http://www.cherrytreebarn.co.uk

I was educated at Monkton Wyld School in Dorset (now Monkton Wyld Community) which specialised in self sufficiency and organic farming.

For many years I lived and worked in Malibu, California. I cultivated a three acre, subtropical smallholding. I successfully grew bananas, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, cherimoya and prickly pear.

When I left Los Angeles I bought a small-holding upstate New York. 

Returning to the UK I was offered the opportunity to buy a coppice in Herefordshire. 

The north-west facing hillside was, until 1950, an active quarry.   I want to share with you what I’ve been up to.

Jenni Morgan senior director at Ecology Solutions reports:

‘The site as a whole was noted as being predominately Sycamore woodland in the north but with more Beech woodland in the south. Other tree species present include Wild Cherry, Pedunculate Oak and Silver Birch, with very occasional Hazel and Holly, although there is little understorey present beneath the trees. In terms of the ground flora, this does contain Dog’s Mercury, Yellow Archangel, Wood Anemone and Bluebells, but this is generally quite sparse on top of the hill and within the quarry area itself.

In general, the quarry was noted as being dominated by Sycamore trees, with little ground flora, and species present dominated by Ivy, although there were patches of Dog’s Mercury and occasional Red Currant and Wood Spurge in this area The areas of higher species diversity are to the north of the quarry, the track up to the quarry, and along the western bank as well as the southern part of the woodland, where the tree species become more dominated by Beech. 

None of the trees within the quarry are considered to offer suitable opportunities for roosting bats, and given the sparse under storey, it is considered the woodland offers only limited potential for Dormice. No evidence of Badgers was recorded within the site, and although a number of mammal pathways were recorded through the woodland, evidence of deer was associated with these. Rabbit warrens were also recorded in the dell area and along the eastern hedge bank. 

We also surveyed the ruined barn in the very northern tip of the site. The barn itself was recorded as not having any potential to support roosting bats (the stones were all mortared and there were no substantial cracks present that could support roosting bats).’

We have applied to The Woodland Trust agroforestry programme as eligible farmers.

‘The Woodland Trust is managing PUR project’s programme in the UK, in conjunction with the Soil Association and the Organic Research Centre. The aim of the Woodland Trust is to plant trees in smart ways that cut costs, raise yields and improve the environment. We accept applications for support from farmers interested in agroforestry to increase tree cover on their land, monitoring and sharing agreed environmental and farm business outcomes. This includes but is not limited to help with silvopastural schemes, alley cropping, shelter belts, riparian strips, pasture trees, wood fuel coppice and other agroforestry projects.

I won a felling licence from the Forestry Commission.  The felling licence was based on a study conducted by arboricultural consultant Jerry Ross:

I’ve now been to site and marked up the trees that I think would be included – these are pretty well all of those within the quarry area, plus a few by the track up which I felt might be left a bit exposed after removing the others. I’ve tended to leave the trees at the top of the bank – around the edge of the sunken area and also those on the top of the quarry face itself.

I’ve shown this will be a Felling of Coppice operation; that it’s predominantly Sycamore and, by my count, that there are 41 ‘trees’ that I’ve included. By this I mean not only individual trees (of which there are a few) but also the multi-stemmed coppiced stools. so from these 41 ‘trees, roughly 103 stems arise. These are all marked with an orange paint spot. (A few very small and dead stems are not marked but it’s assumed they’d be removed as part of the re-coppicing.)

As for re-stocking I’ve calculated the area as shown drawn onto the topographical survey drawing you provided to be 0.15 hectares. I attach a map showing that area drawn onto an extract taken from the Hereford Council online administrative map.

I consulted with a Forestry Manager, John Evans, recommended by Nick Smith at the Forestry Commission, to assess my needs for a barn.   John Evans recommended the stone barn was too small for our forestry needs.  Mr Evans recommended a purpose built barn situated in the woodland at the back of the quarry.  

John Evan’s Report:

1. 35m3 of round timber amounts to approximately 1.25 articulated lorry loads. It is the view of the author there is insufficient space to store the round timber within the existing barn, or adjacent to it safely. 

2. There will be sufficient space to process timber into firewood and store it but the site constraints and building layout will reduce productivity significantly. In addition, the nature of the rebuilt buildings will make it difficult to dry the firewood to the required 20% moisture content, see:

https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/assets/documents/reportscat09/1901291307_Ready_to_Burn_Web.pdf.

Recommendations:

Build a barn and adjacent hard standing within the quarry that provides enough space to efficiently process and air dry the firewood. The round timber can be partially air-dried outside before processing. Commercial firewood enterprises air dry processed firewood in stacked crates in a barn or similar which has good airflow.

We divided the barn into three necessary areas. 

  1. Drying. Fully ventilated and partially enclosed.
  2. Processing. Covered but exposed.
  3. An insulated and partially enclosed area with access to ventilated dry storage including: a) Secure storage. Equipment to include one tractor, one trailer, a large wood chipper and numerous smaller pieces of equipment. 

Planning permission for the barn was granted at appeal in 2021 and barn construction will commence in Summer 2022.

As well as processing and selling logs from the coppice we will be forest farming. Amongst other activities we will keep a flock of free range, forest chickens, bees and plant a highly lucrative crop of Ginseng for which the north-west facing woodland at Cherry Tree Lane is perfectly suited: soil being consistently moist yet well-drained, loamy and rich in organic matter: leaf mould and other fallen tree debris.

Due to a beneficial easement we have access to well water from a neighbouring field.

Forest Farming produces high-value speciality crops cultivated under the protection of a forest canopy that has been modified and managed to provide appropriate conditions. It utilises forests for short-term income while high-quality trees are being grown for wood products. The amount of light in the stands is altered by thinning, pruning, or adding trees; 40% crown cover is usually desirable. 

Existing stands of trees can be intercropped with annual, perennial, or woody plants.

Typically, a system can be established by thinning an existing forest leaving the best trees for continued wood production and creating conditions for the under-storey crop to be grown. The under-storey crop is then planted and managed intensively to provide short-term income. 

Areas used for forest farming are usually small (5 acres or less), and systems usually focus on a single crop plus timber, but can be designed to produce several products.

Forest farming modifies the forest ecosystem but does not significantly interfere with its crucial contributions of water filtering, soil erosion control, microclimate moderation, and wildlife habitat.
 

Although labour intensive forest farming provides opportunities to generate short-term income from existing woodlands, with minimum capital investment and contributes significantly to diversification and rural economic development.

Economic benefits can be significant. Logs can produce shiitake mushrooms worth 5-10 times the value of the logs themselves, and forest-cultivated ginseng averages £122-245 per pound.