On Saturday November 11th, around 40 people attended the Wood Allotments and Community Woodlands Workshop at Risley Moss Local Nature Reserve, Warrington. The Mersey Forest’s director, Paul Nolan, gave a warm welcome and brief overview of the day’s agenda before introducing the speakers. First to speak were the Woodland Trust’s Rachael Cranch and Kerry Clarke, who explained the Trust’s Community Woodland Northern Pilot Project and emphasised the significance of the Tree Charter.
To follow on from Rachael and Kerry, we were treated to an insight into Scottish community woodlands, provided by Angela Williams. Angela, who is a director of Community Land Scotland, gave a fascinating background to the politics and progress of community woodland ownership in Scotland. Angela also spoke about the individual experiences of two ongoing community woodland projects, including remote, community-owned woodland managed by the Knoydart Forest Trust, part of the Knoydart Foundation, which she serves as development manager.
A series of talks by different community woodland groups from across the Mersey Forest ensued. This included a rich variety of circumstances and perspectives. Alan Redley spoke about the work being undertaken by Friends of Anderton and Marbury, a volunteer group who support the ranger service in managing Northwich Woodlands, and who have been operating a wood allotment group since 2012.
Kevin O Hanlon and Jan Baird, from Friends of Mill and Alder Wood, talked about the challenges and rewards of managing an ancient semi-natural woodland in Speke, south Liverpool. Brian Newall and Jonathan Halstead then described the establishment process behind wood allotment groups, based upon their experiences in helping to develop Sefton Wood Allotments Association. Finally, Graham Sweet from Church Wood Conservation Group gave an account of their 20 years of woodland management at the Woodland Trust site in Whitegate, Cheshire.
With our packed lunches firmly in hand, the day was rounded off with a site visit to Spud Wood, near Lymm. When we arrived, Spud Wood’s site manager, Neil Oxley (Woodland Trust), provided us all with a background to the site. We were then introduced to Jo Yellen from the Friends of Spud Wood CIC Wood Allotment Group, who spoke in detail about the establishment and operational methodology behind wood allotments at Spud Wood. After a short walk over the canal and into the wood itself, we were shown the remarkable improvements that wood allotments have made to the health of the wood. We also had the opportunity to see some allotment members in action, as they weaved their wheelbarrows through the wood to collect their logs.
Back at Risley Moss, attendees shared contact details and had a cup of coffee for the road. Everybody seemed to consider the event a success, and this success was due in no small part to the input and active engagement by each individual. We would like, therefore, to thank all of those who came, and to express our gratitude in particular to the speakers.