VERT WOODS COMMUNITY WOODLANDS
Vert Woods Community Woodland is 171 acres set within a total of 850 acres of adjoining woodland. Located in East Sussex, England – just outside the village of Laugton – the woodland is owned and managed for community and wildlife benefit. With such a large area of continuous woodland, there is fantastic variety throughout, from mature tall pines, to under-managed chestnut coppice, and from pockets of beautiful tall oaks and beech, to dense areas full of unmanaged birch and willow. Much of the woodland is recovering woodland, substantially affected by the Great Storm of 1987.
In June 2015 the wood was purchased for community benefit after a campaign to secure the necessary finance. Since then, the steering group has been working hard to put in place their working ethos and principles, their legal structure, and engaging the local community in helping them define their vision for the next 25 years. The steering group’s aims are to enable their wider community to access nature, develop and maintain the woodland in a way that balances the environmental, social and economic needs.
The group runs many different activities, including monthly volunteer days which help people learn new skills like felling, crowning, coppicing, axe work and general firewood skills; it’s a great introduction to the woods and no previous experience is needed, making it an inclusive opportunity for anyone who’s interested.
The steering group has been receiving support through Making Local Woods Work; committee member Stewart Boyle said recently:
“A lot has happened in the 12 months since we heard that our final bid for the 171 acres of woodland in East Sussex was successful. Local philanthropist Roger Ross, who fronted the purchase, has stuck with the project and is one of the 12 members of a Steering Group set up to guide us to a new legal entity and agreements.
“Our Vision Day helped steer our direction towards a ‘Working Community Woodland’ that has a strong emphasis on being a Social Enterprise, with Nature at the heart of everything we do. With critical help from Plunkett Foundation we’ve worked through key governance issue and settled on the Community Benefit Society model. We also have a draft Woodland Management Plan and Business Plan.
“Essential has been the work of two energetic local community members – Sue and Marion. We have just completed successful meetings with the 5 local parish councils. Part of our out-reach work has also seen two successful public events on New Year’s Day and a May Bluebell Walk and picnic.
“What has been humbling has been the magic of discovering what is in this wood and the support of groups like the Sussex Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust, Butterfly Foundation and Plumpton College. With a portable sawmilling course coming up and three sub-committees working hard, the next 12 months promises to be busy!”