EiF Small Woodland Award
Small Woodlands Award winners 2012
The RFS Excellence in Forestry Small Woodland Awards recognise and reward projects where smaller woodlands are managed on a multipurpose basis with clearly stated objectives. Woodlands may be recent or old but must have been established for at least 10 years and of a maximum size of 20 hectares.
- 1st: William (Bill) Sowerby, Coombeshead, Launceston, Cornwall
Richard Scholfield from woodlands.co.uk, left, presents the RFS Small Woodlands Gold Award 2012 to Bill Sowerby from Coombeshead, Launceston, Cornwall.
The judges said: “The wood shows just how much can be achieved by a caring owner. We have all seen areas of tree shelters that once contained trees but by virtue of neglect have become empty eyesores. Coombeshead Millennium Wood is the very antithesis of this; virtually every tree that was planted has survived and thrived, shelters have been removed and weed control/cleaning has been carried out very effectively. We greatly approve of the avoidance of straight planting lines in what is a very narrow woodland...”
Bill Sowerby planted his 1.45-hectare Coombeshead Millenium Wood in March 2001 under the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme. Planting on a hill crest in the old parkland ensures that the landscape views will be maintained with new mature trees replacing existing mature trees.
Coppicing has already begun, providing fuel for the owner’s wood burner. Tree species include oak, ash, sweet chestnut, alder, beech, cherry, rowan, silver birch, scots pine, holly and willow.
Bill's pride and joy is the 300 yards of mixed hedge that he planted in 2002 with a hawthorn hedge added in 2003, and which he has subsequently cut and laid. The hedges provide a source of berries and a nesting habitat for birds, while sheets of corrugated iron on the ground encourage slow worms and other reptiles.
Bill says: “I probably spend more time there that I should do. I think it shows just how much can be done more or less single-handedly. Although it is only small, the woodland adds value to the landscape and to local biodiversity and I am absolutely delighted to have won.
“Getting the trees to grow is the easy bit, it is how to keep a variety of undergrowth and canopy levels which is the difficult bit and which are so important for the birds. The laid hedges and strategic coppicing are important ways of achieving this, but it is very much a case of trial and error.”
- 2nd: Ben and Diana Porter, Classic Canes, Warren House Woods Hinton St George, Crewkerne, Somerset
Richard Scholfield from woodlands.co.uk, left, presents the RFS Small Woodlands Award, silver, 2012 to Ben Porter of Pen Porter Classic Canes, Warren House Woods Hinton St George, Crewkerne, Somerset.
The judges said: “Generally speaking, we in forestry are very poor at marketing. We offer wood for sale in a number of ways but with a few exceptions that is about as far as it goes. We MUST do a lot better and people like Ben and Diana Porter can show us the way. “
Ben and Diana Porter bought the 7-hectare Warren House Woods in 1978, restoring the ruined house as a family home and breathing new life into the woods.
They have developed a coppicing system specifically for walking sticks and their Classic Canes business employs 10 people and distributes walking sticks across 40 countries
The coppicing, a form of pollarding, has been developed to accommodate the browsing habits of roe deer while ensuring a supply of high-quality raw materials. Some large beech and ash trees are also grown as standards to maintain the feel of hardwood forestry.
Ben says: “We are able to show what can be done with a small woodland that is managed for a specific purpose, developing jobs and benefitting the local economy. We regard the woodlands as a pension resource of rather greater value and potential than any other type of pension investment currently available!
”The RFS competition is excellent in encouraging higher standards of management in forestry and in particular recognizes good work now going on in schools and in community projects.”
Ben Porter is the incoming Chairman of the Somerset and Dorset Division of the RFS.
- Commended: John Arnold, Russells Farm near Cullompton, Devon
Richard Scholfield from woodlands.co.uk, left, presents an RFS Small Woodlands Award, commended, 2012 to Richard Arnold, on behalf of his father John Arnold from Russells Farm near Cullompton, Devon.
The judges had particular praise for John’s sweet chestnut and his work to protect the woodlands from squirrel damage.
After a life time of farming John sold up all but 36 acres, and decided to plant 6 hectares as woodlands. Teaching himself with the aid of books and pamphlets, he planted a mix of native trees in 1991 and incorporated a pond.
His own hands-on approach was curtailed when he developed cancer, but he still takes an active interest while his son Richard has now taken on the woodland management. The trees are now being grown for quality timber, with thinnings used to provide fuel for heating and cooking for both John and Richard’s homes.
John says: “I derive a great deal of joy from the woodland – I was 70 when I started planting it. My only regret is that I had not started the project when I was younger. Having started out looking to increase local biodiversity, I have become increasingly interested in developing the woodland to produce fine timber at the same time.”
The family is renaming the wood Bening’s Wood after a family name going back many generations.
- Commended: Simon and Sonia Hodgson for their Higher Minicleave Wood, Chumleigh, Devon
Richard Scholfield from woodlands.co.uk, left, presents an RFS Small Woodlands Award, commended, 2012 to Simon Hodgson from Higher Minicleave Wood, Chumleigh, Devon.
The judges said: “This wood has been in family ownership since 1952. It is well maintained and shows the full benefit of continuity of management and inherited family woodland wisdom.”
The family has restored active management to the wood, which is divided into eight compartments with trees varying in age from 80–140 years. Trees are mainly of oak coppicing origin and some Douglas fir and beech.
Timber provides thinnings for fencing and some wood fuel, and the larger timber is converted to planks on site and air dried. Nest boxes have encouraged tawny owls and pied fly catchers, while dormice use the hibernation boxes.
Simon carries out all the work in the woodland himself.
Simon says: “Our objective is to leave the woodland in a sound condition for our future generations to enjoy as much as we do.”