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Vert Woods Community Woodland (VWCW) has taken some recent big steps to realise the great potential of their project. With 171 acres of much neglected PAWS woodland, a long lease with the legal owner Roger Ross and formal plans to purchase the land, the vision of a ‘working community woodland’ has just got a lot closer.

Stewart Boyle, member of VWCW Steering Group, got in touch with us to outline the key changes that are taking shape at Vert Woods Community Woodland:

By the time this is published, we hope to have confirmation of our planned Community Benefit Society (CBS) status from the FCA. Having the support from Making Local Woods Work and Plunkett Foundation have allowed us to understand and do the formals for our legal status – this has been quite a journey for our Steering Group. It means that our dream of community membership and investment for ‘ownership’ can start to become a reality.

Another big step forward has been the offer of a grant from the Woodland Trust’s Community Woodland project. This will allow us to get some vital projects moving forward including signage to let the community know who we are and what we’re up to, to develop our business plan, plus hold more volunteer events where we can deepen our growing engagement with the Community. We’re really grateful for this support of regional and national WT colleagues.

A sign that the community is beginning to trust the project was more than 60 folks who turned up on a wild and wet Friday evening in February to attend ‘Vert Woods: Past, Present and Future’. The evening was a comprehensive set of talks over the history of the site, current developments and future plans. We recently discovered a pair of narrow gauge railway tracks that confirmed how, when owned by a wealthy local family, it used a de-mountable railway system to get wood out to the then operating sawmill. Lots of other gems like this have been discovered in our relationship with the woods so far. With our first partner tenant – Circle of Life Rediscovery (CLR) – we also have the sound of children and families regularly enjoying nature connection and woodland management.

Our deepening partnership with Plumpton Agricultural College has been critical. With a Felling Licence in place and working to our recently agreed Woodland Management Plan, skilfully spearheaded by Christine Meadows a current mature student, our woods are now a regular ‘training ready’ location. As a result, the woods are being opened up for wildlife, thinning and moving out cut pine logs helping provide a modest but useful income, plus growing access for a range of woodland management and other activities.

One of our Steering Group members Tom Ottoway summed up progress recently. As a long-term local small woods owner Tom is familiar with the land. Pausing for a cuppa with me, we heard the distant sound of chainsaw, followed by laughter from some children, closely followed by a buzzard calling. As a couple of dog walkers walked passed saying hi as they did, Tom smiled at me and said: “the woods are really coming alive aren’t they?”

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