I suppose the urge to own my own wood started when I bought a wood burning stove. A chain saw followed, and a firewood store along the side of the house, and I looked at woods with a different eye, noting the dead wood standing or fallen and pondering the ease with which hung-up trees could be safely reduced to logs. Our energy use began to feel more virtuous, and still does, as a proportion of our heating has come from burning wood which was going to change to carbon dioxide in the end anyway, via fungi, molds and other organisms as it rotted away.
There is also that primeval fascination provided by flames and glowing embers as wood changes to carbon dioxide in our stove. When the fire is well established and the air intake turned right down, the woodgas issuing from the logs burns in the limited air with a bluish flame, swirling slowly like the aurora borealis, adding an aesthetic pleasure to the instinctive appreciation which has been passed down from our ancestors.
I have spent a lot of time in woods, sometimes legitimately, when walking a public footpath. Mostly, though, I have been wandering where my interest took me, occasionally looking over my shoulder to make sure that I was not observed by an outraged landowner. Trespassing was my default state when watching badgers at night or signs and tracks of other wildlife by day.
The possibility of owning my own woodland did not occur to me until I came across the website www.woodlands.co.uk. This is owned by people in the business of selling small woods. The business plan is to buy largish parcels of woodland, divide it up into smaller sections, ensure each section has decent access, and sell the sections to separate owners. The philosophy underlining the business plan is that woodland is likely to be looked after better if owned by lots of people rather than a few, and there was plenty of evidence on the website of a community of people who agreed with this philosophy. There was also the section advertising their woodlands which were for sale, and the prices made me realize that it was actually feasible for me to become a landowner! Just not a very big one. Fran and I had both received lump sums with our pension on retiring from teaching, and our quite frugal lifestyle had meant that there was enough in the bank to buy a small wood, and sufficient left over to cope with emergencies.
Another motivation was the thought that this money was sitting in the bank, earning very little interest, and was likely to disappear very quickly when we eventually subsided into a nursing home. Why should the bank have the use of our money?
So we started looking. Some woods were quite close, but criss-crossed with footpaths which were very well used. No privacy for camping. Others were quite nice, but too far away. One wood near Llangollen introduced us to the actual meaning of “quite slopey” – that is, just slightly off vertical!
Then we found Coed Mostyn. Three and a quarter acres of ancient woodland, part of the surroundings of a Big House in the 18th – 19th century, with natural borders, being a small tree-filled valley. A few stately conifers, but mostly broad-leaved, including some magnificent old oak trees.
We got the letter from our solicitor today informing us that the wood belongs to us.