Local Woods For Local People

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

Growing Better Connections have organised a series of events and two short films to showcase through shared experience, the many benefits of community management of local woodlands.

Penllergare Community Woodland Volunteer Day

This is a written extract from the first film, "Introducing Community Woodlands & Local Opportunities" (just click on the link to watch it), The first section is from the introduction and the second from the summary, a patchwork quilt of inspiration based on the experiences shared by our speakers.

What is a Community Woodland?

It can be whatever you dare to dream it could be, and it will mean many different things to each member of your community.

Essentially, they are any woodland where the local community has a degree of control in its management, generally through lease or purchase. They are all slightly different depending on the aims and circumstances of the community, the age and species of the trees, and the wildlife that calls them home. Some common themes tend to run through community woodland groups, like providing opportunities for employment, education, recreation and well being, as well as the materials, resources and rich habitats that we all need for life. These themes, and the ways to achieve them, will be explored by our speakers through the examples that they will describe in the video.

In the European context: France has 11,000 forest communes owning over 3 million hectares of forest. They grant concessions to local people to gather firewood, harvest timber, produce food and other uses. They contribute to a tree cover that is 5 times greater, and a forestry economy that is worth 6 times as much as that in the UK. In Germany rural communities have had forests for centuries, and their ownership is enshrined in forest protection laws.

In Scotland, Wooplaw woods was one of the first community woodlands in Britain. In 1987 55 acres were bought for and by the community, assisted by local sculptor Tim Stead who made and sold a wooden axe head every day for a year, to raise funds. It is open to all comers who are encouraged to walk around, to listen to the bird chorus, to visit the wildlife ponds, or picnic at their Log Cabin. They hold events on the last Sunday of every month, and host training courses.

Green Woodwork Workshop at Wooplaw Woods

This simple beginning has led to establishing business incubators for furniture makers and crafts people, local timber supply chains and supported further community land purchases. Activities which have by now provided training and inspiration to thousands of woodland managers, artists and artisans. It has also led to the establishment of Forest Crofts, affordable, living and working spaces with land, available to members of the local community who recognise that opportunities sometimes come dressed in overalls and look like work.

Woodland Croft, Scotland

There are now at least 650 community woodland groups in the UK, of which more than 300 are in England, 200 in Scotland and 150 in Wales.

Let’s se