I was greeted by the sound of a choir at the official opening of ‘Longwood Community Woodland’ in Lampeter last week. It was no ordinary choir; members included the forest’s very own residents – the local birds including Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and the rare Wood warbler.
This project is extraordinary in many ways.
It’s the first woodland in Wales to be purchased from the Forestry Commission by a community and run as a social enterprise. It’s also Wales’ biggest sustainably managed community woodland, being 120 hectares and nearly 5 miles in length.
The project received £787, 714 award in 2011 from the Community Asset Transfer Programme which is a partnership between the National Lottery Community Fund and the Welsh Government.
The Community Asset Transfer 2 Programme provides both capital and revenue funding
to support the transfer of assets, such as buildings and land, from public sector organisations to community ownership.
The programme enables groups like Longwood Community Woodland to bring a whole range of social, environmental and economic benefits to communities by empowering them to be in the lead of key assets.
Seeing is believing…
The new centre blends in beautifully to its natural setting; so too does the outdoor theatre and the forest school. They’re all built using timber from the forest and uniquely no cement or concrete was used to construct them. In fact, all the buildings are zero carbon; electricity is produced through the solar panels and the heating from wood fuel.
The project contributes to the local economy through the re-skilling of voluntary group members and provides valuable work experience for young people who face social exclusion. In fact, over 200 people volunteer at different times of the year. A number of volunteers spoke with pride about the birds nest boxes they’d built and erected – 120 in total – are nearly all inhabited.
One of my highlights, was being driven on a small – yet fast buggy into heart of the forest to visit the theatre. Yes, there really is an auditorium style theatre which includes a staged area – something my own children would love.
It was a real privilege to join the launch, I came from there buzzing and believing I had seen first hand the meaning of the quote “Our future is not a gift, it’s a reward for what we do today”.
– Ruth Bates, Head of Communications at the National Lottery Community Fund