The Woodlands, Clayton le Moors 2013
This small local woodland, managed by the borough council, has been improving access, habitat, biodiversity and using the space for events.
The Woodlands, Clayton le Moors, Accrington
RFS Excellence in Forestry Awards Community Woodlands 2013: Winner
The Woodlands were entered by Clayton le Moors with Altham Prospects Panel which, over the past 15 years, has been improving access, habitat, biodiversity in the wood; running practical and family events as well as fundraising.
The wood itself is less than 3 hectares and owned by Hyndburn Borough Council. It is next to a busy main road, surrounded by housing and backing on to an athletics track, sports field and a residential care home.
Managing The Woodland
The Woodlands are an oak, ash, beech mix with sycamore and are remarkably free of squirrel damage.
There is very good natural regeneration, particularly of beech, birch and sycamore where old trees have been felled.
When trees are cleared or thinned, some firewood is generated, but the timber is also used by local community groups and artists to create sculptures.
One dead tree, close to the roadside has been pollarded with plans to turn that pollard into a wood sculpture which can be viewed from the roadside as well as from within The Woodlands.
The gateways at the three main woodland entrances were designed by local schools, who were asked to reflect a woodland theme. These are an excellent welcome.
It was the strength of community involvement that set this woodland apart.
Community involvement is not always easy to achieve or for decision-makers to manage what can often involve conflicting interests, but judges were impressed by a fine team of people who were all actively involved in delivering a remarkable woodland oasis in an area surrounded by housing.
Local residents and volunteers, the Prospects Foundation, local youth groups and schools, artists and others have all made a positive and visible contribution to the wood.
Judges were met by a group of truly committed people who delighted in showing them around. Each individual contributed towards a true community feel and a genuine team effort. The fact that the Leader of the Council joins in the work parties illustrates the regard in which this group is held.
Benefiting the community
The Woodlands are well used for informal activities and gentle exercise such as dog walking and wildlife watching, but there is also a wide range of organised events which have brought people together from around the community.
Events have included training courses for woodland management, tree felling, footpath construction, bat and bird box construction and installation, native bulb and wildflower planting, tree identification, fungi, and bat walks.
In addition, the work of local artists and children from local schools is highly visible throughout The Woodlands.
The Woodlands have incorporated access for wheelchair users, and others with limited mobility. They have also worked closely with the Wheels for All Project, offering cycling routes to people on specially adapted bikes who also use the adjacent athletics track.
For more information, go to www.prospectsfoundation.org.uk
Category judges were Tim Sawyer and Rob Guest, who have both held senior posts in the Forestry Commission in England.