Get on (the) Board!

The Management Committee of the woodland has been busy during lockdown strengthening the CBS and thinking about the next steps for our future.

Most of you will be aware that we recently changed the name of the project to Laughton Greenwood following consultation with our membership and wider supporters. In the second half of this strange year we are looking to develop opportunities to access the woods, increase our profit-turning activities to support our sustainability, expand our membership and raise our public profile, including with new signage in the woods.

We want and need your help to achieve this! If you have ever thought about getting more involved in helping make Laughton Greenwood a valuable community resource and biodiversity success story, then now is the time! Please read on…

BRING YOUR SKILLS TO LAUGHTON GREENWOOD

We are actively recruiting for new members of the Laughton Greenwood Management Committee, as well as for our advisory board and other volunteers. 

As an active member of the Committee you will be involved in the fascinating detail of managing and developing Laughton Greenwood as an area of increasing biodiversity, a sustainable woodland-based business, and a valuable resource for the local and wider community. This film (currently featured at the Depot website) was made before our name change but really captures what we are trying to achieve.

We meet around once a month, in Lewes or Laughton or, where possible, in the woods. We have lots of ideas about where to take the project but we are looking for yours as well. Skills from woodland expertise, business management and fundraising to community engagement, project administration and beyond are all welcomed.

We have opportunities opening up for a new Chair and Secretary for the Committee, roles which offer the chance to really help drive the project into its next phase. We are also looking for people who can help us develop new roles on the Committee of Membership Secretary and Volunteer Coordinator.

What can you expect with the Role of Chairperson?

Chairing is a key role on our voluntary Management Committee.  The Chairperson helps ensure that the Management Committee functions properly, and that meetings are well-planned and effective. It is a leadership position, providing the opportunity to put your strategic thinking into action and steer the organisation as it continues to grow.

Other specific duties include working with the Treasurer on financial oversight and planning, thinking about recruitment and renewal of the Management Committee, liaising with paid staff, and ensuring good policies and procedures are in place for the effective management of the organisation.

The role of a Chairperson involves a regular time commitment, with capacity to do work between meetings and coordinate with staff and other committee members, and a willingness to represent Laughton Greenwood externally as a public ‘face’ of the organisation.

As Chair of Laughton Greenwood CBS you will have the chance to put your skills in strategic planning, good people management, delegation, networking and organisational development to good use, helping preserve the future of the woodlands as a biodiversity success and an important social asset.

What can you expect with the Role of Secretary?

The Secretary is crucial to the smooth running of Management Committee meetings, which is where all our important decisions get made. As a small organisation with only one paid member of staff at present, the Management Committee plays a strong role in decision-making and strategic development, and the role of Secretary offers the chance to help the Committee function at its best.

The Secretary coordinates with the chair to set agendas for meetings, notifies committee members and circulates information and papers. You help meetings themselves run smoothly by reporting on matters arising, making sure everyone has necessary information, and taking minutes if required. The Secretary has an important role in putting ideas into action by circulating minutes and following up on specific actions with individuals. You also play an outward role by being a point of correspondence for the organisation.

It is the ideal role for someone who is well-organised, punctual, responsive and has a strong eye and ear for detail. Given the importance of the Management Committee to the oversight of what is happening in the woodlands, the role of Secretary offers the chance to fundamentally support the project’s success.

Other Opportunities

As well as the Management Committee we are looking to revive our advisory board, a more informal circle of supporters with particular expertise we can draw on, and who may attend some Committee meetings as well as supporting at events and with raising our profile.

We also need anyone who may be able to offer some time as ad hoc volunteers in a range of areas – e.g. events, fundraising, public communications and developing our Membership.

If you would like to know more don’t hesitate to express your interest by writing to us at info@laughtongreenwood.co.uk. We are planning an induction for new Committee members in late August.

Please spread the word!

Introducing Laughton Greenwood, our new name

Community woodlands only work if they can draw on the broad range of support available to them. The community for our woods is located close to the woods themselves in local parishes, but also in the towns of Lewes and Hailsham, across Sussex and beyond. We are a small woodland, but like the individual trees we are connected to a much bigger network.

As the project’s moved forward we’ve realised we can be clearer about who we are and what our community woodland is all about. One aspect that we felt could be clearer was the name, and so in early 2020 we decided on a change from Vert Woods Community Woodland.

We wanted something memorable and easy to say, that helps people understand where the woods are and has the spirit of what we’re trying to do together. 

