeah must be great having your own wood so close! as i have a smallholding i would like to plant alot more trees and turn most of it into a wood!

27 March, 2012

Thanks Matt,
I am in the process of buying a piece of woodland in Devon, and my emotions are going from over the moon,to seriously concerned,that I am getting into something I have not a scooby doo about, along with a deep dislike of parting with my money.

Your comments are a great help.

Graham Luvianos
27 March, 2012

There’s one thing romantic about the thought of starting a new life and walking away into the sunset, but for many consumers it is just a daydream

27 March, 2012

Matt, have just read your blog and am so envious that your wood is next to your home. It had always been my dream to own such a place, but as my husband & I live in north Wiltshire where three of the largest land owners live, we finally purchased a 5acre piece of woodland 2 years ago in Gloucestershire, some 50 minutes from home. While the travelling is not ideal and as we run our own coffee shop and only have sundays as a spare day, we make a day of it when we do go, arriving as soon as we can in the morning and leaving late in the day.
To anyone thinking of owning a wood I would say go for it. There are always compromises as you rarely get all you want, but the joy of seeing the seasons change and watching your wood grow far out strip the disadvantages.
We are re-enstating the coppice cycle that has been neglected for 30/40 years and have had the best time ever despite the hard work, so to all who are thinking of doing it good luck and enjoy.

26 March, 2012

Giles, its not fenced as I wanted to ensure wildlife wouldnt be disrupted, fences are never very satisfactory in woodland and tend to end up a mess. I am however thinking of building a dead hedge on one boundary as the woodland is very open.
It is however worth having gates on any access from roads etc to stop people leaving cars. However with the price of scrap Id love a couple leaving for me to drag to the scrap yard.

26 March, 2012

Thanks for that, Matt.

So convenient to have it 150m from your back door! There’s nothing for sale within 20 miles odd of me, and that’s a bit too far to go.

I was just wondering – is your wood fenced, and do you have any trouble with people leaving rubbish / old cars in it?

Thank you.

Joanna Shipley
26 March, 2012

Lovely blog – inspiring. Thank you.

25 March, 2012

Thanks, Matt.
I have indeed wondered what costs / duties are involved in wood ownership, and your comments have gone a long way towards reassuring me. All I have to do now is decide how much I dare afford and wait for the ‘perfect’ woodland to come available!

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