Stara Community Woodland
A Cornish woodland protected for all
On the south east edge of Bodmin Moor, there is a jewel within the valley; a woodland with a brook that falls through cascades to join the River Lynher. The river flows through rapids and deep pools, past broadleaf and ancient forest, protected wildlife, flora and fauna, and under an old granite clapper bridge at the entrance to Stara Woods.
Stara Woodland is a collection of three woods; Broad, Colquite and Treovis. Documents suggest they have been here since at least the 17th century, but probably long before that. Each woodland is different in character from the others, ranging from mature conifers intermixed with broadleaved trees, a newer plantation of conifers on what was native woodland, and the remains of old coppices along with more mature oaks.
This variety means that the woods play host to, and provide a wonderful habitat for, all kinds of flora, fauna and wildlife. Species such as the otter, the brown long-eared bat and the dormouse live here.
In addition, the woodlands contain historic features, some industrial, discovered through the programme of woodland management and desk based research in local archives.
The woods, part of the former Duchy estate of Botternell, were purchased by Anne Hughes in 2004. Since then she has managed them for the benefit of the community with the support of the ‘Friends of Stara Woods’, set up in the same year.
Permissive and public paths now run through the woodland, which is well loved and used by many local people for walking, enhancing their spiritual well-being and healthy living.
Local school groups and children have come to engage with the landscape to better their understanding of the environment in which they live.
Community groups and volunteers come together to enjoy the woods and help with the management of the landscape or at events to celebrate their diversity.
We are seeking £60,000 to see this woodland protected for the community to enjoy now and in the future.
The aims of Stara Community Woodland are;
“The effective ecological and sustainable management of the woods as an arts/ environmental/ educational/ recreational resource for the area while maintaining their essential beauty and tranquillity.”
As such the woodland has a development plan that encompasses the long term as well as short term development of the woodland to meet these aims.
Of the three woodlands that comprise Stara Woods, Colquite (pictured right) is most accessible to the local community with an established network of paths, including disabled access created along the riverbank. It is an area of the woods that lends itself to educational, arts, environmental and leisure aims because of its accessibility. The gates at the entrance, although new, are an example of the old craft of green woodworking, and are made from sweet chestnut coppiced from the woods.
Broad Wood, a thirty-year-old conifer plantation, is in the process of being re-generated into natural broadleaf woodland with some conifer. It is ideal for use as an example of a working woodland and therefore a resource for educational purposes. It demonstrates the balance required in woodland management as well as the opportunity to show traditional and modern forestry methods.
Treovis Wood is the most isolated of the three woodlands and is particularly beautiful, with the attractive Shales Brook (below) running over cascades along its boundary to join the River Lynher. Here the focus is on maintaining the peace and tranquillity of the wood and its habitats. Access, although not restricted, will be lessened. There is a footpath running through it to join a circular walk through the other woods. However, here, with minimal intervention and good forestry care, habitats for all kinds of wildlife such as dormice and otter will be encouraged. Also to this end we will explore providing hides for wildlife watching, to provide shelter for visiting naturalists without disruption to the wildlife.
During 2008 a full woodland survey was undertaken to better understand how to manage the woodlands to promote greater diversity of species, flora and fauna.
The woods are a wonderful habitat for many wildlife, flora and fauna. Last year we were part of a county wildlife site survey by Cornwall Wildlife Trust. This report identified the woods contain many species considered to be included in the Biodiversity Action Plan of the UK. Species like bullfinch and oil beetle as well as dormouse, otter, brown long-eared and Daubenton’s bat, lesser spotted woodpecker, common lizard and beard lichen have been seen here. That report highlighted the need for good forestry management to ensure these species continue to thrive. Although much has already been done towards achieving this, Stara Community Woodland needs to continue the work, which, for example, includes the need to remove some of the beech and sycamore regeneration in the future.
The Historic landscape
On first approaching Stara Woods from the road, you will see an old clapper bridge at the entrance to the woodland. This bridge is a scheduled ancient monument.
The area around Bodmin Moor has been mined for tin and copper from prehistoric times, as were many areas across Cornwall. In Stara Woods traces of our ancestors’ industrial activities have been discovered. The remains of a leat, presumably used to carry water down towards Rilla Mill, have been discovered in all three woods. Originally, it would have crossed the river, probably using a wooden aquaduct. Just outside the kissing gate in Colquite Wood is the entrance to an adit that was part of Westcott Mine.
During research it was also discovered that the woods were once part of the ancient Manor of Carneddon, which belonged to the Black Prince, the Prince of Wales, and first Duke of Cornwall, and that during the middle ages, he probably had a hunting lodge somewhere in Broad Wood.
Further historical investigation will need to be undertaken to fully explore this aspect of the woods as undoubtedly it would have some interest for many visitors.
Stara Woods has a small team of committed volunteers, members of the ‘Friends of Stara Woods’. They have helped run community events as well as with the ongoing maintenance and development of the woods. In 2005 they undertook a major re-planting programme in Broad Wood as part of the regeneration of that area, planting over two thousand oak, birch and hazel saplings, much of the planting on steep shale slopes. These trees are now growing very well.
In addition to the volunteers, working parties from the Probation Service and Youth Offenders Team come to work in this beautiful woodland setting as part of their rehabilitation process. We have links with the Duchy College, our local agricultural college, who are interested in complementing their desk based studies with field work.
A link has also been established with another community woodland in the area, Pentiddy Community Woodland www.pentiddy.co.uk, and we work together on various projects, some involving local primary schools. A series of successful days called Muck & Magic have been run with the support of our local council. These events provide an excellent opportunity for young people to experience the woodland and the natural environment first hand, find out more about the purpose of woodland management and conservation, and have fun! A forest school trial was run over six weeks in the early part of 2007 with children from our nearest primary school.
The threat – and a solution
After several years of managing the habitats and woodland and organising successful events to bring young and old alike to explore and learn more about the woodland, its eco-systems and management, the time has come to protect it for future generations to enjoy.