The Heartwood Community Woodfuel Group was created in March 2015 as part of the £1.1 million Heritage Lottery Funded Black to Green Project based within the National Forest. Black to Green works with communities within the Heart of the Forest, a 10 -square mile area covering parts of North West Leicestershire and South Derbyshire, which has been radically transformed over the past 25 years. Once a region dominated by coal mining and clay extraction, the area has now been changed into a sustainable green landscape through the creation of the National Forest.
During this time of rapid change woodland cover in the area has increased from a mere 1% to 27%. The Heartwood Community Woodfuel Group contributes to sustaining this new landscape through its woodland management projects. As new woodland develops trees require maintenance - including thinning and pruning - to help encourage biodiversity. Volunteer members of the group attend regular structured management days receiving training and guidance in techniques from conservation managers. In return they receive an equitable share of the wood produced which they use as fuel for their own homes.
The Community Woodfuel Group was conceived in 2014 and started life at an initial well-attended meeting at the Conkers Visitor Centre in February of that year. A pilot day held in April followed - proving equally successful. It attracted around 30 local people eager to contribute. Subsequently a series of sessions at Sarah’s Wood, Moira, led by Leicestershire County Council Ranger Chris Conway introduced volunteers to techniques for tree felling and habitat creation.
Sessions are scheduled throughout the felling season which runs from October to March each year. Following on from the success of the inaugural season in 2014-15 a Heritage Lottery award helped secure the future of the group by providing funds to cover a three-year period of consolidation. During the 2015 – 16 season a management committee was formed, several members received further training in the use of power tools and plans to make the group into a self-sustaining entity are now well advanced.