A Community Woodland for West Somerset

Forum 21 is working with Exmoor National Park to consider the possibility of developing a community woodland. One possible site is White Cross/Woodcombe Woodlands close to Minehead. These woodlands are already well used by the local community for recreational purposes; so extending the local interest to encompass a degree of management might not be such a big step. Forum 21 is holding an outdoor meeting at the site on Monday 4th July at 6 pm; meet on Moor Road opposite the camp site. Please come along and give us your input or just enjoy the walk, which will take about 2 hours. For more information go to the Forum 21 web-site.

The development of community woodland would involve a management agreement with the National Park. Clearly that agreement will have to fit with the objectives of the National Park; which are to protect and enhance the landscape and its wild life for the enjoyment of all, while at the same time encouraging productive use of the landscape.

Woodlands are clearly very productive places; they provide a refuge for wildlife and a wonderful place for us to walk, cycle and enjoy peace and tranquillity. Woodlands also produce wood and timber, a valuable and sustainable resource. Woodland however has many other benefits that are not so obvious. Woodlands store huge amounts of carbon which is important in our battle again climate change. Woodland & forests play a major role in the conservation and purification of water. And of course the roots of trees bind the top soil protecting it from erosion. Even the oxygen in the air we breathe is produced by trees and other vegetation and in addition trees are very good at filtering pollutants out of the air.

The benefits of woodlands are clear but how can the community benefit from the woodland by managing it? The most obvious product to come out of woodland is wood-fuel and timber. There is a growing demand for wood fuel as a sustainable energy resource and the demand for locally grown timber is also on the increase. It is relatively easy to manage woodlands for these economic products. The challenge is how to produce these economic benefits but at the same time protect all the other benefits outlined above that the woodland provides.

Communities are made up of people from many walks of life and who have many different skills. Within Forum 21 we have identified a range of skills and expertise which lead us to believe that with the help of the local community we have the capacity to manage a woodland. And who knows if we are successful with managing one woodland we might go on to manage others?

Please come along to the meeting and give us your expertise or just come along and enjoy the walk and spot a bit of wildlife; there will be plenty of people on the walk to help you identify the wonderful nature that Exmoor provides.