Belisama’s Retreat spans four acres of secluded woodland on the banks of the river Ribble near Preston, Lancashire.

From a top meadow the woodland of beech, ash, hawthorn, horse chestnut, hazel and birch descends to the river’s edge via a series of re-entrants and ridges interspersed with small plateaus. Home for diverse fauna including deer, otter, badger, game birds and wildfowl and the adjacent river Ribble sustains healthy levels of s healthy levels of Chub, Barbel, Dace, Grayling & Salmon.

Left to run wild for 80 years the woodland requires extensive work to make it accessible, safe and productive once again and the following development plan is being actioned:

  1. Consultation with the Forestry Commission has identified that 90-95% of the trees (mainly Ash saplings) should be coppiced to permit rejuvenation of the forest floor.
  2. The felling of dead standing to make the woodland safe for visitors
  3. Encouraging a more balanced ecosystem with healthier ground cover to improve soil bonding on the steep slopes.
  4. The planting of willow along the water’s edge to protect against erosion.
  5. The eradication of Himalayan Balsam.
  6. The introduction of wild flowers across the top of the woodland capable of sustaining honey bees.
  7. The introduction of native edible and medicinal plants and flora.
  8. The introduction of bee hives along the edge of the meadow.
  9. Improved drainage to waterlogged areas.
  10. Footpath and access improvements to make the Retreat more accessible to visitors.
  11. Vermin management to reduce the negative impact of mink and grey squirrels.
  12. Construction of a cabin for the secure storage of tools and other equipment.
  13. Clearing of woodland glades to provide areas for ecotherapy.
  14. The installation of a water filtration system and boiler for making stream water potable.
  15. Deer fences to protect commercial crops.
  16. Financial self-sustainment:
    • The abundance of ash saplings provides the ideal raw material to produce charcoal, biochar (garden gold), firewood and timber for wood-working.
    • The steep, damp re-entrants and a PH of 5.5 offer ideal conditions for the growing of wasabi as a commercial crop whilst other areas of the woodland offer conditions suitable for the cultivation of (amongst others) wild fungi & wild garlic.
    • The development of a programme of survival and outdoor living workshops to share the extensive knowledge of Veterans with the general public.
    • Specialist outdoor interest days including guided nature watching, field archery and field target air rifle shooting.
    • The sale of fishing permits.