Small Woods Association Response to the Defra Command Paper “Health and Harmony” – May 2018

The government has produced two major papers in the early part of 2018 that aim to pave the way towards post-Brexit land management policy, both of which have implications for Small Woodlands and Small Woodland Owners.  Small Woods Association have responded to these consultations and our submission is attached. (Small Woods Health and Harmony Consultation response 8-5-18)  The submission is based on the following principles.

Woodland management policy should be objective-led, i.e., it should be designed to achieve a clear outcome that delivers benefits to woodland health and harmony, and the economic, social and environmental goods that flow from them.  It is critical that these three elements of sustainable development, economy, environment and society are on an equal footing within any support arrangements, as to favour one over the other would be to unbalance the policy.   

An integrated approach based on the Common Countryside Policy principle would necessarily lead to more woodland work being done by farmers, both for woods on farms and potentially beyond.  However, we are very aware that most woodland management is currently undertaken by non-farmers; i.e., by woodland owners, managers and contractors, and this is likely to remain the case, for reason of skills, equipment and qualifications (including the need to ensure any work carried out is safe and covered by the appropriate forestry “tickets”).  They are also more likely to have the skills required to devise a woodland management plan and to be able to undertake their implementation. 

Within this integrated approach, SWA supports the policy direction to have a single land management menu available for all land managers, regardless of who they might be.  All land managers, including farmers, woodland managers and those managing for other objectives (such as biodiversity, soil conservation or flood defence), should have access to a range of options that cover the full range of land use public goods in England.   

Specifically, in relation to the nature of small woodlands the national menu of options should include: 

  • Management for sustainable production – conversion of existing unmanaged woodland into productive multi-use woodland is an ongoing process, which is very challenging to start when woodlands are unmanaged.  A one off grant to bring woodlands into management, that enabled a planned approach, which introduced thinning cycles according to a sustainable and locally appropriate management system, such as Continuous Cover Forestry, along with the introduction of infrastructure, such as hard standing.  We would also support a declining schedule of payments that recognise the ongoing costs of this stage of management. 

 

  • Size limits set the threshold for support at a level that can benefit small woodlands, for example 1ha. 

 

  • Promotion of collaboration – the scheme should be designed with collaboration in mind, with specific measures to facilitate equipment and skills sharing, as well as support for owners to collaborate on management. 

 

  • Equipment for sharing – small woodlands are by their nature not of a size to justify investment in the full range of machinery needed for their management. Hence, we would propose support for equipment purchase where it was to be in shared use across a number of sites.  

 

  • Shared forester approaches – we propose support for woodland management undertaken by a shared or ward forester across a number of sites in a number of different ownerships. 

Read the full response here: Small Woods Health and Harmony Consultation response 8-5-18

 

Planning Policy Wales Consultation Response

For those who have an interest in Small Woodlands in Wales, we have submitted a response to the planning policy consultation that closed on Friday.

https://beta.gov.wales/planning-policy-wales-edition-10

Whilst we supported the overall framework which is founded on good forward looking principles, as a charity concerned with the sustainable management and use of woodlands we however felt it was inadequately elaborated with regard to the special qualities and requirements of woodlands, their use and management.

We for instance found it surprising that the framework was better developed with regard to intangible environmental characteristics, whilst the very tangible 15% of Wales’ land cover that our woodlands and forestry represent was undeveloped.

The pigeon-holing of woodland-related businesses as either rural or woodlands as simply a resource that needs protection is an inadequate reflection of their importance and potential and can lead to difficulties and misunderstandings between woodland managers, planners and communities.

At a minimum, Wales needs a framework that acknowledges and facilitates the following range of pressures and opportunities with regard to its woodlands:

1. Valuing woodlands equally for their social, environmental and economic aspects and potentials

2. The fact that woodlands are living entities and that embracing change is all part of understanding and achieving healthy woodlands

3. The place of active management in order to maintain woodland health and progression – understanding that communities can find this challenging, as it will involve superficially destructive practices involving chainsaws and other machinery

4. The stresses and pressures which are placed on our trees and woodlands which will lead to greater change in future – and the fact that managing these changes is likely to be very costly as well as leading to significant landscape change. Ash Die Back is likely to be significantly more challenging than Dutch Elm Disease was.

