Our history

The original National Small Woods Association (NSWA) was established in 1988. Part funded by UK2000 and the then Nature Conservancy Council, it was aimed at supporting woodland practitioners and networking best practice amongst woodland projects. Strong support was received from the then Department of the Environment (DOE).

NSWA held many successful conferences, with reports such as ‘Selling to Survive’ and ‘Adding Value and Marketing’ (sponsored by the then Countryside Commission), and established a national newsletter called ‘Heartwoods’. A national register of woodland initiatives was also produced. NSWA successfully began the process of raising the profile of the UK’s under managed small woodlands (principally those under 10 hectares at that time). A Forestry Commission Technical Information note 22/97 ‘Harvesting Options in Small Woodlands’ was produced working with NSWA and one of its members.

In 1994 the NSWA worked with the Green Wood Trust (GWT – a national charity based in Coalbrookdale) to produce a Business Plan for a new Woodland College to be built from local coppice material, and also established a series of vocational courses on woodland management between GWT and NSWA, part funded by the Forestry Commission and Countryside Commission. In addition, a series of courses from coracle making to charcoal burning and green woodwork were established by GWT part funded by the Countryside Commission.

In 1997, the Council of NSWA, formed a new company limited by guarantee – NSWA Ltd – with a Board of Directors to replace the old Council and Executive Committee. The focus of NSWA Ltd was still to work with woodland owners and woodland projects and input to national and regional policy.

Courses were held on all aspects of woodland management from mensuration (timber volume measurement) to sawmilling and adding value, pest contol, thinning, nature conservation, recreation, writing a management plan and managing a wood for green woodwork.

In 1998 a report for the Forestry Commission, Countryside Commission and Nature Conservancy Council for the Rockingham Forest Trust by marketing consultants showed that local people did not want to buy local woodland produce as they felt it was ‘butchering ancient woodlands’. NSWA was also taking an increasing number of calls from local authorities concerned that members of the public were complaining about local woodland management.

Small Woods Association is born

NSWA took the bold decision to change direction and in 2000 became a registered charity and limited company – Small Woods Association (charity number 1081874) with the principal object ‘to further  education in the conservation of small woodlands’, working with woodland owners, practitioners, local authorities, craftspeople and the general public. The issue of woodland size is no longer relevant and we now define a small wood as more an attitude of mind in its management rather than by size alone. The definition of a small woodland within the UK Woodland Assurance scheme is now ‘up to 100 hectares (250 acres)’.

In June 2001, following a seminar hosted by HRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchy of Cornwall, SWA was asked to host a new woodland sustainability project, Herefordshire Sustain Project, as a partnership project that aims to create replicable UK sustainability projects and policy context.

At the end of 2001 the Forestry Commission approached SWA with regard to the establishment of a follow on project from the Marches Woodland Initiative, which subsequently became Heartwoods Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of SWA, aimed at relinking the wood supply chain. So SWA officially became a Group. Heartwoods Ltd successfully bid to host one of three certification pilot projects funded by Forestry Commission.

In June 2002 a second report commissioned by Forestry Commission ‘Review of the effectiveness of woodland initiatives’ concluded the need for SWA to continue to support initiatives through the appointment of a  Woodland Initiatives Co-ordinator who is funded by Forestry Commission and Countryside Agency (now Natural England) and hosted by SWA on behalf of a network of initiatives. A new map based searchable register of all these initiatives is available via this website.

Green Wood Trust and Small Woods Association merge

In November 2002 the Chairman of The Green Wood Trust (GWT) approached SWA regarding the possibility of SWA taking over their organisation through a merger, (concluded in February 2005). SWA raised grant aid from Forestry Commission for GWT to employ a new Director and for GWT to become a focus for the coppice and greenwood sectors in the UK. Now GWT is part of the SWA Group it has been renamed the Green Wood Centre. It has launched a new coppice products website and is running a series of courses on all aspects of crafts and greenwood.  After the merger the SWA membership office moved to the Green Wood Centre site in Ironbridge.

The Small Woods Association now works in partnership with many different organisations and people throughout the UK. Why not become a member and help us in our vital work.