One family’s account of buying their own piece of woodland in Devon.
There are many reasons why you might want to buy a piece of your own woodland. Perhaps you want to use it for wildlife conservation alongside helping you and your family strive for a better way of life and well being.
For the Turner family they wanted a place they could escape to away from the stress of life and most importantly, as a family with two teenagers- the trappings of modern life and digital connectivity and learn about managing woodland.
Martin Turner, discovered woodlands.co.uk, a specialist selling agent of parcels of woodland. Woodlands had a wide range of potential sites, which after making contact, Martin was soon viewing potential locations with the local woodland manager.
The family wanted their woodland to be close enough to their home that they could easily travel to in less than half an hour. The criteria included a light, varied and characterful piece of woodland, ideally with good vehicle access to enable easy production of home firewood -all in an area with no phone signal!
In 2013 they bought their piece of woodland in South Devon. It was, in fact, the very first piece of woodland they saw! It had their basic wants covered but had the benefit a river running along a boundary and views across farmland in a quiet valley. The woods are made up of douglas fir and sweet chestnut with some really grand oaks and beech trees on the perimeter.
As soon as a purchase is completed Woodlands.co.uk gives you further advice on accessing your woodland plus a package of books and subscriptions to make it easier and more enjoyable to get started with all topics of woodland management. These include copies of “Getting Started in Your Own Wood” and “Managing Your Woodland for Wildlife”.
They also introduce you to the Small Woodlands Owners Group (SWOG) , an informal group of small woodland owners throughout the country. Plus pay for a year’s membership of the Royal Forestry Society. Both of these organisations send regular magazines or newsletters and also give you access to Living Woods magazine.
Last but not least, you receive a grant towards the cost of any course which is going to help you with managing and enjoying your woodland. These can be craft based or technical courses. Surprised at how many courses he could do Martin chose the Chainsaw use course as he knew that would be one of his first tasks to thin out some of the trees.
Building the cabin
For four years the family visited their woodland across the seasons, spending time as a family undergoing the management of the trees. Their enjoyment of the land matured to harness a love of all aspects of basic outdoor skills and living. The family have developed a talent of wild cooking and dining free from the chores and constraints of a ‘standard’ domestic garden or public space.
The freedom and feeling of owning a small piece of England has heightened the gravity and connection to the wood way beyond their expectations. The desire to build a cabin borne from a need for a practical solution to storage and shelter was soon a priority.
By 2017 they had decided on the perfect spot to build their cabin. Their chosen location was based on multiple considered factors. Having spent the previous years watching the seasons and wondering where would be the best place to build the cabin, taking into consideration wind direction, the path of the sun, rainfall and how water flows over the land, where the animals walk, nest and burrow, thinning of trees to achieve to allow the carpet of the woodland to flourish again while opening up a view?
Once again the family sought advice from woodlands.co.uk who advised on the type of structure they could build and what use they could for.
There is an informative article by Lucy Nichol on building on woodland you own.
The family designed a 5×5 m2 space, with a covered veranda where they could read, whittle, chat, and dangle their feet over the edge whilst taking in the view over the fields afar and listening to the flowing stream and the wind in the trees.
Internally they wanted to keep it simple, after all, it is in the middle of a wood and they have two dogs and two children. This is not Egyptian cotton sheets, it’s muddy boots and tools!
The cabin is made from locally sourced larch timber cladding, it is fully insulated timber structure with repurposed double glazed windows and doors. They also have a Salamander Hobbit wood burner for those cold winter days when they need to shelter and brew a cuppa!
The veranda roof supports are sweet chestnut (from the wood) that Martin felled himself, using his new chainsaw qualification, and the bark stripped back with his teenage son. One of the challenges of the build was linked to the sloping site, which involved additional work to achieve access and then create a platform for the cabin.
The family now mix their time in the woodland. Martin can pop out to the wood to collect firewood or the family stay for a day on a Sunday the opportunities are endless. The activities the family have included wildlife watching, woodland management, cooking, eating and drinking! The cabin is a true escape, release and reconnection with nature and each other.
“We are custodians of this little bit of England. Our intention is that it will stay in the family for many generations for them to come for them to enjoy”
A woodland diary by Martin Turner
“During the summer the woodland and its wildlife is consciously left to its own devices meaning we can spend time on the coast. I hasten to add there is nothing better than when we have spent a good day grafting in the woods in the warm summer sun and then treating yourself to a cold beer and dinner cooked on the open fire.
During autumn and winter when the leaves have dropped we will fell some of the trees we have identified and marked during spring and summer time to allow more light in. This could be because we want a clearing, but generally, the trees are marked to open an area up and let more light in, encouraging the flora and fauna to find its place and grow in the woodland. Year on year we will do this allowing nature to advise us what to do next year.
I was once told that a woodland where you see a healthy quantity of ferns is a woodland where there is enough light coming through the canopy allowing the natural flora to grow. Autumn and winter is a good time to fell, as there is less water rising in the trees and therefore will they will season quicker, also this is before the birds start building their nests in spring. Also during this period, we will also see how well the bluebells are growing, do they need more light for next year? Is this an area we will leave completely and make a track around it so we don’t walk all over it allowing it to evolve year on year. Maybe a mental note was taken where at some stage a bench could be made and a track into the middle where next spring you can just enjoy sitting amongst them.
There is always something to do, some are long term decisions and some can be carried out there and then.
You may come to the woods after a storm and a tree or several trees have come down and this changes or evolves previous plans you had made. That is just the way it is, there is only so much you can control which is quite nice, it reminds you that nature is really the one in charge. “
This is a case study of one family’s experience of owning a woodland. Life Space Cabins are not planning experts so professional advice should be sought from a planning consultant or your local authority for any similar projects.
This page aims to inspire and promote an awareness of the route through planning for a smaller space, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek specific professional advice.