5. Social Forestry is a growing and is a really important movement that is making a real and measurable contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of our population and should also lead to healthier woodlands

6. The really important role that is played by coppice and the parlous state of 90+% pf our historic coppice woodlands. Restored coppice can provide jobs, products, carbon sequestration and replace the plastics in our lives.

7. The need for appropriate structures in woodlands to facilitate their use and management (i.e., to protect people, wood products, production and equipment) and the need for guidance around those structures, how to vary the approaches depending on the sensitivity of the individual woodland site.

8. Awareness raising for planners, woodland owners and managers to support all of the above.

Finally, our response relates to those woodlands that are largely outwith the forestry sector. Forestry has very effective advocates in organisations such as Confor and whilst we largely support their actions and activities, our remit is different and relates to those woodlands that a generally outside the forestry sector’s management and interest due to their size, nature (generally broadleaves) and other management challenges that mean that large scale forestry objectives are generally not realistic or desirable.

https://beta.gov.wales/planning-policy-wales-edition-10

 

25 year Environment Strategy – What does this mean for woodlands?

The government has recently issued its 25 year environment strategy.  A weighty tome, the plan sets out plans across a range of government spheres of influence; land use, landscape protection, health and wellbeing, resource efficiency, marine conservation and the global environment.  Importantly, the document is a strategy for the whole of government, not just the Environment Department (Defra), as shown by the Prime Minister’s Foreword.

The Forestry sector as a whole has welcomed the plan, due to the fact that it appears to give a higher profile to forestry and woodland management.  The aspect that caught most attention in the press was of course the Northern Forest.  This proposal is very ambitious (as well as being unfunded), and there is much detail to be fleshed out.  However, it might offer opportunities for woodland owners in the areas between Leeds to Liverpool, so it will be worth becoming involved.  We will be hearing more about the plans at the Community Forest event in March and so will be able to update members in the next available newsletter.  The plan offered support for community forests in general, so there may be new life for woodlands around the larger cities across the Midlands and the South, in addition to the Northern Forest.

Two other aspects of the plan that we will be watching very closely are the new woodland creation scheme and the Tree Champion.  The strategy commits Defra to a new woodland creation scheme – we would urge government to give the management of woodlands equal importance.  There is little point in an increase in tree planting, if they simply become the abandoned woodlands of tomorrow.  In another Innovation, a National Tree Champion is proposed to encourage joined up thinking, so will presumably seek to work across government, engaging departments on tree and forestry issues.  An early area with which the Tree Champion should get involved would be the planning issues being raised by Neil Parrish currently in the House of Commons, on behalf of Small Woods members.  Unlike some other organisations in the sector, we do not believe this role necessarily needs to be carried out by a forester, what is needed is a first class advocate who knows how to develop influence across government.

Overall, the plan sets out a direction for Multiple Objective Forestry – which is very much in line with Small Woods thinking – as we believe that all woodlands do and can play a number of functions, for environment, economy and people.  To see woods simply in terms of their final crop value is to miss 90% of their real value.  There is much to be welcomed in the new strategy, and we look forward to working with Defra and others to realise its ambitions.

 

News from Actif Woods Wales

Actif Woods Wales, the woodland based health and wellbeing Social Forestry project run by Coed Lleol, runs woodland well-being projects in 9 locations throughout Wales. This month we hear from Neil and Maggie, who are the Woodland Mentors for Neath Port Talbot (NPT).

The last 12 months have been a whirlwind for us in Neath Port Talbot where we have been combining brand new Actif Woods programs with an NPT council project titled ‘Working With Nature’, where we have been engaging with local communities and encouraging wider use and interaction with local wild spaces throughout the borough.