The first step was to go out to members to generate a list of ideas. More than thirty came back. The Management Committee whittled these down to a shortlist of three possible names, which then went back out to members to consider.

Laughton Greenwood was clearly the preferred option. Having ‘Laughton’ in the name will help to locate the woodland for more of those people who could be getting involved. ‘Greenwood’ helps to get across our mission to restore the woods to life and put nature at the heart of our decisions.

Greenwood also echoes the ‘Vert’ in the woods’ historical name. The human heritage of the woodland is important to us, just as the natural history is, and we’re going to make sure that ‘Vert Woods’ and ‘Upper Vert Wood’ (where most of the community woodland is located) are very much part of the story wherever we tell it. 

Over the course of the summer we will be changing the name wherever we need to. At first that means official documentation, this website and our social media channels (no need to do anything if you already follow these accounts).

Later on this will include the small amount of signage we have in the woodland itself, and in publicity. We hope it won’t be long before we can get everyone together and celebrate the change in the woods.

Meanwhile the Management Committee is busy putting together funding applications for further improvements to the woods, planning the summer’s harvest of timber and considering how we can make future events in the woods workable while keeping everyone safe and healthy in these strange new times.

We look forward to updating you all on progress. Keep in the loop by signing up to our email newsletter if you haven’t already.

Natural Flood Prevention

Flooding was very much in the news over the winter months. Fortunately, we have not been badly affected in Laughton and the surrounding district but we need to be prepared for the possibility of flooding in the future.

The Sussex Flow Initiative (SFI) is a county-wide organisation composed of the Environment Agency, the Woodland Trust and Sussex Wildlife Trust. SFI have been promoting the installation of ‘leaky’ dams to mitigate flooding. The dams are often built in woodland and the aim is to hold back rainwater in times of heavy downpours and allow the water to drain into the ground or flow slowly away into the rivers, thus preventing flash flooding further downstream.

On Sunday 15th March 2020, a group of volunteers became beavers for the day and built leaky dams in Laughton Greenwood.

Before work commenced the dozen or so people were given a talk by Sam Buckland from the Sussex Wildlife Trust about the value of leaky dams. Not only do they hold back the rainwater but they also provide a reservoir of water for later in the year when water is scarce. This, in turn, increases the biodiversity of the site.

After a quick lunch, the volunteers split up into three teams and set to work. A good time was had by all!

It is hoped that the work done today will benefit the residents living downstream on the Cuckmere River. The water from Upper Vert Wood flows South East under the A22, through numerous waterways and into the Cuckmere.

Another working day will be spent later in the year elsewhere in the woodland, achieving the same for the Ouse catchment area.

We need your vote!

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Voting is now open for The People’s Projects! Please click here to cast your vote now!

We’re very excited to announce that #thewoodlandproject by Vert Woods’ own Circle of Life Rediscovery is in the running to win almost fifty thousand pounds through The People’s Projects!

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The Woodland Project in East Sussex offers days out in nature for families who have a child with a severe physical or learning disability, families who have a child experiencing mental health issues and 11-18 year olds who are accessing mental health services. The Woodland Project allows these families to spend quality time together, relax in their natural surroundings, free of distractions and judgement.

Run by Circle of Life Rediscovery and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, the project is funded solely through donations and external funding.

The recipient is decided by a public vote so every vote received is vital! Please vote for us here and don’t forget to share our posts on Facebook and Twitter!

‘VERT WOODS: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE’

By Sue Redshaw, Laughton Tree Warden and member of the Vert Woods Community Woodland Steering Group.

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Attendees at our presentation.

Our presentation on the 3 rd February was well-attended with over 60 people gathered in Laughton Parish Hall. We are grateful to all who turned out on a particularly wet and windy night. The feedback that we have received so far would seem to indicate that it was well worth the effort!

I was privileged to introduce the proceedings and gave everyone a warm welcome. I’m not that happy standing up in front of a large audience but, as this event had been my initiative, I felt compelled to do it! I introduced the members of the Vert Woods Community Woodland Steering Group and our speakers, giving a particular mention to Jim Smith-Wright from the Woodland Trust, who has been working with local woodland owners, advising on restoring ancient woodland.

Our presentation started with the ‘past’, so Christine Meadows and Jim took over to talk about the history of our woodlands, defining what is meant by ancient woodland and how to identify the indicative species and archeological remains. Hilary Hinks, an energetic volunteer researcher with the Woodland Trust, has carried out extensive research, notably interviewing Tony Warburton, who worked as Foreman at the Saw Mill in Park Lane, and recording his memories as an exercise in social history. Sadly, Hilary was unable to be with us due to illness but her work is to be produced as a podcast for the Woodland Trust and I will keep you posted on its progress and availability.

