Acquiring your wood

Buying or leasing a wood is not so different from buying or letting a house… and we all know how stressful that can be! Research so you know what you’re letting yourself in for, and before signing any document, enlist professional help.

The information given on this website is intended as general guidance only: it’s imperative you seek your own legal advice.  You might be able to recover the cost of professional fees in any grant application you make before acquiring your site.

Already got a specific wood in your sights? To manage it, you’ll need undisputed rights to make decisions. You have several options here. You could buy and own the freehold on the wood outright, lease it for a fixed spell, or manage it on behalf of an existing landowner. Buying might be your only way forward if the wood you want is up for sale. But if the land belongs to the county council an informal agreement may be all you need.

Land ownership data is confidential in the UK. But the Land Registry holds ownership details for about half the land in England and Wales. You can search it online or at their offices. But lots of rural land isn’t registered. If that route fails, ask local people to see if they can shed any light. Knocking on doors can be surprisingly enlightening!!

What if you don’t have a particular wood in mind? Consider your group’s objectives – ecological, recreational or commercial – and what kind of wood might serve them best.

The agricultural property pages of your local press will give you an idea of land availability and prices. Contact agents and register what you’re after – the size and key features of your wood, and roughly what you might pay. Often vendors don’t want publicity for a land sale, so they won’t advertise it. Some national agents specialise in woodland sales, but for sites of less than eight hectares (20 acres), the local route is best. Ensure your members put the word out in the community. Sometimes parcels of land may be surplus to their owner’s requirements, and you might sow the seed for a lease or sale.

Your local authority may welcome involvement in woods on local nature reserves or around their schools, council offices and estates. Charities like the National Trust and Canal & River Trust may also be keen on your help. Some government-owned woods have passed into community hands – and don’t rule out farms, hotels and private estates on your patch. All may own wooded land that craves your care and attention. Remember that there’s no such thing as the perfect site so be prepared to compromise.

Getting serious about a site? Then there’s some work to do before making your offer to buy, lease or manage it. Boundary information, rights of way, environmental constraints and other legal restraints need negotiation before you can put pen to paper.

Once all the necessary checks have been done, your funding is in place and the property transfer documents are prepared, formal completion can take place. Prepare for a big adventure ahead!

Download our advice sheets below for more information.

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