The Working with Nature project complements the Actif Woods program and provides a viable exit route for participants. Having the ability to encourage a cross-over between projects has really benefited our group as the variety of activities and regularity between programs offers continuous, and much needed support.

The Working With Nature project is a 3 year project run by the Countryside and Wildlife team of NPTCBC and supported by the Welsh Government Rural Communities RDP which is jointly funded by the European Union as part of the Common Agricultural Policy through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government. Welsh Government Single Revenue Grant, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council and 2 local Councils: Dyffryn Clydach CC and Pontardawe Town Council.

The Actif Woods project continued in earnest in June 2017, where a new program was carried out in Banwen, a more isolated region of the borough. It was an immediate success, reaching out to and involving over 30 people and introducing new skills, activities and a passion for spending time in the woods.

After a short break, we are back in action and in the middle of a second program in Banwen that will see us run through until March 2018 and will link in with a new Working with Nature ‘Well-Being group’ that will provide regular activities for the group that will keep the benefits of nature working for the group in the long term.

Feedback from the group has been wonderful and shows how much Actif Woods is needed and how much of a benefit it can have for some people. One of our participants told us they would be sitting in a corner under their duvet if it weren’t for Actif Woods and we have seen a huge difference in some, with confidence growing and anxiety reducing.

Coed Lleol also continues with work developing and promoting the Social Forestry OCN courses, as well as shorter woodland skills training

For more information on the Neath Port Talbot project, or any of the Actif Woods Wales projects, please visit the Coed Lleol website or email jocooper@smallwoods.org.uk. You can also follow us on Twitter @ActifWoodsWales and Facebook.

 

Grown in Britain names its Woodland Hero 2017

Grown in Britain presented its annual Woodland Hero award to Sally Spencer, Contributing Editor on Timber Trade Journal, at a gathering in London on 14th December.

Throughout her time on Timber Trades Journal (TTJ), the business magazine for the timber trading and timber-using sectors, Sally has taken an interest in British-grown timber. Frequently writing lead articles and interviews for TTJ’s annual British timber features, Sally has become well-known across Grown in Britain’s constituency of British timber growers, producers and distributors.

Presenting Sally Spencer with her award at a gathering kindly hosted at Timber Trades Journal’s London offices, Grown in Britain CEO Dougal Driver said: “Sally very much deserves our 2017 Woodland Hero award. Her consistent coverage of British timber in a market dominated by imports has kept the faith on home-grown wood. Her reporting of developments in processing have also helped to underline the quality of today’s British timber.”

Steve Cook, chairman of Grown in Britain, added: “The Grown in Britain Woodland Hero award is given to people whose contribution, whether in public or behind the scenes, have benefitted wood that is Grown in Britain. Sally’s professional journalistic scrutiny of home-grown timber, and her enthusiasm for its coverage, have been of great benefit to British-grown wood.”

Accepting the award, TTJ’s Sally Spencer said: “I’ve developed good relationships and interviewed many key players in the British timber sector over time. As investment in the industry, and its share of the market, have grown, it has more than justified its place in TTJ. I enjoy following its progress and engaging with its people, and I’m honoured to receive this award from Grown in Britain.”

 

New film ‘Saving our Oak’ highlights the challenge of Acute Oak Decline

The plight of our most iconic native tree, the oak, is the subject of a new film released by the charity, Woodland Heritage.

The film documents the challenge posed by Acute Oak Decline (AOD) to British oak trees.

The film gives thanks to past supporters showing snapshots of the research that their donations have made possible, but also highlights that despite great progress made, so much more needs to be learned, for which another urgent appeal is underway.

Attending an event to launch the film, Minister for Biosecurity Lord Gardiner of Kimble said:
“This film highlights some of the crucial research that is ongoing to counter Acute Oak Decline.

“This disease puts the majestic oak, our national tree, in jeopardy. It is vital that we develop further our knowledge of how to unlock the disease’s defences and tackle this threat.”

