While most purchasers of small amenity woodlands do so for the pleasure of ownership it is nevertheless a big financial outlay. Protecting the value of the investment is therefore important, and ideally it will rise in value as well. The woodland market has been strongly influenced by the rise in the number of small woodland owners, and prices have risen sharply in response. This has been particularly apparent in the last twenty years, with Woodlands for Sale being the first company to tap into, and indeed help lead the development, of this market. For small pieces of woodland the market rate now often exceeds £10,000 an acre, whereas commercial forestry sites cost perhaps half that rate.
Many potential owners come with a limited budget, once as little as £10,000, now more often £30,000 or a bit more. To meet that demand there is a strong trend now to split larger woods into much smaller pieces, something that we believe can be bad for long term management, especially woodlands with a significant element of conifers. I have blogged on this before.
Recently I have been wondering whether there could be a market for joint ownership of a woodland, by several individuals or families who are either already friends, or who become friends through a shared commitment to their own wood? I do have direct experience of one such case, where something like thirty family members all bought a small share in a Devon wood, which we managed for them for around ten years (before I went off to do canal restoration). There was an annual general meeting, which became a wonderful excuse for a family reunion.
Now thirty seems too many, but I was wondering about five shares, with an agreed long term management plan signed up to by all. The Forestry Commission now encourage management plans that work twenty years ahead, and in woodland terms a longer timescale still is no bad thing. Now if five shareholders all put in £30,000 then you could have a share in say in perhaps 30 acres, rather than ownership of 3. There would also be plenty of economies of scale for longer term management, while retaining all the rights to visit, wander freely, collect firewood, camp or enjoy as you want.
I have been toying with these thoughts for a few months now, and we do have several woods where such an arrangement might be possible. All three happen to be currently in Devon, but if we could bring together a group looking in the same area, then other sites could become available. If anyone is interested, just drop us an e-mail message via our enquiries form and we will see what we can put together.
Another option, which requires even less capital is to consider getting involved in a community woodland. Quite few groups now exist purely to manage their local woodland, which is run as a community resource. This harks back to some of my own initial works with The Conservation Volunteers. It’s surprising how many of these groups now exist around the country, and there may be one near you. More about this in the new year!