An investment for the soul



Here’s an encouraging statistic from England. In 1905, less than 5% of the country was covered in forest. Now, it’s nearly 12%, and growing every year. For at least the past twenty years, private citizens throughout England have been encouraged to buy their own forests for what I would call very reasonable prices—like about $50k for 9 acres of the Coed Glas wood in Wales’s Towey Valley. It’s shown above. Nice, huh? All you have to do is visit, and find a region and a woodland that suits you.

Leat Wood, in Devon: around $70k

There are a few catches of course. First, I would imagine you’d have to be a citizen of the UK, though I did not see this stated on their website. You can’t build a house on it or use the wood for any noisy, smelly, damaging purpose, like racing, a commercial campsite, or other similar businesses or hobbies. Here’s what they suggest you use the wood for: walking and exploring, camping, orienteering, forestry (coppicing, planting etc.), photography, drawing, and the study of flowers. But you can sell the wood if you need to, though it must be sold as a whole, not divided. As for tree felling, owners must obtain a felling license from the Forestry Commission should they want to cut down more than one or two mature trees in a three-month period, though thinning and coppicing are allowed—indeed, encouraged. The group offers a considerable amount of guidance, even grants, to help woodland newbies manage their properties. It’s a different kind of approach than private ownership (and neglect) of woods kept for tax write-offs.

A recent article in the Toronto Star tells the experiences of several recent woodland purchasers and states some of the benefits of this unusual conservation strategy:

In the past 20 years, the populations of Britain’s rarest birds have increased by between 50 and 75 per cent. Majestic birds of prey like sea eagles, ospreys and red kites are once again flying in British skies after centuries of persecution by farmers and poachers.

There is far too much information on this to compress into a blog post and I encourage you to visit the website, if you’re interested. It has a FAQ, blogs, all the legal info, tons of beautiful images of woods for sale, and even a book you can buy about how to manage your wood, called Badgers, Beeches, and Blisters. Clearly, this is not something anyone should dive into on a whim, but even more clearly, the program is working. I wonder if a similar organization helps promote private conservation of woodlands here? If so, I’m not aware of it.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Oh, I think that is really great! I always thought it was so sad, that England and other countries had destroyed such large percentages of their natural surroundings. I’m really glad that they are seeing increases in the wild spaces and are working to create more!

  2. Sea Eagles, Ospreys and Red Kites are all now thriving as a result of reintroduction schemes using chicks from elsewhere to replenish extirpated populations. Its really nothing to do with the woodland scheme just a benefit of increased conservation efforts across the board. In fact the sea eagles are breeding only on a few scottish islands at the moment.

  3. It’s really a great idea–gives the land and the buyer all the upside of ownership, with none of the downside.

  4. I wonder when we’ll hear about Madonna AKA Queen Madge buying up Britain’s Forests and upsetting more locals!!! 🙂
    But apart from the rich having something to brag about at diner parties in Mayfair, a great idea, so long as public pathways are kept public – something Madonna knows about!! ( a very public and expensive fight between the queen of pop and the British Ramblers Association over her cutting access to ancient public rights of way which she lost, so you can legally walk through her back yard!)

  5. Lovely! If there are plots of forest still available for sale in the UK 15 to 20 years from now, I’d like to buy one. I hope to retire in the UK, and it would be simply lovely to live within hiking distance of my very own wood for rambling. I’d buy one sooner, but woods need to be maintained, and that’s not suitable for an owner half a world away.

  6. Thanks for all the nice comments guys! We featured most in the Toronto Star article because the author came to see us for a day, I think she had fun in the wood and was glad to get out of London! We’ve had quite a bit of press coverage, but mainly because we know the people at who we bought the land from, so they keep coming to us.. I’m sure there are others doing the same thing, but perhaps not keeping a regular blog on it.


  7. I think North Americans might not know that over here we have no poison ivy, only a few mosquitoes, and no one has died of a snake bite for thirty years! (But it does rain a lot).Come and enjoy!

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