May Hill woodlands is situated within Huntley estate, which is a large woodland estate situated between the villages of Huntley and Clifford’s Mesne, on the eastern flanks of May Hill. Huntley estate includes around 450 hectares of woodland which has traditionally been managed for timber production. It surrounds the small, picturesque hamlet of May Hill village and borders the public open space at the summit of May Hilll. The iconic summit provides stunning views across the surrounding areas, including nine counties, and the areas of the Malvern hills, the Severn Vale as well as over the border lands of the Wye valley and across to the Brecon Beacons in South Wales.
The woodlands are classed as “Ancient woodlands” as they have been continuously under woodland cover since 1600 years.
History of the woodlands
Huntley Estate is owned and managed by Mrs M T Freeman. It has been in the same family for four generations, over 120 years. Mrs Freeman’s father was the famous forester of his time Major C.P Ackers.
May Hill Woodlands were traditionally used for charcoal production in the 17th and 18th century, but as demand for this and other coppice products decreased, the woodlands went into decline, as did most English woodlands. However, luckily May Hill woodlands were carefully replanted thanks to the diligent management of the owner of Huntley Estate, Major Ackers. His philosophy was to create attractive woodlands which were also economically viable. As well as planting oak and sweet chestnut, he planted many species of conifers – including Douglas Fir, Norway Spruce, Western Hemlock, Western Red Cedar, and Larch. The woodlands have been continually managed to produce a wonderful mixture of species, age classes and management regimes, including some of the finest Californian Redwood stands in England.
May Hill Woodlands is run by Piers and Sarah Freeman, who returned to May Hill from Australia in 2017 with the aim of transitioning the woodlands from a solely silvicultural focus to a more holistic approach of balancing recreation and conservation with traditional timber production.
May Hill Woodlands was established to accomodate recreational activities and ecological enhancements of Huntley estate, through facilitating camping, glamping, a range of courses, and woodland produce. These activities facilitate the restoration of large areas of coppice woodland to benefit the flora and fauna.
We host and coordinate a range of different community projects, including coppicing weekends, ecological habitat works and social forestry.
In October 2019, the Small Woods Association ran a wonderful coppice camp within May Hill woodlands, when around 20 people camped over and spent their days as an intensive coppice working team. We really appreciate their efforts and look forward to hosting the event again in October 2020.
Furthermore, May Hill woodlands runs its own monthly social coppice days from November to March each year. For more information on where and when, go to our activities page.
If you’d like to get involved in the next coppice camp, you can register through Small woods association here.
Plans are underway for regular conservation volunteer days, where small teams will focus on helping with the ecological restoration of important habitat areas. Watch this space for more details!