Restoration & Management

Arcadia Wood is rich in local history, diverse in wildlife and unique in character. Mature, broadleaf trees surround a lake fed by springs rising within the wood.

It was brought under management as part of a large Victorian estate. At this time the pond was extended to become a one acre lake with island and boat house, and a hydro ram pump was instated to supply water to the house. Before the wood became unmanaged and sold off from the house, two full-time gardeners were responsible for the water garden for many years.

Current management of Arcadia Wood aims to preserve and enhance this heritage. It will also have a social agenda, in looking to invite small groups to use this environment for care and improving health.

Woodland management is linked with a restoration project, to re-establish many of the features and the feel of the wood when it was a managed Victorian water garden, including renovation of the boathouse using a frame of green oak from Arcadia. Regular and ongoing woodland management has been carried out:

• Footpaths and rides have been re-established, with bridges and resurfacing.
• Streams and waterways have been cleared and maintained, with silt traps dug to prevent silting of the lake.
• The lake has been partly dredged and the dam partly repaired.
• Coppicing has begun as part of a coppice rotation area.
• Hedge laying and new fencing have been undertaken to protect boundaries from sheep incursion.
• The spread of invasive species (especially rhododendron and cherry laurel) have been controlled through cutting and spraying.
• Sycamore has been thinned out.
• A tree nursery has been established and trees planted.
• Fruit trees and a small allotment have been planted.

Financial assistance has come through the Forestry Commission and Monmouthshire County Council (Local Agenda 21) for certain projects (such as putting up bird and bat boxes).

The promotion of biodiversity is fundamental to the project, which aims to preserve and enhance a significant landscape and wildlife feature. Ecological surveys have helped to formulate strategies of management.

Practically, the woodland creates resources. For example, coppicing of areas creates material for charcoal production, stakes, hurdles and green woodworking. Food is foraged with watercress, edible fungi and nuts collected. There is a small forest garden, permaculture orchard and aquaculture system for watercress and ultimately trout. All resources can be used in the wood for management and teaching purposes. Ecological management is consistent with the cultural history of the wood and with sustainable, low-impact change.

Income is generated primarily through the running of healthy living courses by the owners, rent-paying practitioners and care providers. Courses will aim to improve health in the context of a truly holistic, integrated outlook. The emphasis will be on education and preventative health care. Arcadia is also a venue for events, such as the Wild Garlic festival.

Basic shelter and facilities are offered, with dry compost toilet, pizza oven and outdoor cooking facilities near the renovated boathouse, which serves as classroom and wildlife observation post. All structures showcase the sustainable, healthy living project, highlighting links between environment and community, lifestyle and health. Structures use local material (as far as practical) and are both energy and resource efficient (food, water, fuel and labour).

The project is supported by Abergavenny Community Woodland group and immediate neighbours. There are direct benefits for course participants and for the local community, who will gain spin-off business through accommodation, food and labour requirements. There is employment for local healthcare professionals and opportunities for local field study groups. There are long-term benefits for the landscape, its wildlife and amenity value.