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Owning/Maintaining woodland/farmland

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minilathe22

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Hello Everyone,

I have been researching something I have always wanted to do, and that is to own a small area of woodland, ideally with some nice mature trees, rather than a plot of identical 5 year old fir trees. For recreational uses such as camping, but also to trim and remove dead trees as a source for my woodturning hobby. I also want to plant some new trees, to boost the environment.

Also I suspect getting a mortgage for an area of land of dubious financial value might be difficult, so I am expecting I would need to come up with at least 50% deposit.

I am interested in what the ongoing maintenance is like for perhaps 1 - 4 acres of woodland. Anybody here been in that boat?
 

doctor Bob

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Not woodland but I have a 7 acre field which my wife seems to have a unique ability to spend a fortune on.
 

Doug B

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I’ve a customer who has bought a small wooded area of a few acres, he set up a couple wildlife cameras as wildlife is what he is interested in, he has been amazed at how many people venture into his wood at all times of the day & as he put it “get pretty wild” :shock: :shock:
 

MikeG.

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I'm friends with the guy who owns a 15 acre wood a field away from us. He uses it commercially, harvesting timber, coppicing, producing woodchips, and does an enormous amount of planting. He employs a full time woodsman. They also have a fair amount of kit. In particular, a tractor with fork lift attachment. Scaling back downwards from an operation of that size to 3 or 4 acres I'd suggest that you'd need a decent amount of kit, have good chainsaw skills, and would expect to be there for at least a day or two a week. You'll probably also be constantly fighting with deer and squirrels which do so much to prevent our woodlands regenerating naturally, so if you aren't shooting yourself you'll be getting someone to do it for you. There'll also likely be ditches and boundaries to maintain, as well as the fencing around all of the nursery areas. It isn't a trivial undertaking.
 

minilathe22

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Thanks for all the responses. It looks like I would be happy with perhaps a smaller plot of land, maybe half an acre, which is great as then I might be able to buy it in one go without mortgage or loans or some other arrangment.

I see small plots of land for sale very cheaply, but often they are bordering a busy road or a rail line, which I think would ruin the camping experience a little bit!
 

Mrs C

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I think it depends on what you want to do with - the outlay for skills and equipment to coppice properly is as much for half an acre as it is for 5. You could of course just ignore it and let nature literally take over.

Depending on where it is boundary maintenance is important to keep unwanteds of all varieties out!
 

minilathe22

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I was not looking to be doing alot of maintenance, so a fairly wild spot already would probably be good. It would be a shame to take over something well looked after and watch it deteriorate over time. There are also some woodlands that are managed by a company, and you own a small part of it, but you pay a bit of a premium for this, and there are some restricitions.
 

Just4Fun

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MikeG.":wi1itqtg said:
Scaling back downwards from an operation of that size to 3 or 4 acres I'd suggest that you'd need a decent amount of kit, have good chainsaw skills, and would expect to be there for at least a day or two a week.
Of course the amount of time required depends entirely on what you want to do. We have a few acres of woodland and I rarely do anything to it. I certainly don't work on it every week, but then I am lazy and have little interest in forestry work.
 

Steliz

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I don't know what the market value of woodland is but it might be worth checking out how affordable it actually is. I remember reading, not so long ago, that prices were being inflated by demand as woodland property is exempt from inheritance tax and wealthy people were buying it up to protect their cash.
 

minilathe22

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Steliz":3qx3szyr said:
I don't know what the market value of woodland is but it might be worth checking out how affordable it actually is. I remember reading, not so long ago, that prices were being inflated by demand as woodland property is exempt from inheritance tax and wealthy people were buying it up to protect their cash.
Yes I have heard this is true, although I think this is only likely on much larger plots of land than the ones I am considering. I imagine it would not be quick to sell either, so I must try to think of it as a financial asset as such.

You never know, perhaps I am one of the "wealthy people" you refer to :D :shock:
 

marcros

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I think it is an exciting project. this site is worth a look. https://smallwoods.org.uk/information/m ... -woodland/

you will prob pay a large premium for a small piece, particularly with access to it. the same goes for small post paddocks when compared to a large agricultural field. With that said, you would hope that it would retain that premium when you come to sell it.
 

Phil Pascoe

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I looked at a piece of land, about 1/3 of an acre, about 13 years ago. It was advertised as being wooded with ash saplings, and no hope of PP. Great, I thought, a little piece to coppice (there was not an ash there, it was all sycamore actually). Whoever bid for it must have known which councillors to bribe, as it went for £32,000. :D
 

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Just a thought about footpaths, right of access etc - as the owner you will be held liable for all the things stupid people do to themselves on your land. If there are footpaths, you may have to keep them clear (I don't know what the law says about this these days), and for some reason people in cities believe that the countryside exists purely for their Sunday picnicking and dogging pleasures, and as a free rubbish disposal service.