Acute Oak Decline (AOD) is a condition affecting several thousand oak trees, mostly across East Anglia, the Midlands and Southern England as far west as Somerset. It affects both of Britain’s native oak species: pedunculate or ‘English’ oak (Quercus robur) and sessile oak (Quercus petraea) as well as other species of oak.

AOD is characterised visually by dark fluid oozing from cracks in the bark, rapid decline of the tree, and the eventual death of affected trees. Death can occur within four or five years of symptoms first becoming visible. Many affected trees also have characteristically D-shaped exit holes of the buprestid, or oak jewel beetle, in the bark.

Woodland Heritage’s Chairman of Trustees, Lewis Scott said: “As with so much linking Woodland Heritage with the challenge of Acute Oak Decline, and developing management strategies to protect our oak, this film was the brainchild of the charity’s past Chairman and fellow Co-Founder of Woodland Heritage, Peter Goodwin. From the moment that Peter became aware of the threat that AOD posed to his beloved oak tree, now a decade or so ago, Peter headed a relentless campaign to highlight the risks and raise funds to help support research into understanding the causes and managing the problem. He was always the first to promote what could and should be done to reduce the threats; he was always focused on acting and not talking, with the results showing themselves so clearly in this inspirational film”.

The story told in ‘Saving our Oak’ is one of partnerships and collaboration towards a shared objective. Peter used his energy and vision to highlight the plight of the oak and to persuade donors to help this wonderful, iconic tree have a more secure future. But he left the science to Forest Research to co-ordinate, carry out and direct, always working with Dr Sandra Denman, who had shared Peter’s concerns about AOD from the outset.

“Combining the expertise and resources at Forest Research with new ones that we were able to harness at universities and research organisations thanks to the money that Peter secured, this has been such an inspirational example of a private-public partnership working to great effect”, said Dr Sandra Denman. “The special opportunity that the charitable funding afforded us was to be nimble in response to research needs, able to widen our collective knowledge and better understand, and so manage this disease, in the future”.

Many of the scientists involved in the research are doctoral or post-doctoral researchers and their studies are showcased in the film using a holistic multi-disciplinary approach tackling topics as diverse as predisposition, soils, biogeochemistry, tree genetics and metabolomics, dendrochronology and chemical ecology, which are the factors that are increasingly recognised as contributing to the spread of AOD.

“It takes time and resource to carry out research that leads to greater scientific understanding and practical solutions, but the investment that Woodland Heritage and associated charities have made in this are starting to yield important results that are vital stepping stones to the solutions. Our future research programme lays out a path that we believe will help AOD to be further understood and better managed”, added Dr Denman.

Over £2m has been raised so far by Woodland Heritage towards research into AOD, but further studies to a value in excess of £1m are needed. To help these get underway, donations are being sought towards Woodland Heritage’s AOD Appeal and can be made via

http://www.woodlandheritage.org/images/stories/wh/downloads/wh_aod_appeal.pdf.

 

Woodland Into Management Event at the Green Wood Centre

It was great to play host to yet another sold out event and the engagement and enthusiasm was evident for all to see.  A great deal of positive heat was generated, despite the low temperatures.

An immense amount of learning was on offer on the day around the twin themes of collaboration and management.  In addition to the planned sessions on grants and tree diseases and practical demonstration of management equipment and techniques, attendees also raised practical questions about felling licences and woodland management plans, as well as our Welsh participants needing more information about what is the same and what is different on either side of the Dyke.

We concluded that there is now even more evidence of the need to manage woodlands and the benefits that follow, given the results of George Peterken’s work and equally that there is practical advice and guidance on hand for woodland owners and managers.  There is plenty to worry about in terms of tree diseases, however, a sensible informed approach would lead owners and managers to address only the most pressing risks directly, whilst accepting that our woods are changing and that other species will replace those we lose.  The choice for owners is when to act, however, even if you don’t act, prepare for change.