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Mavis Warburton holding the photo of herself taken about 50 years ago beside the same Beech Tree. Mavis and her husband Tony lived at Buckle Cottage in Park Lane while Tony was employed at the Sawmill which then operated in Vert Woods.

We then moved on to the ‘present’ with Ian Rideout, Head of Faculty for Forestry, Horticulture and Foundation Learning with Plumpton College, speaking about Plumpton’s involvement with Vert Woods. He started by explaining that Plumpton College is the only full spectrum Forestry and Arboriculture training centre in the south, as well as offering the full range of other land and wine-based courses. (Plumpton wine is available at Waitrose!) They have been working in Vert Woods since 2014 as well as linked woodlands such as Sandpit’s Wood and Pink’s Pines. The students come from a range of courses at various levels, including Countryside Management, Forestry and Ecology, at L2, L3 and degree standard.

Although the college is asked for assistance by lots of landowners, Ian made it clear that it is not just a cheap source of labour. The partnership with Vert Woods works to mutual benefit through mutual effort, whereby the woodland improves as a habitat by selective thinning, the tutors get to work in a ‘training ready’ environment supplied by the Community Woodland and the students get better experience within a well-structured woodland restoration plan. Through this structured partnership and the exposure of young people to working in woods, the woodland and the wider community both benefit.

Ian was followed by Stewart Boyle, who covered some of the educational and community engagement activities already undertaken in Vert Woods. There was then a screening of a short video showing a Chestnut Coppicing Course produced by Stephen Sangster, below.

Marina Robb, director of Circle of Life Rediscovery, was next to speak. Marina has been running ‘The Woodland Project’ to enhance family health in an area of the Community Woodland that she leases for this purpose. Marina emphasised the importance of Nature connection for children and families, who have no access to woodlands and have little opportunity to do things together as a family, particularly when they have a child with complex needs.

There was then a break for refreshments organised by Marion Kemp and Marie-Helene Dalila Boyle, with an opportunity to ask questions and ‘network’!

After the interval, the discussion moved on to the ‘future’ of Vert Woods as Christine Meadows outlined the Woodland Management Plan intended to improve the health and biodiversity of the whole woodland ecology. This Plan has been approved by the Forestry Commission, which is excellent news as we are now able to move forward with its implementation. Finally, Stewart Boyle offered a flavour of the community engagement and share ownership opportunities that will be available later in 2017 via the Community Benefit Society that we arein the process of setting up.

We hope that all attendees found the evening enjoyable and informative. Your feedback would be very welcome! And I would like to add my thanks to all members of the Steering Group, who put in so much time and effort to make this a successful evening.

Great team work!

Friday 3rd February: Vert Woods, Past, Present and Future

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Tickets are available on Eventbrite.

Join us for an inspiring evening of talks on your local woodland’s rich history and vibrant future! Aimed at anyone interested in, or involved with, or affected by, Laughton Woods, whether you are a neighbour, a dog walker or simply interested in the Community Woodland, the evening will consist of three talks:

PAST: Hilary Hinks, a volunteer with the Woodland Trust, will give us a potted history of Vert Woods, including the social history obtained from interviews with people who have lived here all their lives.

PRESENT: representatives from Plumpton Agricultural College will explain what the students are learning and achieving in the woods with an introduction to deer management; Marina Robb will talk about ‘Circle of Life’ forest school activities and how Nature Connection benefits families and children; an introduction to Forest Schools; Stewart Boyle will discuss last year’s Sweet Chestnut Coppicing Course to illustrate the sort of courses being run in Vert Woods.

FUTURE: Christine Meadows will present the Vert Woods Woodland Management Plan. Stewart Boyle will talk about the Community Benefit Society (CBS) being set up to manage Vert Woods and what this means for community involvement.

Additional information and how to book.

Tales of Tall Trees – book now for our 23rd of December event!

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Come hear stories and music in the trees of Vert Woods around a big fire!

Circle of Life Rediscovery (CLR) and Vert Woods Community Woodlands (VWCW) invite you for an afternoon of magic, music, stories, and fun, deep in the beautiful Vert Woods near Laughton. Suitable for children of all ages.

Please follow the signs along Park Lane, and you will be lured by musicians and escorted pixies to meet the trees. Once there you will be met with a roaring fire, mulled wine and music. Our chief storyteller Andreas will recount stories of the great oaks, slender birches and abundant sweet chestnuts of Vert Wood, accompanied by various musicians. What do trees really think? It’s your chance to discover this.

