It will probably be very muddy. At least it was for my first visit of the year to Hazel Hill Woods. Recent rain has made the forest wetter than anyone can remember. Water is reanimating forgotten courses that we hadn’t even noticed existed.

Today was my first day in post as the Deputy Chair of Hazel Hill Trust, the charity set up by Alan Heeks to run the wood and to provide a place where people can learn about wellbeing, resilience and sustainability.

This afternoon we talked about the Continuous Cover Foresty experiment we are conducting in the south-west area of the wood. Last time I visited, Conservation and Education Co-ordinator Charley Miller took us through her approach to sustainable ride management. I learn somethign with every visit.

The big question is how the will the ecosystem respond to climate breakdown. At Hazel Hill we have a strategy of diversifying species in order to prepare for a changing climate. But we have to balance this approach with the risks posed by introducing non-native species and the diseases they could bring.

The price of firewood is going up. I wonder if this is because more people are switching to wood-burning stoves. At the wood we have lots of naturally regenerating silver birch, which is good fuel. Could this firewood be a resource for the local community? Is there the beginnings of a woodland economy here?

These questions, and many more I am looking forward to asking and hopefully answering with the wonderful gang that is the Hazel Hill team.

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