England

Carving a future from your own woodland

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Media captionWith interest rates very low, purchasing woodland has become a popular choice for property buyers

More people in the UK are buying woodlands according to the Small Woods Association.

It has found that membership has doubled in the past five years, mainly through people wanting to make their fortune.

These include Rose Bax who is carving her furniture from her own wood, and Mike Tustin who sells small woodlands in County Durham.

So have they found that money really does grow on trees?

In the middle of a North Yorkshire woodland, Mrs Bax is carving her own furniture but not in a way you might expect.

She is attacking a six and a half ton piece of oak with a chainsaw - a far cry from her previous job as a graphic designer.

On the other side of the wood, her husband Chris is picking shoots and leaves.

Chainsaw creations

He used to be a chef and now teaches people how to forage for food.

This couple are the new generation of small woodland owners, people who want to own a little bit of Britain and make their living from nature.

Mr Bax said: "House properties around Knaresborough are incredibly expensive so we thought we'd like to invest in woodland.

"It's now evolved into a complete way of life because we make most of our income from the woodland."

But it does have its downside.

When you rely on Mother Nature to make your living, you have to battle with the elements.

Last winter, Rose had to finish some sculptures that had been commissioned and it was -18C.

"The sawdust was coming off like ice crystals. It was completely frozen," she said.

Life investment

The couple are not the only ones. The charity the Small Woods Association says its UK membership has increased from 1,000 to 2,000 over the past five years and for different reasons.

Some people want a completely different way of life, while others want to make a good investment.

Image caption Rose Bax and husband Chris carve furniture out of their woodland

Mike Tustin sells small woodlands in County Durham.

He says with rate relief on Inheritance and Capital Gains Tax, there is money to be made.

"Interest rates at the moment are very, very low. People have seen that buying land has been a good way of putting money into something that has increased in value," he said.

"They can see income coming out of trees in the next 20 or so years. That's why it's so attractive."

Agent Dan Watson is showing people around another woodland in Brancepeth.

It is well established with rows of birch, beech, oak and elm and costs £39,000.

Mr Watson said: "We're selling around two and a half woodlands a week across the UK, marketing smaller properties like this five acre site makes it more attractive to families."

But with maintenance and insurance, it is hard work, especially if you are starting from scratch.

David Parkins is planting his own woodland at Morpeth in Northumberland, he said: "The best thing to do for a quick turnaround is grow some coppice.

"The willow here is ready for coppicing and some of it has already been sold to somebody for Christmas use. But after seven years, I've probably raised something like £60, so it shows the returns aren't that great."

That is why if you are thinking of becoming part of the new woodland set, the advice from the Small Woods Association is to choose your plot carefully.

You will also need a licence to fell trees and cannot get planning permission to build a home. But existing woodland owners would tell you it is worth it - it is much more pleasurable than bricks and mortar.

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