Making local woods work
With the help of Grown in Britain, fifty communities across the UK will receive support to transform unmanaged woodland into opportunities for jobs, leisure, education and services and to improve the health and wellbeing of local people.
The Big Lottery Fund is awarding £1,151,111 to the Plunkett Foundation for its Making Local Woods Work project. The pilot project, due to launch later this year, will help people to create social enterprises in local unmanaged woodlands so they can grow into sustainable businesses, creating new areas of employment and training to benefit their communities. The opening up of much-needed access to the natural environment will not only provide opportunities for economic growth, but better engagement with the outdoors will result in better health and wellbeing for those involved. The project will be delivered in partnership with Grown in Britain who will help improve communications with society, deliver supply chain support and build connections with the construction sector.
According to the Forestry Commission, 47 per cent of woodland are unmanaged or under-managed* which can threaten the variety of plant and animal life. Many bird and plant species have been in decline in recent years**. Active woodland management could preserve and increase the biodiversity of these habitats and increase wood fuel production.
Woodland social enterprises are beginning to emerge as a way of tackling a wide range of issues and there is growing evidence of local people successfully using their skills and ideas to set up businesses which have been effective in improving communities.
One example is Hill Holt Wood in Lincolnshire which provides training for young people who have been referred by agencies because they are excluded from school or are unemployed. The woodland also attracts more lone visitors, particularly women, due to the presence of volunteers performing activities including coppicing, woodcraft and charcoal manufacturing. Revenue is also achieved through its cafe and green burials. A further example is Blarbuie Woodland Enterprise in Argyll which has provided residents of the Bute long stay hospital, access to the adjacent woodland, activities such as arts and crafts, wildlife walks, training and employment opportunities.
Making Local Woods Work will provide training, volunteering and employment opportunities to 500 people tackling unemployment, social isolation and poverty. It will support, advise and train 50 groups across the UK to become woodland social enterprises involving study visits, training in asset transfers, financing, asset acquisition, land brokerage, woodland management and business planning. It will also deliver training and knowledge sharing events to 200 groups looking at setting up their own woodland social enterprises.
Engaging partners such as Grown in Britain, will help the project to improve the quality of knowledge and help to bring about wide-scale improvements in the ability of groups to set-up local woodland social enterprises. Evidence of the project’s impact and sharing of the learning will be used to influence future practice of woodland social enterprises and also woodland management in general.