A ‘GROUND-breaking’ environmental project is to be set up in West Dorset.

Prime Coppice in Marshwood Vale is one of the locations chosen for a new mentoring programme to develop community woodfuel activities.

Locally, the project brings together interested people in West Dorset and East Devon to share ideas and best practice on community woodfuel and woodland management.

Ian Rees, of Dorset AONB, said: “Almost 50 per cent of our woods are unmanaged and declining in biodiversity – bringing them back into management and getting woodfuel out at the same time is a real win-win situation.”

The project aims to combat increasing energy prices and declining biodiversity.

Kit Vaughan, owner of Prime Coppice Working Woodland and project partner, said: “This is a ground-breaking initiative.

“There are plenty of people who need woodfuel and enjoy being in woodlands and there are lots of unmanaged woods that are declining due to overgrazing by deer and lack of management – this offers a great opportunity to restore our working woods.”

The project will bring together a range of people with differing experiences of community-led woodland management to develop best practice and guidance plus support new projects through peer-to-peer learning.

John Bell, of Axewoods Cooperative, said: “Our cooperative woodland project work clearly shows that we can get woodland back into active management. People can get a range of benefits from being out in the woods and they can get access to quality woodfuel at a time when energy prices are rocketing – it’s a great initiative all round.”

Mr Rees added: “We have ten emerging projects in Dorset alone this year and this project, with other related activities, can help kickstart real opportunities for people and woodlands to develop co-benefits.”

The project will last for 12 months and brings together the Dorset and Devon group with Arnside and Silverdale AONB and the Wyre Forest Community Land Trust under the woodfuel project funded by the Cabinet Office. The first event is on the June 26 at the Wyre Forest. Prime Coppice will host a study visit on August 1 to explore the opportunities and barriers to getting involved in community woodland management.