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Small and Farm Woodland Excellence Award 2021

Bron Haul, North Wales, and Portloughan Farm, Co Down, have jointly won the Small and Farm Woodland Award 2021. A Certificate of Merit has been awarded to Wurthymp Wood near Wrexham.

By Wendy Necar · September 3, 2021

This Award recognises smaller (0.2ha to 20ha) woods that have been actively managed in the last 10 years by the owner or under his/her guidance.

1 = Bron Haul near Abergele, Conwy, owned and managed by David Brown and Ruth Pybus

Bron Haul is a small farm with a suckler herd on a steep south facing slope of the River Elwy. The tenancy was bought out, additional land purchased, and the pasture progressively converted to forestry from 1990 onwards.

The owners used formal study and practical experience off-farm to create an on-farm business. They supply local markets for craft and sawn timber. Sweet chestnut and larch are used for fencing materials. Cleft ash and sweet chestnut are used for gate making, cherry and ash for planking. There is a steady supply of firewood. Cattle maintain the remaining species-rich pasture.

David and Ruth said: “We are delighted to win this award for the second time. The more we manage the woodland, the faster it is developing from a young mixed broadleaf plantation to a continuous cover woodland yielding increasingly valuable products. We hope other woodland owners will be inspired by this as our climate and biodiversity emergencies demand that we create diverse, resilient woodlands for the well-being of future generations.”

The judges liked the linkage between Welsh government schemes and the needs of this property. They describe Bron Haul as an exemplary small woodland showing what can be achieved with vision, learning, hard work and access to appropriate capital. The owners’ very “hand’s on” approach and close attention to detail were key.

1 = Portloughan Farm, Strangford, Co. Down, owned and managed by David and Alison Sandford

Portloughan Farm is 80 hectares (ha) of arable land with forest on the southern shore of Strangford Lough.

The owners have planted 1.1 ha woodland on a degraded rocky hill which had been abandoned to a jungle of gorse, bramble and sycamore scrub after being used for pig rearing. Inspired by childhood memories of carpets of bluebells and ferns prior to the arrival of the pigs, David and Alison created a new warm woodland. The bluebells came back, and the RSPB has recorded 63 bird species at the farm including nesting barn owls.

David was previously the NI Chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN). He said: “ We wanted a warm wood, well-populated with shrubs and undergrowth, that would be haven for wildlife. We also wanted a wood that could grow good timber with an eye to having firewood from thinnings.

“We are delighted to win this award and to be acknowledged for the hard work that went into establishing this woodland on our farm. Being a RFS member for 15 years, the Society has been a great source of information and advice. It has furthered my knowledge at every step and made this woodland possible.”

The Sandford’s experiences have been widely shared.  They have provided evidence to a Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly, been short-listing as a demonstration farm and won several wildlife awards.

The judges believe this wood will become an exemplar for small woods in Northern Ireland.

Certificate of Merit:

Wurthymp Wood near Wrexham owned and managed by Daniel Ackerley

Wurthymp Wood is a 7 ha wood planted in 2006 with oak, larch and willow. It sits in open farmland on the edge of a village settlement and the River Dee floodplain. It is managed intensively as a conservation project, firewood and charcoal business.

Daniel said: “In a world where it could be very tempting to retreat ‘into the woods’ – the insights into the various woodlands and their responsible management, are important aspects to share and learn from. Showcasing best practices from others is inspiring, as well as adding value to wider public understanding across the range of forestry practices and habitats.”

The judges praised Daniel’s approach to forest management. He has drawn on academic study and short courses, and data from wildlife and vegetation surveys.  They were particularly impressed by his development of an income generating local firewood and charcoal market. They also liked his approach to engaging local community groups.

The RFS Excellence in Forestry awards are made up of five categories. Entries were accepted in late 2019/spring 2020 from the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland and Wales. Covid restrictions delayed judging until 2021. Our thanks to all who took part and to the judges for their patience.

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