Small Woodland Owners' Group

Newbie!

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Newbie!

Postby Bisonic » Fri Dec 19, 2014 11:23 am

Hi All,
Just looking for advice and inspiration at this stage really as all I know about woodland is how amazing it is! Have had a look at 4.5 acres of mixed woodland and would dearly love to buy but I would have to make some decent income from it. Wondering what the realities are? I have dreams to get planning and open a community/course centre there but meantime is there mileage in wood products, firewood, charcoal etc? I do have plenty of time on my hands at the moment but no experience.... Am just getting g a feel of what's possible really. Has anyone done nature courses etc? I'm sure that comes at high insurance cost?
Meantime I investigate!
Happy experiences in your amazing places
Sean
Bisonic
 
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Re: Newbie!

Postby oldclaypaws » Fri Dec 19, 2014 12:58 pm

Its not possible to make a 'decent income' from a small woodland just from the timber that grows there. If for example you maximised the amount of firewood you could sustainably grow and sell on 4.5 acres, it might produce something like £2000 a year, a return of maybe 3% per annum on your investment. Likewise, to grow big trees to sell for timber is a very long term project, the likes of oak taking a Century to mature, so if planting for future timber harvests, you're unlikely to see the benefits yourself.

Where there is a very real possibility of a 'decent income' is paying activities that are held in the wood that people will pay for. Traditionally one of the most lucrative has been pheasant rearing and charging 'the sporting fraternity' to come and blast the poor beasts into oblivion. More recently there has been a growing demand for people to do woodland activities such as crafts, bushcraft, LARP (paintball etc) and glamping. That could yield a reasonable income and we get frequent requests on the forum from people wanting a wood to hire to pursue that ambition. Quite how much you can earn will depend on how good you are at the proposed activity and marketing yourself. I dare say Ray Mears or Bear Grills could make £500,000 a year on 4 acres by charging people £1000 each for a weekends instruction is catching rabbits or surviving on acorns. A very successful craft tutor, Guy Mallinson, seems to have a very well thought through operation near us, where people pay surprisingly large amounts to stay on sight glamping and make a spoon or whatever, but he seems very slick at having a nice setup and marketing it.

I am perhaps in a similar position to yourself, but have landed on my feet more by accident than design. As a craftsman for over 30 years, I can make things and exist happily on a modest income. I'm also a bit of a dreamer, good salesman, and come up with all manner of ideas, some of which are viable, others fall by the wayside, but I've never let cynics stop me from trying them out. What I didn't realise when I bought my small wood is quite what was 'under the surface'. I've accidentally acquired several hundred tons of prime Oak ready for thinning, and an unlimited amount of lovely clay on a historically important clay extraction site. (Useful when you're a potter !). I'm turning my hand to making stuff from the Oak, planking & selling the surplus timber, and if needs be reviving the making of the style of pots that were made locally from the very same clay in my wood. I have good access and the opportunity for a decent parking area and simple building, so I can use the wood as a venue for working in, exhibitions of my wares or basecamp for activities such as pottery workshops. It also helps a huge amount to have the right personal circumstances; I have no debt, savings, good health and a wife who feeds me with a regular job.

You need to think a bit outside of the box too, a building will be unlikely to get planning consent, but nobody can stop you doing stuff in the open air under canvass- which also feels more appealing. Basic stuff like parking space is important. Insurance is not expensive, basic liability packages might cost something like £150, more if you're teaching people to throw axes or climb trees.

Yes, I think you can go for it with the right attitude, determination, and maybe a bit of luck. By posting on this forum you've maybe already taken that first important step- thinking about doing it. There are people who achieve their plans and dreams, others who due to needing to pay the mortgage and feed the kids tolerate rather more tedious 'regular' existences. If you don't try, you'll never find out whether it'll work, its largely down to you. The important things to look for are the location of the wood, access, anything that impacts on it like restrictive covenants or neighbours, eye appeal, nature of the trees, cost, distance to get there, budget needed for all the kit you'll need. Go for it. :D
oldclaypaws
 
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Re: Newbie!

Postby Bisonic » Fri Dec 19, 2014 2:16 pm

Hi OCP,
Wow what a great reply thanks, I have to rush out now but wanted to say thanks and will be using your advice and having an in depth look at your points. You're wood/work world seems ideal... can I steal your life?! Where are you in the world BTW? I'm in Kent. I'm pretty creative myself, Im in the process of teaching myself to cast stone, mould making etc.... making a shocking mess but getting there... I'd love to have artist exhibitions in a wood and what not...loads of ideas really.... Im sure the red tape is sickening but I shall persevere. Ive been a self employed tour manager for bands for years and have had enough of travelling really...looking for ways to get creativity back into my life and make a living. More soon, thanks so much for your time and effort... really helps.
Best
Sean
Bisonic
 
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Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2014 8:22 pm

Re: Newbie!

Postby oldclaypaws » Fri Dec 19, 2014 6:20 pm

A few further pointers for you.

There virtually is no red tape with a woodland and no fixed costs, provided you don't start annoying people or using it in a way that has a negative impact on neighbours. Once you've bought it its your little world and what goes on inside is your call. You can't cut down all the trees without talking to the forestry commission first (but you can if they are satisfied you'll replant properly), you cant build a house on it, you cant turn it into a dump or race track or open a casino and knocking shop. You can however camp on it, hold any low impact activities there fairly regularly, make things there, usually put up a 'store and shelter' for forestry purposes, clear a space to park, chill out, look at the stars, bury your relatives, be a big kid, have barbies, invite friends there, and within reason think up any activity that might be fun for a few visitors and get them to pay for the privilege of coming there and doing it. You don't pay rates on a wood and shouldn't be harassed by people with clipboards. They are a good long term investment if you buy the right wood and pay the right price, you shoudn't lose money on it if you have it for a few years, and you get free fuel.

There is an accepted '28 day rule' for planning, anything goes 28 days without planning consent. Within reason provided you aren't being a real pain to other people, there is flexibility in that. Nobody is going to count the days if you have half a dozen people coming there every Saturday afternoon for archery practice, meditation, lessons in hurdle making, coming to buy your latest cast stone art pieces, tree sketching, buying fresh Christmas trees or Chestnuts, naturism, etc. It pays not to draw attention to yourself like having permanent roadside advertising, making lots of noise or having 50 vehicles parked on site all the time.

You can do 'a bigger bash' for 28 days per year - Wedding receptions, battle reenactments, open air concerts, boot fairs, or whatever takes you fancy. If you are a decent sort, you'd do well to consider the effect this would have on everyone else in the locality and the wildlife in the wood. Don't wind people up is the key, if you're doing something 'nice' and haven't negatively affected others, there won't be any complaints. There is a presumption in favour of low key gentle leisure activities that don't produce large amounts of noise or traffic.

You'll have most flexibility if its a self contained wood (not part of a bigger one), no houses nearby, no footpaths through, nice and dry and flattish, fairly private with hedges or fencing, good access, not in a very sensitive location like a National Park or AONB and not full of rare plants like an SSSI. Unfortunately, those sorts of woods don't as it were, grow on trees. They are in very short supply and people will pay a premium- they sell quickly for more than expected.
Patience required, it might take years to find the right place as we did. (We tick all the above criteria).

plenty to think about...

Paws (Somerset)
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