Music, mulled wine and dancing will follow.

Please note that the ground underfoot may be muddy or uneven. Bring folding chairs if you think you will want them. There will be cover in the event of bad weather but wrap up.

Bring nibbles and drinks to share.

Booking is important, as only those who sign up can know the secret way! And please let us know how many people will be coming – children count too!

Please consider your impact on the climate as well as the local environment when planning your journey – try to walk or cycle here if you can, share cars with friends or consider offering or accepting a lift on a carsharing website like LiftShare, and follow the parking notices provided on the day. If you do purchase a car ticket please print out the QR code from the email confirmation and display it in your windscreen.

Are you ready for a little Midwinter Magic? Book now!

Our proposed Woodland Management Plan

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On Saturday, 12th November we held a consultation meeting for those local to the Vert Community Wood in Laughton Parish Hall, which was attended by 15 people including 4 members of our Steering Group. The meeting was publicised in Parish Magazines, in local shops and immediate neighbours of Vert Woods were given personal invitations. Attendees included representatives from Laughton, Ringmer and Chiddingly Parish Councils; neighbours in Park Lane and other interested Laughton residents.

Christine Meadows presented a PowerPoint slide show of the draft Woodland Management Plan, which will be submitted to the Forestry Commission in the New Year.  This was not only a great opportunity for everyone to see what is planned but also to make observations and suggestions, to raise concerns and to hear how they might get involved.

A pdf of the presentation can be downloaded here.

The aims of Woodland Management Plan are informed by the Mission Statement, which reads: ‘Our mission is to create and maintain an inspirational working Community Woodland that puts Nature at the heart of decisions. We seek to establish a self-sustaining and thriving woodland culture that connects people with the natural environment, now and into the Future.’ In other words, the natural environment, its care and well-being, comes first in any plans we have for the woodland. Human involvement will be low-key and non-invasive.

There was general approval for the plans put forward for the woodlands.  The need for management to improve and conserve the habitat was accepted.  Concerns that were raised were more about the peripheral effect of the existence of a Community Woodland.  By creating a beautiful resource in Vert Woods, there will inevitably be more people drawn to the locality.  

So, the main concerns raised were:

additional car movements on Park Lane. Already the residents are feeling the pressure of a lot of passing traffic using the road as a cut through, not only causing damage to the verges but potentially resulting in accidents.  This increase in traffic may well be due to the rise in the use of SatNav, which directs drivers down side roads to cut journey time and avoid congestion.  A double-edged sword! The reality of increased traffic is an issue that also affects Shortgate Lane, so there might be some value in joining forces with Shortgate Lane residents in tackling this problem. A meeting between affected residents, the Parish Council and East Sussex County Council Highways Department may be the way forward.  

– provision of car parking.  There is no doubt that everyone would prefer cars to be parked off the road and would therefore support the provision of car parks but those who lived through the anti-social behaviour at the old Vert Lane car park stressed the difficulty of dealing with the residents who occupied it.  There is a real need to avoid this situation recurring.

fires, especially for those who own houses around the edge of the flammable conifer wood.

deer – where a reduction in numbers to sustainable levels would be supported.

– lack of any indication that this is a Community Woodland with constraints on its usage eg. no fires, no camping, no unauthorised shooting, no 4-wheeled drives.  We recognise that some sort of signage is required.

trees over-hanging road.  This will be addressed by a Tree Safety Survey to be undertaken around the entire boundary of the Community Woodland.

It needs noting that some of these suggestions – provision of car parking; signage; work arising from the Tree Safety Survey; deer culling etc all cost considerable sums of money.  Until we are properly constituted as a Community Benefits Society and are in a position to apply for grants, we do not at present have the resources to carry these out.  We are fortunate to have Plumpton Agricultural College using the woods for their Forestry Courses, which at least means great progress is being made in restoring the actual woodland.

There will be another opportunity to find out more at our next Public event on Friday 27th January, in Laughton Parish Hall, when we will be presenting “Vert Woods: Past, Present and Future”. We have been lucky enough to have a Woodland Trust volunteer, Hilary Hinks, gleaning the historical information which will constitute the ‘Past’ aspect of this evening’s entertainment!

Mission Statement

Our Mission is to Create and Nurture an inspirational Community Woodland that puts Nature at the heart of decisions. We seek to establish a self-sustaining and thriving woodland culture that connects people with Nature, now and into the Future.