The clue is in the name: community woodland. Whether you’re a handful of people starting from scratch or an established group, it’s vital to engage the whole community with your plans.
Winning hearts and minds will help you to bank ideas, mobilise practical help and secure funding. It will ensure that your woodland lives and thrives long after you have moved on. So prepare for meetings, media interviews and much debate over your group’s priorities! You will need to lobby for official backing, stage public gatherings and enthuse volunteers.
Your group will flounder if you disagree over what you’re trying to achieve. Are you looking to manage your wood purely for nature, as a firewood co-operative or to improve visitor access? Will you do the labouring yourselves or hire a contractor? It’s vital that everyone pulls in the same direction.
Once you have a management team in place, it’s time to assess your skills, divide up roles and decide how you want to govern yourselves. There are many options and choosing the best depends on whether you intend to own, lease or manage your wood, and on what you hope to achieve there. You could operate as an association if you’re keen to work with the wood’s existing landowner to improve public access. Or if your activities are for social benefit, you could become a charity. If you have commercial plans you may wish to form a co-operative.
Anyone owning or leasing land needs to become an incorporated organisation, with limited liability.
Finally, keep in mind from the outset that a tight knot of enthusiastic individuals won’t be enough to keep your project afloat. You’ll need to rally a wide web of more casual supporters, and to keep them interested far into the future, when burnout threatens.
Download our advice sheets below for more information.