We bought a 12-acre woodland

A chance encounter after a home visit started it all off. It was late and dark, and I was startled when this small, bearded chap stepped into my path and enquired after his neighbour: ‘How is she doc? You can tell me — I’m a tree surgeon.’

That was it — nothing more. But, while recounting to my wife the 2am meeting with this Tolkien-esque gent with tree surgeon accessories, I realised that I had always fancied being a tree surgeon myself. The momentum continued, when a few weeks later another partner came across a woodland for sale — I was not alone in this enthusiasm for trees. Soon four of us were quarter owners of a 12-acre wood.

Long and thin, bordered by road and stream, its mature, coppiced alder showed it to be ancient. But it had been planted with evergreens and left — now it was overcrowded with tall thin trees that fought for canopy space.

The local deer and pheasant population congregated in our quiet haven. The stream boasted trout, watched by dippers and kingfishers. We spotted herons, ravens and buzzards.

The early visits were team affairs cutting pathways into our terrain. We felled the evergreens and anything competing with young oaks.

A week’s course in chainsaw technique and saw maintenance taught me how to plan where the trees fell, and gave me a new certificate to hang on the surgery wall.

A later coppice maintenance course introduced me to charcoal and hurdle making. I now have a garage full of dry wood for my winter fires, supply pea and bean sticks to the neighbourhood and have some of the nicest layered hedges around.

The scouts, cubs and brownies have all camped in ‘Doctors’ Wood’. School children have potted wild flowers and dipped in the stream. Our children have grown up knowing dappled woodlands and wild bluebells and have collected bags of kindling since they could walk. They can look after the woodland in their turn.

Twenty years on, the woodland is still a great stress reliever — and it is catching. The younger partners from the neighbouring practice are in negotiation for their own patch of greenery — and prices seem to have doubled.

Dr Kevin Brown is a lumberjack (and GP) from North Devon

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