Ever dreamed of buying your own piece of Suffolk woodland?
PUBLISHED: 08:00 29 December 2018
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Demand for Suffolk woodland to purchase is outstripping supply but why do people buy woods?
Many nature lovers dream of owning a small piece of woodland and Matt Marples is one man who can make these dreams come true.
He is the East Anglian manager for woodlands.co.uk, a company that was established over 30 years ago after the founders saw many large woodlands being neglected because there was no longer any economic incentive for landowners to care for them.
The business’ approach has been to facilitate the sale of these large woodlands by splitting them into smaller tranches - allowing more people to enjoy woodland ownership and to get involved in managing and conserving them.
Mr Marples says all the woodland the company sells has a protective covenant, which is filed with the Land Registry and is in perpetuity, which states that the land cannot be used for outdoor leisure pursuits, such as 4x4 driving, clay pigeon shooting, paintballing or as a commercial campsite.
And the approach of dividing the land into smaller plots, also further protects its future as woodland, he says.
“When there is more and more pressure on our environment in the UK, it’s important we have wildlife havens – by splitting a wood into multiple ownerships, we are guaranteeing it will be a woodland forever.
“This is because if a wood is owned by one person, there is always the chance that if they are offered a lot of money by a developer, they might sell.
“But if a wood is owned by a number of people, not everyone will agree - there will always be people who won’t want to sell.”
Multiple ownership also has the advantage on encouraging biodiversity in a woodland.
Mr Marples continued: “Within one woodland, different owners will have different ideas on what they want to do with their woods – there may be one area that is being actively coppiced and another where nothing is happening and there is a lot of dead and decaying wood lying around.
“It means there are different habitats, which creates biodiversity.”
According to Mr Marples, demand for woodland to buy is outstripping supply, especially in Suffolk where a lot of the land is owned by large estates and big farms who don’t want to sell off pieces of woodland. In the south of England, much more woodland comes available in counties like Surrey, Sussex and Kent, he says.
Examples of Suffolk woodland currently on sale via woodlands.co.uk are nearly 4 acres of Sotterley Wood near Beccles - an ancient hornbeam coppiced woodland costing £53,000 - and Cadge Wood near Halesworth - about 2 ¼ acres of newly-planted native broadleaf trees including oak, ash, field maple, silver birch, sweet chestnut and wild cherry, currently on sale for £29,000.
As for who puts their money into woodland, Mr Marples says there is not an average woodland buyer.
“The one thing they do have in common is that they have some disposable income but beyond that people buy a piece of woodland for a vast array of reasons,” he said.
“Buyers range from young people who are interested in conservation and wildlife to those who are inheritance planning, as there are tax breaks from inheritance and capital gains tax. There is also a lot of interest from what is known as the ‘grey market’ – people who are retiring and looking for a project, somewhere to go with their family which is safe and a place to camp and spend time.
“Obviously, you can go camping on campsites but it’s not the same as camping in a wood that you own.”
Mr Marples says many people who buy woodland do it because they “see themselves as guardians and custodians of the countryside” and each buyer with woodlands.co.uk is enrolled onto a conservation course to give them the basic knowledge of looking after their wood.
But, for whatever reason people buy a woodland, a fortunate by-product is that land of this type is going up in price.
He added: “Buying woodland is also an investment – I’ve been working with the company for a decade and in that time land prices have doubled and I have never seen them move south.
“But it’s not a fast-moving asset – it’s not something that you can buy on Saturday and sell on Tuesday and make a profit.”