Pondhead Conservation Trust in Hampshire praised for bringing history to life

The RFS 2019 Community Woodland Award goes to a site managed by Pondhead Conservation Trust in Hampshire, praised for bringing history to life; silver goes to a Community Woodland managed by Forestry England in Kent and a certificate of merit is awarded to a new community woodland in East Sussex which is managed by a Community Benefit Society and is praised for its long term vision.

By Becky Wilkinson · December 26, 2019

This Award is to encourage and reward woodland projects that benefit communities. Specifically woodland which has been established and managed in a way which is sustainable and beneficial to the landscape, the local people, biodiversity and the economy in both the short and long term.

1. Pondhead Inclosure, managed by Pondhead Conservation Trust in partnership with Forestry England, New Forest, Hampshire

Judges were impressed by the way this community venture brings history to life and adds value to the site by producing charcoal and offering courses such as chair making. They also praised the programme of habitat recovery, new cultural and wildlife values and the way they are providing learning opportunities for others.

For Pondhead Conservation Trust, Derek Tippetts, Trustee & Volunteer Coordinator said: “We are extremely proud and honoured to receive this prestigious award. Since 2015 our volunteers have contributed over 18,000 hours to the project and this is fitting recognition of all their hard work over a variety of year-round tasks.”

2.  Jeskyns Community Woodland, Forestry England, Cobham, Kent

Judges praised the way this site, which is near to large population centres, enables great accessibility opportunities for all abilities and activities (horses, dogs, cycling, walking and running). They were also impressed by the way consultation with local community and feedback continue to help develop the site. Positives include: creative natural play areas from local materials; a variety of habitats – woodland, orchards, meadow and pasture; enthusiastic volunteering evident and engagement with young people – young farmers group to manage grazing animals; wildlife recording.

For Jeskyns Wood, Beth Cambridge, Forestry England Community Woodland Manager said: “In just over a decade, Jeskyns has been transformed from arable fields to a vibrant multi-functional green space delivering huge benefits for local people and wildlife. Jeskyns holds the community at the heart of its management and is a vital and cherished resource for local people.”

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3. Certificate of Merit: Vert Woods Community Woodland CBS, Laughton, East Sussex 

Vert Woods Community Woodland is 171 acres of mixed woodland, near Lewes in East Sussex. Since Autumn 2015, the woods have been managed on behalf of the community.   After the planting of many softwood trees as a crop at the end of WWII, a detailed plan and assessment is pointing the woods in new directions that will require the removal over time of much of the softwood ‘crop’ and replacement with more native hardwoods. Vert Woods is a Community Benefit Society and wants to make it easier for people of all ages to visit and experience the benefits of the woods to ensure a stronger connection with nature. The aim is to create a social enterprise and working woodland that benefits both the local community and the local ecology.

Judges felt this site which is its very early stages has with great potential wildlife benefits with restoration of Ancient Woodland; it has a clear sense of vision and purpose and has already developed partnerships with the local community including a forest school and a disability charity. There are innovative ideas for linking with wider area.

For Vert Community Woodland, the Community Benefit Society said: “’We were delighted to be awarded a Certificate of Merit in this prestigious competition.  Vert Wood Community Woodland is very new but we have made great progress in a short time and feel very excited about the future plans we are developing.  Thank you to the judges for their time and interest.  We really enjoyed showing them round.”

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