In March 2016 Queenswood Country Park and Bodenham Lake came under the management of a Community Interest Company (CIC), coordinated by a partnership of local organisations Herefordshire Wildlife Trust & New Leaf.
Under this arrangement, both sites continue to be retained in public ownership through Herefordshire Council but the management responsibility of both sites has been transferred to the partnership via a 99 year leasehold ‘community asset transfer’.
A Community Interest Company
Community Interest Companies (known as CICs) are one of the fastest growing community oriented enterprise movements in the UK. A CIC board has been established with community representation from surrounding parishes, key stakeholders, user groups and representatives at the county level.
The sites are no longer funded by Herefordshire Council. To ensure the sites continue to be maintained to a high standard - both the wildlife habitat and visitor facilities, the CIC have introduced a 'Friends of Queenswood and Bodenham Lake' scheme and installed pay and display parking meters.
We are also seeking to raise revenue from sales of logs and charcoal produced from the management of the woodland, through the new shop, and through courses, workshops and events.
Facilities at Queenswood
A visitor centre and shop have been reintroduced to the site, stocked with locally produced products with an emphasis on woodland crafts.
The cafe continues to be run as a private business by the current operator.
Managing the two sites
Herefordshire Wildlife Trust has much experience at senior managerial and strategic level in managing wildlife sites including sites of special scientific interest as and currently manages 55 nature reserves across the county. HWT run WildPlay and Forest School programmes (for which Queenswood and Bodenham Lake are already venues), a wide range of habitat improvement, species conservation and community engagement projects.
Through the expertise of New Leaf, the sites will be used as exemplars of good practice to support the county's approach to sustainable development. An example of this is a proposal to seek funding to refurbish the buildings to the highest possible energy standards and undertake energy management measures, with the intention of minimising carbon emissions associated with the two sites.
The team at the site is being led by a Site Manager and and includes Rangers for practical management and a Visitor Experience Officer as well as benefitting from the support of Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and New Leaf staff. Volunteers play an important part in the sites and there are lots of opportunities for volunteers to take on a variety of roles.
At Queenswood there has been an increase in active woodland management, in line with requirements to maintain the SSSI condition. With a reduction in funding in recent years the woodland management has declined, therefore the partnership intend to use in-house skills on woodland and protected sites management to improve the condition of both the designated and non-designated areas of the country park. The Partnership intend to establish a co-operative of woodland workers that will help to maintain the site to the highest possible standards, including rotationally coppicing, and keeping the ‘rides’ open for butterflies and other important species.
The partnership has a vision for Queenswood which includes charcoal production, greenwood turning and woodland management training. All this will demonstrate best practice in sustainable woodland management, and cultivate skills transfer and learning.
Bodenham Lake Nature Reserve is one of the most valued wildlife areas in the county. The Partnership would continue to manage the nature reserve sensitively, maintaining the status of the area as a ‘wildlife haven’. The community orchard will continue to be used for education events, and the Partnership are considering the reintroduction of sailing permits on the navigable section of the lake. None of these activities will be a departure from the historic management activities undertaken by Herefordshire Council.
The open water of Bodenham Lake is currently designated as a ‘Site of Local Importance’, and is afforded planning protection under Policy NC4 (Nature Conservation 4) of the current Unitary Development Plan (UDP). This UDP will be superseded by a new Local Development Plan (LDP), and the current Policy of NC4 will not be carried forward. NL/HWT will work hard to achieve a new Site of Local Importance for not just the Lake, but the surrounding habitat and community orchard.
Our vision for Queenswood and Bodenham Lake is that the sites will increasingly showcase a range of both conservation and sustainability initiatives in practice.
The work of New Leaf on the two sites will be informed by the best in sustainability practice. We aim to develop buildings, energy generation, food outlets, travel links and use of water and waste in such a way that it exemplifies innovation - inspiring visitors to the sites about sustainable lifestyle choices. In particular, we aim to:
- Develop the site's buildings as exemplars of energy efficiency & renewable energy generation
- Develop the unique natural settings of Queenswood and Bodenham lake as beautiful centres of experiential learning.
- Promote a localised food economy
- Create an education & visitors’ centre at Queenswood, which will offer a range of revolving exhibitions and a growing variety of short courses and other educational initiatives
- Build on the popularity of Queenswood - working in partnership with others to develop Herefordshire as a green tourist destination and one of the sustainable development centres of the UK
- Create a sense of ownership, mutual responsibility and social cohesion around the sites – and around the sustainability principles that they will increasingly exemplify.
About the two organisations forming the Community Interest Company
Herefordshire Wildlife Trust is the largest membership-based wildlife organisation in the county, dedicated to inspiring people about wildlife, acting as a wildlife champion and creating wildlife havens.
Our vision is for a Herefordshire richer and more diverse in wildlife that is valued, and cared for, by its people to the benefit of all.
The Trust covers the county of Herefordshire and works closely with neighbouring Wildlife Trusts in England and Wales. The Trust is supported by around 5,000 local members and manages 54 nature reserves. We are a member of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, a federation of 47 Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the British Isles.
The Herefordshire Wildlife Trust Limited is a company registered in England and Wales no. 00743899 & registered charity no 220173
NEW LEAF is a not for profit co-operative, whose aim is to promote sustainable living in Herefordshire and beyond. Initiated in 2010, we are best known for our annual h.Energy event and for our work to reduce Herefordshire’s carbon footprint. As a small charitable co-op, New Leaf works collaboratively with many communities, public sector organisations and businesses across the county. We seek to support and encourage people, locally and internationally, to demonstrate that the pursuit of a flourishing ecology, human wellbeing and a prosperous local economy are worthwhile and inter-related objectives with multiple benefits
New Leaf Sustainable Development Ltd is an exempt charity and is a not-for-profit co-operative (BenCom), no. 31282R