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Buy your own wood

While the housing market fluctuates between unprecedented growth and a nervous drop in prices, sales of woodlands are on the rise with buyers looking for an investment in a better quality of life. Be Happy finds out what the attraction is

A 2011 report by Woodlands.co.uk highlighted the positive benefits that owners of small woodlands can have on the management of UK woods. The company, which creates and sells small woodlands, surveyed private owners to find out more about their motivations for buying their woods and what benefits they had found in becoming woodland owners. 

The resounding message that came back from the owners was a passion for their woods and a desire to preserve them for future generations. Even though prices for woods have risen by more than 50% in the past three years, there was no desire on the part of the owners to cash in. In fact, not one of the owners surveyed was planning to sell their wood in the foreseeable future and more than three quarters planned to pass the woods onto future generations of their family.  

So if it's not for financial gain, then why are more and more people buying woods?Unsurprisingly, almost all said that there love of wildlife was an important factor in buying their woods and this is borne out by figures which show that over the last ten years woodlands.co.uk owners have planted more than 220,000 new trees, built more than 10,000 dead wood log piles (insect habitats), put up 3,800 nest boxes, dug 350 ponds and installed 350 bee hives. There is also a strong interest in restoring woods to their native condition by replacing conifer with broadleaf trees. 

Angus Hanton of www.woodlands.co.uk says: 'In today's fast moving society it's great to hear that there is a desire to gain a window on the outdoors - free from the many constraints of modern life. Being in a wood, with the sights, smells and sounds of nature, is a great way to get away from it all. These owners are building an emotional connection with their piece of woodland and conserving it for the benefit of us all.

'In this report we uncover an army of unsung conservationists who together are safeguarding more than 12,000 acres of woodland for future generations. Taking large pieces of land into government or charity ownership is not the only way to conserve our woodlands; individuals can undoubtedly play their part too.'

How to buy a wood
A typical woodland costs about £35,000 for five acres (about size of two football pitches) and you'll find them advertised for sale on various websites such as woodlands.co.uk. The process is relatively simple but you will require a lawyer to go over contracts, land registry and oversee the exchange of money. It's much like buying a house, although considerably less stressful as you won't be involved in a chain. In terms of finance, there are several options available if you're not a cash buyer. You can borrow against your own residential property, invest part of your pension fund or even borrow against the woodland itself. Check out woodlands.co.uk and the website of other sellers as they offer a comprehensive guide to the buying process. 

Note that with sales of woodland you enter into a covenant which limits you from doing certain things with your woodland. For instance, without the appropriate permission you won't be able to use the land for a commercial campsite or use the land for any sort of vehicle racing. Check with your seller what limitations apply.

What to do with it
Owning a wood is a liberating experience, especially for those who have not owned a significant amount of land before. You'll have the freedom to camp with friends, light a camp fire, plant and fell trees, clear paths. You'll be able to enjoy the natural environment with the chance to see badgers, butterflies and birds. You can build a shelter, care for trees, climb trees, collect firewood and even grow your Christmas trees. You can learn woodcraft or simply use it a place to relax. The options are endless, but what a wonderful thing to have – your very own corner of nature to share with your friends and family. 

We bought a wood
Husband and wife Stephen Briggs, 50, and Sarah Walters, 53, bought Alvecote Wood when Sarah was forced to take ill health retirement five years ago, after her cystic fibrosis prevented her from continuing her work. Her lump sum pension gave them financial freedom to invest in their own piece of woodland. 

'Be it a crisp winter day, a calm summer evening or a glorious spring morning, sitting on a log eating our sandwiches and listening to the birds singing is a magical experience. Butterflies in great numbers fly along the brambles and woodland edge. Glimpses of mammals including moles, rabbits, muntjac deer, badgers, foxes, stoats and all manner of little mice and voles can be had. Woodpeckers are heard drumming away on the trees. Blue tits are busily flying in and out of the many nest boxes we have placed around the site. The bluebells form beautiful carpets under the trees. The water bubbles through the new ponds. The daffodils line the new access road. Bats swoop low for insects at dusk. There is so much pure pleasure that it makes all the hard work worthwhile.'

The Jubilee Woods Project

The Jubilee Woods project is a national scheme being run by the Woodland Trust, the UK's leading conservation charity, to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Through this ambitious project, the Trust is going to plant six million trees and create hundreds of new woodlands with the help of the public. The scheme is backed by the Queen and has Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal as patron.

The UK is one of the least wooded countries in Europe with just 13% woodland cover compared to a European average of 44% - much of our native woodland has been cut down for timber production and lost to development. 

Woodland is a vital wildlife habitat which many of the UK's native species rely on for survival, but they also have many benefits to people. They provide cleaner air, wood fuel, help prevent flooding by making land more 'sponge like', provide shade and shelter for our livestock, and store the carbon we produce through our modern way of life. They are also simply beautiful!

The Trust is looking for landowners, schools, community groups and individuals to come forward and take part in the project. It's not just for people with lots of land to spare – you can even plant a tree in your garden to be part of it. All trees planted can be registered on the new Royal Record – a 2012 version of a book that logged trees planted for King George VI's coronation in 1936. The new Royal Record will be handed to the Queen herself and a copy given to the British library, so anyone taking part will take their place in history. 

The Trust is helping hundreds of people to create Jubilee Woods – woods of at least one acre in size – and can help with the funding, as well as providing advice and practical help. Sixty special woods of 60 acres in size will be exclusive Diamond Woods – each commemorating 60 years of the Queen's reign.

The Trust is also giving away thousands of packs of trees to schools and community groups to plant in their local area; visit http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/en/jubilee-woods to find out more and apply for a pack. 


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