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We would like to thank all those who have given support to this project from the local community, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, the Forestry Commission, the Pond Conservation Trust, Alvecote and Shuttington Parish Council, Maurice Arnold, and all the contractors and friends, family and volunteers who have worked on the site and given us advice and support.

We are developing Alvecote Wood according to our Woodland Management Plan that has been agreed with and grant-aided by the Forestry Commission under the English Woodland Grant Scheme.

Are you another woodland owner needing advice? Would you like to read our Tree Safety Policy?

Access and Buildings at Alvecote Wood

New building in Autumn at Alvecote Wood

Our new building in the Autumn

Alvecote Wood is a wildlife site, and not a residential, industrial or agricultural site. Nevertheless, there were some buildings on site when it was purchased, albeit in poor condition. In addition, access is essential for the management of the woodland, for machinery, and for people visiting to the site to work or for pleasure. We also became aware that some people were accessing the site illegally, so part of our development work has had to be provision of better security against trespass and criminal activity. This section of the web site details the work we have done and are continuing to do to improve access at the site, together with the construction of our new steel barn.

What was already there?

Old building and entrance at Alvecote Wood

The old derelict building and road entrance

When we purchased the woods, there had been no management for about 15 years. There were no mown tracks and it was very difficult to get about - whole areas of the wood could not be reached due to masses of impenetrable brambles often 20 or more metres deep and literally over 2 metres high.

In addition, the road access was via a narrow and steep gate right on a blind bend on a national speed limit road (with vehicles often exceeding this limit). Once inside, there were no surfaced tracks, and with the frequent waterlogging of the site, access by any vehicle was difficult. Doing something about both internal access and site access was therefore a priority.

There were no useable buildings on site. Near the old entrance was a derelict concrete block building which had previously been used variously as stables, housing for a pig-keeper and housing for a shepherd. There was also an old goat shed without a roof deeper into the woods, and the remains of a polytunnel.

Just below the original entrance and derelict building was an overgrown large concrete base with a narrow railway track embedded in the northern edge. We do not know definitely what this was used for, but it extended some 50 metres from close to the old building to much further down into the clearing.

Potential for Existing Buildings

Managing a site of this size requires equipment - in particular a tractor was needed together with a very heavy-duty mower to make inroads into the bramble infestation and to create new tracks and maintain them thereafter. Neither of the existing buildings would be suitable as an equipment store, although both could have their roof restored and be used for other purposes in future e.g. as a wood seasoning store.

New Building

We needed a building on site for a number of reasons: equipment storage and maintenance being the primary reason, but also for shelter and warmth when working there during the winter! The tractor was resident on our patio at home, but didn't really fit in our tiny garden, and driving it back and forth was potentially quite hazardous.

In 2008 and after 6+ months of discussion with relevant organisations, we were granted planning permission for a new steel building, together with a new road entrance and access road. The new building had to be placed on the existing concrete base, and there were very tight restrictions placed on the development because of the Tree Preservation Order applying to the entire site.

New building at Alvecote Wood

Our new building

A great deal of preparatory work was required, including mowing and clearing of undergrowth, clearing of the old concrete base, removal of part of it and replacement with new concrete, felling and removal of a hawthorn tree (unfortunately), moving of some oak saplings and excavation of ponds and drainage for the building. We did as much of this as possible ourselves, together with help from friends, neighbours and family, although we also used contractors to help with the digging. We weren't helped by the 2008 weather which was extremely wet. We decided to have the professionals to put up the building for us, which they completed in just a few days. Our security problems are described below, summarised by this new building suffering a break-in just three days after it was erected!

The building was completed late in 2008, and the story of its construction is shown in photographs here.

New Road Entrance and Access Road

New road entrance at Alvecote Wood

The new road entrance

After considering the options, including suggestions of felling some mature oak trees to provide better visibility at the old entrance, a new road entrance was planned to provide the safest possible access to the site. This was located towards the centre of the road frontage, with the maximum possible distance to the blind bends at both ends of the site. By careful positioning of the entrance and sensitive routing of the internal road, we avoided having to fell any of the mature oak trees. The access road was then created with a 30cm depth of roadstone to ensure that heavy vehicles could enter the site and reach the new building. The excavation and indeed all building-related works were performed very carefully throughout to avoid disturbing tree roots. A condition of the Planning Permission was that we performed the building work in accordance with an Arboricultural Method Statement, detailing the precise sequence of work and how significant stages would be performed without damage to the trees.

