Bringing the community together, naturally

A Shropshire co-op is bringing the community together by improving access to and awareness of the woodland it manages. Redlake Valley Community Benefit Society (RVCBS) owns a small part...

A Shropshire co-op is bringing the community together by improving access to and awareness of the woodland it manages. Redlake Valley Community Benefit Society (RVCBS) owns a small part of Brineddin Wood, near the village of Chapel Lawn.

The wood is divided into 20 portions, or quillets, which are owned by different people. According to locals, this means it lacks effective, co-ordinated management and is failing to regenerate.

In response, residents and friends of Chapel Lawn formed the co-op to purchase and improve quillet 2879 and involve other quillet owners in managing and conserving the woods. RVCBS bought the quillet for £7,000 in 2012, using contributions from local people and an interest-free loan.

It then raised £4,000 through a share offer to pay back the loan. It also received £3,000 from the Sustainable Development Fund of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Since then it has been involving local people in woodland management and promoting its aims. During the last year it focused on coppicing and improving access to the site, which runs vertically up a steep hillside.

During four working parties, volunteers constructed 75 rustic steps which offer walkers and workers access deep into the wood from a footpath which runs along the bottom of the hill.

And during a coppicing party they coppiced around 24 hazel trees.

“We’re coppicing experimentally in that we want to see how it regenerates,” says board member Patrick Cosgrove. “Some of the hazel stools we’re leaving, some we’re covering with brash and some we’re protecting with mesh fencing.

“We’re a bit of a Trojan horse in that we’re hoping to encourage other quillet owners to do it too. It’s already working. Two quillet owners have said ‘that’s fine, you can coppice ours’ and others are watching what we’re doing.

“The aim is to conserve the wood for future generations,” he adds. “But it’s more than just a piece of woodland. It’s bringing the community together.”

Click here to read more from our collection on co-operatives and woodlands.

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