Community Woodlands are woodlands for people and wildlife – managed, utilised and enjoyed by their local communities.
The Scottish Borders is home to the first community owned woodland in the UK - Wooplaw Wood. A collection of woodland enthusiasts were brought together by Tim Stead, wood sculptor and furniture maker, to develop an innovative concept of a woodland for people. The concept became a reality in 1987 when Wooplaw Woods, outside Lauder, came on the market and was successfully bought by the community group. Since then, the community woodland movement has grown from strength to strength as more and more people realise the value and importance of local woodlands for recreation, education, leisure, wildlife and potential economic value. Today there are more than 200 community woodlands across Scotland.
Borders Forest Trust was developed in response to these high levels of local community interest in woodlands. Following the successful community purchase of Wooplaw Woods, BFT was established as an umbrella organisation to work with community groups and support woodland initiatives which connect people with woodlands.
Since 1996 the Trust has supported over 25 community woodlands, working with local groups to equip them with the skills, knowledge and ability to manage their local woodlands. The Trust is both reactive in providing support to groups interested in developing new woodland initiatives and pro-active in engaging with communities if opportunities for community involvement, management or purchase arise.
Each community woodland is different: some are large and others small; some are community owned and others are under management agreement with local authorities or private landowners; some are coniferous and others deciduous; and some are rural and others are urban within towns and villages. What makes it a "community woodland" is community interest and use.
The Trust co-ordinates the Borders Community Woodland Forum to bring together community woodland groups in the south of Scotland to discuss issues such as training requirements, access, funding opportunities, surveying, insurance, health and safety. Through the Forum the Trust operates a public liability insurance scheme to cover associated groups and has a tool share facility to enable groups to use tools for practical woodland management activities.