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:
- 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.
- The felling of dead standing to make the woodland safe for visitors
- Encouraging a more balanced ecosystem with healthier ground cover to improve soil bonding on the steep slopes.
- The planting of willow along the water’s edge to protect against erosion.
- The eradication of Himalayan Balsam.
- The introduction of wild flowers across the top of the woodland capable of sustaining honey bees.
- The introduction of native edible and medicinal plants and flora.
- The introduction of bee hives along the edge of the meadow.
- Improved drainage to waterlogged areas.
- Footpath and access improvements to make the Retreat more accessible to visitors.
- Vermin management to reduce the negative impact of mink and grey squirrels.
- Construction of a cabin for the secure storage of tools and other equipment.
- Clearing of woodland glades to provide areas for ecotherapy.
- The installation of a water filtration system and boiler for making stream water potable.
- Deer fences to protect commercial crops.
- 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.