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 You can also follow us on Twitter @ActifWoodsWales and Facebook.


Deer Initiative Events

The Deer Initiative are currently working with the Woodland Trust as part of their Ancient Woodland Restoration Project and are delivering a number of awareness raising events nationally.

There are 2 events coming up shortly, the first in Bewdley, Worcestershire on the 16th January and the second in County Antrim on the 25th January.

These are both free full-day events and lunch will be provided.

Click below for flyers with more information about the events (including how to book).




Horse Drawn Woodland Management

Field to fork is a phrase we often here when we talk about local food and sustainability, we do a lot of running from the veg patch to the kitchen here to get things at their finest, and I’ve also been attempting preserving vegetables lately which has had varying levels of success from lovely pickled onions to some kind of exploding pea ectoplasm.

But earlier in September we had the chance with a little help from some friends, to take our small attempts at self sufficiency a little further. We have a little strip of woodland which goes right the way around the boundary of our farm, which provides us with firewood, and allows us to teach logging courses. We had a booking for a training course, from Kate Bradshaw of the National Trust and Matt Robinson who runs his own wood working tools company, they were keen to have a go at horse logging after having seen us at work on the farm.

We decided to do things a little differently to normal, and gave them 2 days training in exchange for some help with milling some of the timber we felled to make furniture and some new kitchen worktops for our workshop. So they got stuck in with the logging (quite literally in some places where it was a little muddy!) with 2 of our mares Dolly and Opal. They started by pulling some felled timber through our woods to learn rein control and where to be in relation to their log, how to harness and work a pair of horses, and getting to grips with controlling the horses whilst running up a hill and having to repeatedly jump over your log to avoid getting squashed.

We then felled a large Oak tree from our river bank to allow some regeneration of smaller saplings which were starting to grow underneath it, and a couple of smaller ash trees which appeared rather sickly. Kate and I then used the horses to pull away the brash and large branches for firewood, of which there was probably enough to provide our wood burner with logs for the whole winter. Whilst we did this the boys set to work using a team of 3 to harvest potatoes with our potato spinner, we made the most of having helping hands around, no one was sitting still for too long.

When all the brash was cleared away we were able to use the mares to pull the log to a suitably flat dry area to begin milling it. Kate and Matt had brought their Alaskan Chainsaw Mill with them which allows you to mill timber on site, so there was no need to move the log too far or involve any heavy machinery.

The oak log was cut into 3 inch planks which were about 9ft long, and were left as wany edge boards (a bit bendy with the bark still on). It was my first go at milling and it was really good, bar a small trip to hospital with wood chip in my eye, and it made some really beautiful planks. We then moved these on the trailer, behind a team of 3 horses up to the workshop, where they are currently seasoning.

We are hoping to make these into new Kitchen worktops and a coffee table. We even had enough spare to give to our neighbour to build benches for his fishing lakes. Nothing went to waste and the sawdust generated is currently being used as bedding for rabbits and pigs, probably to eventually end up as compost on the veg patch. I will post up photos of the final product on our facebook page when it is complete!

If anyone is interested in logging or farming courses, and training for them (or their horse) please don’t hesitate to get in contact on 07896294075, or email

We also have a new website, or like us on facebook @ Hitch In Farm Working Horses to see regular blogs and photos.

Hitch-in-Farm is a thirty-five acre farm in the shadows of Dartmoor. It is managed using real horse power we currently have 20 working horses on our farm who perform a huge range of tasks using modern and antique machinery. They manage our 2 acres of vegetables and grain, ploughing, cultivating, drilling hoeing and ultimately bring in the harvest in our wagon. We also grow grain and fodder crops and keep various poultry, sheep, pigs and cattle all of which are managed using our working animals. We have thankfully nearly banished our wheelbarrow altogether in favour of horse drawn sledges and trailers. We are hoping to become more or less self-sufficient in food and fodder in the next 24 months, having bought the farm in October 2015. We train and break all our own horses, and provide training for other horses and people alike.


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.”


The tale of the boot and the thorn – exciting new partnership for Small Woods Association

The Small Woods Association is developing an initiative focused on the humble hawthorn.

Known as a local tree throughout Britain, the hawthorn has powerful roots in myths, legends and social history from the Glastonbury Thorn, to the Enclosures and (possibly) Sleeping Beauty!

The tree plays a key role for our native wildlife, providing nesting and resting for many of our resident songbirds as well as a larder for our overwintering birds; as well as being a friend to woodlander and farmer as the perfect hedging material.

This initiative is supported by US outdoor footwear brand OBOZ, who already have a strong direct association with tree planting. Their ‘One More Tree’ project has already led to the planting of 1.5m trees to date.

Volunteers are currently collecting hawthorn seed, to be given away to those trying on the boots during 2018, together with planting instructions and information about the trees. There are also plans to hold events in association with independent stores who will be stocking the boots, probably in the Lake District and North Wales during the course of next year.

It is our hope that the initiative will grow with the brand. We aim to increase people’s understanding of our native trees and maybe the hawthorn won’t be so humble anymore.


Commercial Elderberry – a Request for Small Woods Members

Dear Smallwoods,

A friend of coppice and of bushcraft forums has suggested I contact you with my search. In essence, I have a commercial venture that involves spreading the native elder into the fields:-

I’m looking to work with someone who would be willing/ able to grow a few acres of elderberry bushes.

My name is Richard and I have been an active member of BushcraftUK for many years. Increasingly I have been exploring the commercial side of making country wines. I’ve developed a great recipe for elderflower champagne, and now have a marketed version using wild picked sources. However, I’m currently looking at single variety wines (just as most grape wines are from single or limited blend varieties). I have identified a handful of suitable strains. What is lacking is being able to grow them at scale. I have got good contacts who can advise on cultivation.

Soil wise they like it moist, adequately drained and fertile. Full sun. Thrive best with added manure each year. Pruning can be pretty casual – levelling the plant to a metre every 3yrs. Mowing between rows is needed.

Working out how to finance growing elderflowers, I think it might work if the grower gets paid perhaps between £1.50 and £5 per kg. The buyer pays this and also pays/ provides the pickers.

I ran some estimates on the expected crop. I have trialled growing on my allotment and I have a contact growing them on a 10 acre site. I think a conservative estimate of the crop would be something like 200+kg per acre. So, that looks like a payment of £300 to £1,000 per acre per year from buyer to grower. In addition, you might get back your own wine at trade price and market it locally for further enjoyment and profit.

So I am looking for someone to grow some selected varieties for me, useful for my elderflower champagnes, but also good for cordial making and spreading native forest plants into the fields.

Perks of the role would include a few free bottles of the champagne each year.

If interested then please get in touch.



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


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.


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

Melissa Dhillon, Woodland Activity Mentor for 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 –


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 –


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