Want to buy a wood?
Ownership of Britain’s woods and forests is split between the state (mainly Forestry Commission) and non-state roughly in proportion of 35:65. While there are a few publicly owned non-Forestry Commission woodlands (local authorities, MOD land etc), it is the private sector of many thousands of owners that has diverse holdings and diverse interests.
These consist of:
- large traditional estates;
- forestry holdings by insurance and pension funds;
- investment companies owning or with share ownership of woods;
- woods on farms;
- the new cadre of small woodland owners; and
- charities, such as the National Trust, Woodland Trust, RSPB etc.
The interesting point is that, with the general exception of the charities, forests and woodlands may come on the market from any of these owners.
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The Forestry Commission has been selling parts of its forest estate since the early 1980s, mainly woods and plantations that are relatively small in size or difficult to administer, such as simply being a long way from one of their regional offices. They are marketed in the trade press and through agents who specialise in forestry. It is also worth visiting the FC’s website www.forestry.gov.uk
Investment companies offer ownership of woodlands as an investment either solely or collectively, e.g. Forest Investment Management. Similarly, organisations such as English Woodlands and UPM Tilhill may offer both investment opportunities and the management of woods and forests and forests themselves.
Private sales can range from small 1 ha (2.5 acre) lots up to large forests and come on the market for all sorts of reasons.
How to find out what is on the market? The following agents and organisations market woodland and are where to make initial enquiries:
- John Clegg & Co – always have many woods and forests for sale, good for commercial size investments www.johnclegg.co.uk
- Estate agents who specialise in agricultural and country properties, such as Savills, Knight Frank, Strutt & Parker etc., though there are often small local agents who specialise in farm sales including woodlands.
- Woodland for Sale www.woodlands.co.uk market small woodlands (1-10 ha) and always have many for sale – amenity and hobby woodlands – you see their advertising boards beside many main roads.
Occasionally one sees one-off advertisements of woodlands and forests; Basingstoke’s local freebie in July had an advert from Barnard Marcus about an auction of a 77 acre wood near Reading.
Visiting a wood or forest property. It is usually sufficient simply to have particulars with you to show why you are there. If interest is sparked, return with a professional forester who is either a member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters www.charteredforesters.org or the RICS to get their advice. A one hour inspection with a professional will be all that is needed and will repay the investment many times over.
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