SUSTAINABLE FIREWOOD FROM BACKWELL WOODS ESTATE
We aquired the 195 acres of Brockley & Chelvey Woods in 2001 as an active “retirement project”. However business and other voluntary commitments delayed that retirement by at least a decade so “The Project” has only just started to move forward.
The wood, formally part of the Muller Homes Backwell Hill estate, is not as ancient as some would claim. Much of it was sheep grazing country and the walls of the original fields can still be seen. The wood was largly planted as a Beech wood at the end of the nineteenth century and the beech was harvested in the 1960s. A few of these magnificent beech trees still remain. Twentieth century replanting was haphazard and now the wood has a strong mix of trees from Larch and Pine to Cherry and Sweet Chestnut. Ash and larch are however the main crops with some magnificent Yew’s providing decoration and variety.
With the help of the Forestry Commission a management plan was prepared a few years ago. The objective is to make the woods as self supporting and sustainable as we possibly can without losing the diversity, which is much of the woods attraction today.
We also want to encourage and retain much of the wildlife so a sixty acre section has been left undisturbed by anything other than power line maintenance. Deer, badgers, owls, foxes, rabbits, mice and other animals are all left there to get on with their lives while we concentrate on the remaining 130 acres.
In 2009/2010 we started clearing some of the rides to give us better access for plant and equipment, to let in some light and to reveal the true beauty of the woods. From comments received many locals seem to agree with us.
There is in fact only one public footpath and bridleway in the woods leading up through Taps Coombe. However we have opened up and provided stiles for two more private paths so that the public, when it is safe to do so, can also enjoy our woods. One path has however been closed for the foreseeable future so that vermin can be controlled without danger to the public.