A little bit of woodland needs zero maintenance to be woodland - it will manage itself very happily. If you want access, you may need to buy some kit to fight your way in - depending on tree density and age etc. Mature woodland will be nice and open - no brambles etc, but it will be hugely expensive or cleared before you get to buy it. You will probably get scrappy secondary growth @20 - 30 years old - no use to anyone, and no income for another generation at least.

And finally, larch has some evil disease which means you will be forced to pay to have it removed and humanely destroyed - i.e. don't buy someone else's problem they have just offloaded onto an unsuspecting new owner.

You may want to get the services of a land agent, who know all about this sort of thing, for a fee. Lots of minefields for the unwary.
 

minilathe22

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I think if there are some existing rights of way, such as footpaths, then you may well be liable for keeping them in good condition as the owner of the land. I would hope to avoid that on a small patch. Hopefully land registry searches would be able to highlight this.

Regarding tree diseases, I think there is a risk of buying a small patch of land that has been lopped off as a problem area, so very cheap bits of land I guess I should be wary, especially at land auctions. I regularly see small bits of land, often not bigger than 10 x 5 metres in size, at the side of a road or something for sale. Why I wonder?
 

AJB Temple

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You will have far more chance of getting a loan, and tax relief, if you set it up as a smallholding.

I've bought woodland over the last three decades, and farmland.

Footpath maintenance is not a big deal usually - they need to be passable not pristine.

As a basic minimum go on a chainsaw course for a couple of days, and get yourself an old tractor and trailer. Half an acre is too small to bother with.
 

El Barto

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If you haven't already you should check out the book "Wilding" by Isabella Tree. Absolutely amazing and inspiring story of how to properly maintain the land.
 

D_W

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Can't tell you much in terms of how the law works there, by my parents' property includes 5 acres of a 21 acre woodland stand. It's been logged (and mined, it's a granite mine and a hill that granite was cut off of and worked out on a local railroad. The station that was near us was then named for the stone cut off of thehill - guess what the house is made of....granite). After looking up this link 5 minutes ago, it's news to me that the mining preceded the civil war (1860s) but I'd say it's no overstatement to say a lot of people from Gettysburg don't particularly care that much about the local history.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granite_station

There's a bit of old stone work from a railroad, and a section or two of track left but it's super old stuff and not massive like current rail.

On to the trees - there is so much woodland here in the states that most of it is fallow unless it's livestock pasture or pass-through. It's considered timberland/agricultural, undeveloped and hardly taxed. It will trade hands from time to time and be thinned and then left alone again for a while.

We thinned our own woods as a kid (for firewood), but in a higher populated area where someone would keep the forest floor clean and passable by foot, we didn't do that.

Keeping a few trails open was easy. It's young forest diverse (stands here have different trees if they're old growth - more evergreen and beech - young forest is much hemlock, small pine, cherry and oak - anything large in a young forest is oak because of how fast it grows). If it's left alone, it will transition to older forest. Land like this being managed somehow for non-commercial purposes here is unheard of.

Long story to get to the point I'm making - if you don't want the forest floor to be neat and tidy for someone to look at or roll out a blanket to have a picnic, then the amount of work that my father has done since I left home 25 years ago is exactly zero unless a dying tree can reach a building. There's a lot of wood laying, but it's a young forest, so not much of it is more than what a turner would use (most of it wouldn't make lumber, and the larger trees if allowed to mature become bug infested when they transition to snag).

I think our woods would produce a small amount of pine and oak lumber, and plenty of turning blanks. The tax burden is tiny because it's woodland, and you can just let it go and ignore it, or make it more work than it's worth if you really wanted to, trying to identify and mitigate all bug damage (we never did that).
 

RogerS

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The guy who renovated/rebuilt our house in 1975 sold off part of the estate comprising ancient woodland to the Woodland Trust and I curse him every day.
 

D_W

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How does Woodland Trust work over there. Do you still own the land and receive money for an easement (restricting use) or does the trust use it entirely.

Growing up near a civil war battlefield (in Gettysburg, cavalry field), easements are common, but outright land purchase isn't as common unless the parcel is in the middle of a battlefield already and a private owner has never been willing to give it up.

The easements are lucrative, though - for a farm, they are often equal to the profitability of the farm itself or more, and the money is derived from charity (private). For farmers who never had an intention of developing or selling to a developer, they're a windfall.
 
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