The Box tree was once largely overlooked in the Chilterns but the Chilterns Box Woodland Project successfully engaged numerous people during 2013-2015 to bring greater recognition and improved understanding of the tree and its cultural uses. A network of woodland owners, volunteers, woodworkers and others, is now working together to ensure a sustainable future for Box trees and Box heritage.
Woodland managers and owners and woodworkers have been working with the Chilterns Conservation Board to build understanding around the sustainable management of Box trees so that Box woodlands will remain a valued feature of the Chilterns countryside. Management guidance was published by the Chilterns Box Woodland Project in 2014 to inform work on Box trees and woodlands and updates will be made to this publication as new information comes to light.
The Forestry Commission, in partnership with the Chilterns Box Woodland Project and helped by volunteers from the Chiltern Society, trialled management techniques at Wendover Woods during 2014 including the management of Box blight. Since Wendover Woods is publicly accessible, it is possible to visit the trial areas and explore Box in the wider woodland. These woods are becoming a national focus for skills and knowledge relating to Box woodlands.
Historic research and field survey carried out by Chilterns Box Woodland Project volunteers during 2013-2015 has identified an initial list of suitable locations for restoring or creating new Box woodlands. Historic records suggest that Box was once much more extensive on the Chilterns escarpment in Hertfordshire, for example. Advice around restoring and creating Box woodlands is provided in the management guidance produced by the Chilterns Box Woodland Project. Hundreds of Box plants grown from Chilterns cuttings gathered in 2014 are also available to suitable planting schemes in the countryside, with priority given to restoring and enhancing semi-natural habitats on chalk soils.
Landowners wishing to plant Box in the countryside are invited to get in touch for more details.
The Chilterns Box Woodland Project has drawn on the experience of the Wormsley Estate where the country's first new Box woodland was planted with Forestry Commission grant support. Box has been planted on steep slopes across this Chilterns estate to benefit biodiversity and provide game cover.
The Chilterns is a source of Box timber today and hopefully also in the future. It is a small, specialist market dependent upon slow growing trees. Consequently, it is vital that woodland owners and timber buyers/users work together to agree specifications and avoid wasted timber. The Chilterns Box Woodland Project has established an initial network of Box woodland owners and Boxwood buyers/users to support a sustainable market for UK-grown Box timber. Responsible owners, buyers and users are encouraged to get in touch with the Chilterns Conservation Board to join this network.
A free publication is available to help Box woodland owners, managers, woodworkers and others care for Box trees and keep Box heritage alive. Produced by the Chilterns Box Woodland Project, it includes case studies from the Chilterns and information from Box woodland owners and others across the country and abroad.