It has been a little while since I last posted but that is mainly because we’ve been doing so many things in the woods and elsewhere. At the woods we managed to complete the weather-critical work on paths, clearings, wildflower meadows and rubbish clearance thanks to the help of Bill and his mini-digger, Daz, one of our volunteers, and some really rather large big boys’ toys that we had on hire, some of which I got to drive. We have had another Open Day that seemed to go very well. We have been completing a lot of paperwork relating to work that we need to do on our Tree Protection Order protected trees, and we have had a short holiday.
One question that keeps coming up is “How do you make any money out of this place”? The answer is we don’t make a profit out of the woods, and I don’t think we can hope to do this. We do have money coming in from a variety of sources: Our business, our friends and family, from the sale of our craft products, from occasional donors, and from Forestry Commission grants. We also hope to recover some money from community groups using the site in future. This does not cover the costs, but it helps to offset some of the costs of running and maintaining the site, and of equipment, seeds and plants to help improve it for wildlife.
In future we will also have (permission permitting) coppiced wood products available, such as beanpoles and pea-sticks for allotments, and possibly willow for living willow garden structures (we may make some for sale ourselves), and additional craft products to sell at Open Days. At present we haven’t established a coppice rotation to allow this to happen, but in a few years time this will bring in some money. Firewood seems to be rather a poor option – it takes a lot of effort to dry out and prepare logs for sale and you get almost no money from it, but if we have a surplus after our own use then we wouldn’t be averse to selling it.
If we cannot look at the wood as a method of making money, then what is its value? I think it has much more value than the potential of its timber products. This is how I see it…
Most of us spend money every year on a lot of things that we enjoy; buying clothes, going out, various sports and leisure activities, gym memberships, playstations and games, buying music and DVD’s, riding motorcycles, driving cars, riding bicycles or horses and many other things. Well, the woods is something we enjoy, so why not spend money on it in the same way? The woods is an important hobby for us, an important enjoyable activity. So from the purely selfish viewpoint, the woods is another hobby that we spend money on to enjoy.
It also helps to keep us fit and healthy and active. We much prefer activities you can do outside to being in a gym (and I am a qualified gym instructor!). Being outside in the fresh air, sun, wind, rain and snow, we keep active and fit with an activity that we can continue to do as we get older. We also have a little space to grow some vegetables and have fresh organic food with zero food-miles. We can do so in a lovely environment that has beauty and peace and interest. That’s worth paying for.
These are all pretty selfish benefits. But there are others too. First of all the wildlife itself – trees, birds, insects, spiders, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, flowers, mosses and fungi. All of them can benefit if we can give a little time and money to our woods. Just by owning it we are helping to prevent it being damaged as a habitat by another less sympathetic use of the land (including just leaving it alone). Then we are trying to improve it and add habitats, and we are already seeing the benefit. Now we could just give money to an environmental charity and let them do it for us, and we still do this. But there is something of great personal value in being able to get your hands on, do things, and see the wildlife enjoying what you are trying to preserve and improve.
And of course it isn’t just us. We want lots of people to benefit. We want people to enjoy the woods on open days, and for children and young people to enjoy the educational and artistic opportunities that the wood has to offer. We would love other people to enjoy the benefit of outdoor activity in the wood that we do ourselves. We would like the local community to feel happy and proud that the local wood is being cared for. And we would like the wood to be there, and full of trees and wildlife, for future generations.
So, if we are asked how we make money out of the wood, the answer would be: “We don’t, but we, and hopefully others, get great value from it for the time, money and effort that we put in”. The woods is definitely value for money.