Mike and I met in the 1980s. We were both working as solicitors but we shared a mutual interest in the environment. Mike would talk from time to time about buying a wood so after we had sold a business in 2011 we used some of the cash to buy Park Copse and Crossways Field Copse about 7 miles from where we live so easily accessible. We paid £250,000 for just under 17 hectares (about 37 acres). As the combined names of the two copses are long and rather unromantic, I prefer to call them Rosemary Lane Wood.
In 2011 the wood was dark, overgrown and almost totally lifeless as it hadn’t been managed for decades. In fact, just what we were after as we wanted to try restoring a neglected wood and, amongst other things, find out how much it cost. As we had no previous experience we took advice from various of our environmental friends but it turned out they were more knowledgeable about rainforests than native woodland! We also employed some recommended professional woodland managers. Everybody told us something different. “Clear fell the pine”, “don’t clear fell the pine”, “plant this” (western red cedar), “don’t plant that”, etc etc. While we pondered what to clear (or not) and what to plant (or not) we took advantage of the Woodland Improvement Grants and got a grant to put in a proper vehicle access. for timber lorries.
Then in 2015 I took the plunge and actually had some of the hazel coppiced at the top end in Block 1 next to the public footpath. Two weeks work by hand (i.e. chain saws) cost us £2,000 and only cleared a relatively small area of coppice. The people we employed couldn’t fell the bigger birch trees just using their chain saws but some of these needed to be taken out as they were diseased. As a result we realised that the economics of woodland restoration meant we had to bring in proper forest machinery. It was at about this time that I was introduced to Joe Court. Joe was in his mid 20s, born and raised locally to Dunsfold and Alfold and was already running his own forestry firm, Joe Court Forestry. He already knew our woods well and understood the ground conditions (sticky Chiddingfold clay). He also understood that we wanted to restore the woods but we weren’t in a rush and the restoration of a managed woodland environment and balanced ecology were more important to us than the financial returns. So now I ‘manage’ the wood in consultation with Joe and we decide what needs doing and when from season to season.