We devoted a lot of time to the grants on offer. Now is clearly the time to get plans into order for the various grants that are on offer, both through Countryside Productivity Grants in England and Glastir in Wales, with Leader grants also being available on both sides of the border.  It is too early to tell what might be available after Brexit, but what we can be sure of is that the grants on offer now are at least as good as they have been for some time and that the longer term is less certain.

Finally, we would like to thank Forestry Commission for their support and without whom the event would not have been possible.

We would also like to thank Paula Griffiths RPA, Simon James, Barnaby Wilder, Danielle Lea-Smith and Nick Smith from Forestry Commission, Pete Banford Shropshire LEADER, Neill Mapes, Richard Thomason, Kieran Leigh-Moy, Stuart Zlotowski, Richard Bowness from Truncator, Dave Philips Deer cuisine and Steve Hall from Stihl.

 

We welcome new staff joining our team in Wales – December 2017

New Staff join Coed Lleol and the Actif Woods Project – December 2017

The Small Woods Association in Wales (Coed Lleol) are pleased to welcome 3 new members of staff to the team. This is thanks to funding from the Active Inclusion Fund, managed by Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA)

In this newsletter we let Alyson, Melissa and Nico introduce themselves.

SOUTH WALES CO-ORDINATOR: 

Alyson Jenkins, South Wales Coordinator

I’m Alyson Jenkins and as the South Wales coordinator for Coed Lleol/ Small Woods, I will be overseeing the Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Merthyr and Treherbert areas, focusing on the European funded Active Woods project and working in partnerships with a wide range of organisations. I have worked in a diverse range of roles including: environmental education with the Wetlands Trust and the RSPB, adult education, project management, community dance and health science research manager. A native of South Wales and a Welsh speaker, I now live in Swansea. Completing a part-time PhD in Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship has kept me very busy, but I love distractions such as walking, swimming, music (listening and learning to play the piano) and reading. I always have time for my young grandson, two daughters and my friends. I am looking forward to discovering new woodlands in South Wales, getting to know everyone and play a part in this brilliant organisation.  You can contact me on alysonjenkins@smallwoods.org.uk

Melissa Dhillon, Woodland Activity Mentor for Gwynedd

GWYNEDD:

I’m Melissa Dhillon, Actif Woods Wales’ new Woodland Activity Mentor for Gwynedd.  I live in North Wales, and I have been working as a Forest School Leader and involved in woodland based projects for a number of years.  I’m really looking forward to meeting the groups and leaders that are currently involved in Actif Woods Wales projects, and am in the process of setting up new projects, in North Gwynedd; we’re planning a stakeholder day on the 8th January.  If anyone would like to get in touch, my e-mail address is –  actifwoodsgwynedd@smallwoods.org.uk

TREHERBERT:

Nico Jenkins, Actif Woods Mentor for Treherbert and Rhondda Cynon Taf

Hello I’m Nico Jenkins is the new Actif Woods Mentor for Treherbert and Rhondda Cynon Taf. I have a degree in Psychology and a Masters in Conservation and Land Management. My career so far has comprised of either supporting vulnerable individuals or environmental work, therefore combining the two on the Actif Woods project is a perfect combination. I’m passionate about mental health and believe that the outdoors and nature have a vital role to play in our mental and physical well-being. I am currently developing a partnership with the well-established ‘Welcome to our Woods’ in Treherbert and am looking forward to supporting individuals to access and gain benefits from the outdoors. The new Actif Woods 12 week programmes In Rhondda Cynon Taff will help individuals to meet new people, gain new skills and hopefully enhance their physical and mental well-being and nurture a love for the woods! If anyone would like to get in touch, my e-mail address is –  actifwoodstreherbert@smallwoods.org.uk

 

Actif Woods Wales woodland health and well-being programmes run in Ceredigion, Anglesey, Merthyr Tydfil, Gwynedd, Neath Port Talbot, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Swansea. We also work in Wrexham and Flintshire.

For more information on these programmes, or if you are interested in working with Actif Woods or in the training on offer please contact amieandrews@smallwoods.org.uk