This road had to be completed before the construction of the new building. The full story of its creation is shown in photographs here.

Woodland Access Tracks and Rides

Impenetrable brambles at Alvecote Wood

6 foot high brambles

When we bought the wood it was extremely difficult to get around, even on foot, due to the massive overgrowth of brambles and other undergrowth and scrub. Clearing some of this was essential, not only from the point of view of habitat maintenance and improvement, but also simply so we could see what was there and to reach different parts of the wood to manage the site. Initially, we planned to use the tractor bucket to bulldoze the brambles, and then finish this off with a brushcutter. However it was clear that this approach was not efficient - it took so long to create a new path that it was getting overgrown again before it was completed!

Another difficulty in getting access around the wood were the many generations of stock and barbed-wire fencing that were present, often overgrown with brambles and other vegetation. These had been used to contain animals when they were on site in the past, but now provided barriers to getting around and a hazard for people working on site as well as for machinery being used for maintenance. Some fencing was readily visible and readily accessible for dismantling and removal, but of course there was a lot that was lying on the ground and mostly covered with grass, ready to trip the unwary or to get entangled with machinery.

Tractor and mower at Alvecote Wood

The tractor and rotary slasher

Eventually, we obtained a rotary slasher for the tractor and this sped up the creation of paths and tracks, allowing us to clear areas of overgrowth, and make wide tracks, paths and rides which can be regularly maintained. These tracks are mainly grass surfaced, although shreddings from tree maintenance are also used as a mulch in some places.

In early 2009, we have also been augmenting the main access road with some superficial gravel paths further into the woods to permit wider use of the tractor, as well as to provide access for a 4x4. The latter is enabling some access for disabled and elderly visitors, at least part of the way down into the wood. These paths are not able to support heavy vehicles as they are only made with a relatively thin layer of gravel on top of a geotextile membrane (which helps to spread the load and thereby allows a much thinner layer of gravel than would otherwise be required). Heavier load bearing and the requisite deeper excavations are not necessary within the wood and could harm the trees.

During early 2009 we have also been attempting to clear all the redundant internal barbed wire fencing to allow rational development of pathways through the wood, and access for the tractor and other equipment to manage the site.

Water and Drainage

Another problem on the site was waterlogging, which has prevented using the tractor through much of the winter, when a lot of work needs to be done to avoid disturbing breeding animals and while the trees and undergrowth are dormant. We believe that many trees have died on the site in recent years as a result of serious waterlogging. We have done a lot of drainage work in an effort to combat these problems. Doubtless, more work will be required in the future, but we do not want to do too much and it is not a precise science - changes that we make are deliberately modest as it is difficult to predict the results. Much better to go carefully and make refinements as we gain more experience.

Boundaries and Security

Putting in a new hedge at Alvecote Wood

Planting the new hedge by
the new roadside fence

The existing roadside barbed-wire boundary was poorly-maintained and broken down in several places. There was evidence of trespassing on the site, petty pilfering and security clearly needed improving. The new building was also broken into just three days after completion, resulting in the installation of a new security system and further countermeasures.

A new fence was installed in 2008-9 along the roadside, which, together with planting 600 trees to make a new hedgerow and restoration of the existing ditch, improves both the security and the visual appearance of the site.

In some ways we are fortunate that for our day job we actually design and manufacture security products. This conservation project has resulted in us designing and installing several new security products, some of which will be going into production. These include a new easy-glide sliding security barrier across the road entrance, locking devices for roller shutter doors and for other items, steel grilles for skylights on the roof, effective but low-cost ground anchors and an advanced remote-alerting security system for the building despite it having no mains electricity. These new deterrents are used in combination with our Protector guaranteed uncroppable security chains and various other items in our normal product range. The ridiculous background to this is that there is genuinely nothing significant on the site or inside the building, but despite this we have suffered repeated damage as people have tried to break into the building. Each criminal event results in us upping the deterrent, and hoping that the word will eventually get around the criminal fraternity that they are wasting their time. We live in hope. It is perhaps also a matter of pride that we are protecting the project rigorously. Please visit www.torc-anchors.com for more information on our security product range. We are always happy to pass on our experiences and advice to people trying to manage similar projects.