Ben Law Interview: how to get involved in sustainable woodland management

Emily Ingham
Thursday, 22nd November 2012

We asked Ben Law, woodsman, author and award winning Grand Designs home builder, about his favourite build, woodland management and working in forestry. We even found out what kind of woodland animal Ben is!

We asked Permaculture online readers what they would ask Ben Law and selected the best six questions. "What is your favourite memory of building a sustainable structure and why?"

Ben Law: It was the whole process of creating Lodsworth Larder, when the local community came together to build a focal village asset. Virtually all the timber for the shop came out of my woods only one mile away. The highlight for me was that the area of woodland we harvested the timber from was a derelict mixed coppice. After restoring the coppice, there was a flush of violet helleborine orchids which had been dormant for fifty years.

Lodsworth Larder

Emily Ingham of Permaculture magazine: "What recommendations do you have for young people who want to get involved in woodland management? How important is it that we have a new generation of woodlanders?

Ben Law: It can be difficult to find a way in to woodland management. There are colleges and courses and the National Coppice Apprenticeship as well as a new apprenticeship scheme run through the Forestry Commission. If you are keen and truly committed you will find a route in. There is no substitute for spending time working in the woods to gain knowledge.

A new generation of woodlanders is always needed: as with the trees, the old have to give way to enable the young to reach the light and flourish.

Daryl Ross: "Was Grand Designs the best thing that ever happened to you?"

Ben Law: No, the birth of my children was.

John Earnshaw of Earnshaw's Herbal Dispensary: "What medicinal herbs do you grow and use?"

Ben Law: I grow a little echinacea in the garden but the wild woodland herbs that grow on the rides are of most interest. I use self heal for cuts and there is an abundance of skullcap and centaury.

Self heal, which can be used to treat skin ailments

Loli: "We just bought a farm with a forest, and want to take care of the forest using principles of permaculture, but will have to learn from scratch. As well as reading your The Woodland Way, please tell us which other sources of knowledge we should give priority to now. We feel lost but optimistic!"

Ben Law: Take your time, a forest is patient. Spend time visiting the forest, make notes, get to know it through observing for a year before you do anything physical. Get help to identify trees and plants and begin the process of woodland assessment. My "I bought a woodland, what do I do now?" course may help.

Ben teaching at one of his courses

Sebastian von Holstein of Permaculture magazine: "If you had to be a woodland animal, what would you be?"

Ben Law: I am a woodland animal! Coppice woodlands are dependent on the cyclical cutting of trees, without humans in coppice woodlands biodiversity would dramatically decrease. At Prickly Nut Wood, where I live and work, I am a woodland animal.

Emily Ingham is a former environmental consultant, and now writes for Permaculture magazine on issues relating to environmental legislation and policy.

Ben Law has published four books with Permanent Publications, the book publishing arm of Permaculture magazine. 

Sterling33 |
Mon, 26/11/2012 - 15:58
Have you done any hugelkultur in these woods?
Jim Thomas |
Tue, 27/11/2012 - 06:53
If a wood would, what wouldn't?
Thanos |
Sat, 14/07/2018 - 17:00
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