The concept is simple. Local wood burning stove and fire owners pay a small fee to the landowner for the chance to harvest logs from carefully marked trees within a young woodland. They get fresh air, exercise and a cheap, locally sourced renewable fuel, while the woodland receives important thinning to ensure its future health.
To put the idea to the test, Cheshire West and Chester Council and community group the Friends of Anderton and Marbury created an initial pilot wood allotment in 2011 in a young plantation at Carey Park, part of Northwich Woodlands.
As the Friends explain: "We are using this location as the trees are small enough to handle and cut with a bow saw but large enough to make decent logs."
This is key, since thanks to the work of The Mersey Forest over the past twenty years, there is now a whole cohort of young woodlands across Merseyside and North Cheshire approaching this stage of growth with an upcoming need for thinning.
The pilot has proved extremely popular and has now been run for two consecutive winters. This success has meant that local authorities in Knowsley, Sefton and Liverpool are now interested in developing wood allotments of their own, and have identified suitable sites which they hope to have up and running soon.
Wood allotments offer a good way to engage new audiences with local woodlands, and the schemes can work in a variety of ways, with flexibility for site owners to adapt the core idea to fit local circumstances.
The Mersey Forest team is developing an online hub for wood allotments in the region. On the website, woodallotments.com, potential "allotmenteers" will be able to browse existing wood allotments and contact the landowner, or suggest where they would like to see new wood allotments, helping to build up a map of demand.
A shortened version of this case study appeared in our long-term strategic guide, The Mersey Forest Plan, in 2014. Read the Plan here.