David called us on route to let us know there would be torrential rain that night. We had planned on camping in his woodland but the offer of a home cooked meal and a roof over our heads seemed too good to miss. We arrived a little later than planned, the smell of freshly baked bread and hotpot greeted us. We sat around the table ate, drank and found out all about David and the Coppice Plot.
He studied marine and environmental science at University and went on to do a masters in conservation. After a short stint in Africa doing Marine Conservation he came back to London working on a city farm. It wasn’t long before he moved on again and decided with his wife Sarah to move out to Wales to do environmental education. While he was in Pembrokeshire David completed a woodland management course on coppicing and learned how to make items out of wood using hand tools such as knives and axes. It was the axe work in the woods that he particularly loved and after the course decided he wanted to keep on doing it so set about finding a woods to look after and thats how he ended up at Kitewood near Fishguard, Pembrokshire.
In the morning we were up early and headed over to the woodland that David manages. Coppicing is a form of woodland management, a traditional way of looking after an area of woodland and managing it to get the most out of the land. David fells sections of the woodland on a rotational basis so that when he gets back to where he started the trees are fully grown again and the new cycle begins. Every time the trees are cut down they produce a number of products ranging from top quality Pembrokeshire charcoal to a variety of beautiful greenwood work items, using everything and making sure nothing goes to waste. He uses two basic tools, his axe, a 1963 British made Elwell for felling and his billhook for taking off the smaller branches, these two simple tools have helped transform the woodland into the sustainable area it is today.
As well as the charcoal and woodcrafts David has helped set up Kitewood Camping on an old golf course which was replanted 15 years ago. Now a thick woodland the 11 plots are generously spaced in clearings within the forest, small tracks sided with long grasses and wild flowers connect the plots alongside small ponds that David has created to make sure that there is an abundance of wildlife. Each plot consists of a cleared area to pitch tents, a firepit and picnic table within the trees, complete with tarpaulin cover to protect you from the inevitable rain. During the summer season David, his wife Sarah and dog Penny live onsite in a retro 70’s caravan in a clearing with a newly planted willow fence and wood working tools in the garden. There are not many truly wild camping sites in the UK and Kitewood has to be among the finest, it really is a magical place.
David’s office is the woods. He is only confined by the forest boundaries. One day he can be felling trees in a dense section, the next he could be firing charcoal in the drum or carving wooden spoons to sell at the local markets. It’s a very rewarding way to earn a living, looking after a beautiful forest and maintaining its upkeep while taking enough to earn a living and live a great life.