Community woodland

Friday 2 March 2012, 15:13

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside

Have you ever thought of owning your own woods? How about getting together with people living around you and buying a community woodland?

That's what happened when Troserch woods near Llanelli came on the market five years ago.

Villagers got together, decided they didn't want to see their local woods falling into the hands of private enterprise and applied for a grant from the Forestry Commission to buy all 80 acres of Troserch woods.

After the initial sense of achievement when the money came in, the committee members then realised that they had the small matter of maintaining a whole woodland to contend with.

This week I've been for a walk in the Troserch woods, with the woodlanders, to find out how the project is going.

We started from the car park and passed the 'Christmas tree nursery' where around 200 firs were planted two years ago with the aim of selling them (when they're big enough) to local people.

Lincoln Glover lives next door to the woods and has acquired a chain-saw license in order to get stuck in with the continual work of maintaining the forest.

'We clear-felled a whole section near the river last year and sold the timber, giving us enough money to cover our costs for the next ten years' he told me as we headed down one of the trails through the trees.

Around the next corner we came across the roundhouse, a wooden structure with grass covering the roof, complete with a hole in the top, allowing for fires underneath.

It was made by the woodland members from materials gathered entirely from the forest and offers a bit of shelter for anyone using the woods. Standing on its own, completely surrounded by trees, it looked like something from a fairy tale.

But there is a challenge ahead - getting more people to use the woods and get involved. Most of the committee admitted that not enough people in the area know about the woods on their doorstep, never mind helping out with running the scheme.

Greg Wilkinson, another dedicated committee member said that they understand that people have busy lives and not enough time to donate to helping out, but he also stressed that the health benefits from a project like this are huge.

Llais y Goedwig (the Voice of the woods) is the community woodland network for Wales and they're hosting their annual conference next week.

This year's theme is 'participation' - trying to encourage more people to get involved in their local woodlands and having a greater say in how the environment is looked after in Wales at the same time.

Jokes about tree-huggers aside, there's a lot to be said for getting away from it all by getting back to nature.

Our walk in the woods took us down to the River Marlais, where I was reliably informed otters and kingfishers have been spotted. It was a beautiful place and only a few minutes drive from the motorway.

Sometimes it's easy to miss what's right under our noses.

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