Holt Wood, our medicinal wood
Holt Wood is not just a woodland providing fuel, fruit, nuts and other supplies, it is a medicinal woodland. It is an agroforestry site offering a sustainable source of herbal and other non-timber forest products. It is a permaculture project in which design and practice draw on ethical and sustainable principles in the cultivation of medicinal trees and shrubs. It is a medicinal forest garden where layers of ground-hugging plants, small herbs, shrubs and climbers, trees and more all co-exist to provide a delightful environment for us and many other creatures.
How we started Holt Wood Herbs
Based in Devon, Holt Wood Herbs is a project aimed at producing homegrown and sustainable supplies of medicinal trees and shrubs. We purchased the site in 2004 when it was stocked with Sitka Spruce aged 35 to 40 years. See pictures of the original wood in our Holt Wood Archive. It is a site of about 2½ acres sloping down towards the River Torridge in North Devon. The site provides different types of environment enabling harvest of a variety of wild and cultivated plants. The lower part of the site would once have been part of a Culm grassland area, managed with grazing stock. The Sitka Spruce were cleared in 2005 for chipboard and planking by a local contractor and we designed a new planting scheme. This included a backbone of Ash and Oak for long term timber supply, and Hazel for fuel crops (with Alder and Willow in moister parts). These trees were planted in blocks interspersed with medicinal trees like Buckthorn, Cramp Bark, Hawthorn, Limeflower, Willow and more. Some further trees and shrubs have since been introduced such as Ginkgo, Oregon Graperoot, Prickly Ash Bark and Witch Hazel.
Using permaculture design principles, the layout included many edges to provide spaces for smaller shrubs and herbaceous plants. These edges follow largely straight lines because of the furrows remaining from the previous plantation of conifers. Some wide rides provide for access and encourage wildlife such as butterflies. The ongoing management of the trees and shrubs is based around coppicing sections each year to provide bark for medicinal use and other benefits such as supplies for basketry and charcoal. We also have some ongoing crops from a variety fruit and nut trees. Over the coming years we will continue to explore coppicing and pollarding approaches alongside various methods of harvesting and drying. Our aim is to learn and spread the word to encourage more sustainable UK production of medicinal trees and shrubs.
You can see updates on activities at Holt Wood through our blog. Below we detail the original aims and planting plans with suggestions about how you can get involved.
Holt Wood supports a range of products, from body care items to one day courses. We make body care items with ingredients from Holt Wood including a delightful deodorant, gentle oils for hair and skin care, and delicately defoliating soaps. Other woodland products include capsules of powdered medicinal barks and charcoal for artistic use. Our art cards include a variety of flowers and medicinal trees. And we offer some courses to help others to develop their own medicinal forest garden. Every product sold by Holt Wood Herbs helps to fund the Medicinal Forest Garden Trust.
At Holt Wood we aim to demonstrate how a conifer plantation can be replanted as a medicinal wood offering a viable and sustainable source of medicinal and other plant supplies, and to develop a range of expertise which can support others in establishing medicinal trees and shrubs. At least 20 species of medicinal interest are being harvested. We plan to have a beautiful place to visit and work in, as well as examples of self-sufficiency in medicinal and other products from trees and shrubs.
Holt Wood is now a part of the Learning And Network Demonstration (LAND) network which is a vibrant network of permaculture sites including suburban gardens, smallholdings, rural farms, city farms, forest gardens, and amazing allotments showing permaculture in practice to visitors and volunteers in a safe, accessible and inspiring way
Our original aim was the establishment of a medicinal wood providing supplies of medicinal trees and shrubs on a sustainable basis. In 2005 we set out to establish:
(i) demonstration of use of ex-conifer plantation providing both ongoing medicinal products and longterm timber and fuel
(ii) a range of native and introduced species suitable for cultivation for medicinal products
(iii) sources and propagation methods to provide specialist woodland plants for medicinal purposes
(iv) suitable genetic variations/ cultivars of interest and appropriate authentication techniques and medicinal constituent analysis
(v) organic quality protocols feasible in the context of managed woodland linked with Forestry Stewardship methods
(vi) sustainable methods of cultivation including appropriate coppicing methods for barks and twig production
(vii) potential yields with harvesting and processing techniques suitable for adding value to small scale medicinal tree and shrub crops
(viii) any necessary controls on potentially invasive species
(ix) beneficial aspects of habitat for biodiversity including encouragement of native flora and fauna
(x) marketing and networking mechanisms for small scale producers
Our original planting list
Our original medicinal tree and shrub list of 20 species was:
Alnus glutinosa Bark
Chionanthus virginicus Root bark
Cimicifuga racemosa Root
Crataegus monogyna Leaf/ fruit
Eleutherococcus senticosus Roots
Ginkgo biloba Leaf
Hamamelis virginiana Leaf and twig
Juglans cinerea Bark
Juniperus communis Berries
Mahonia aquifolium Root bark
Prunus serotina Bark
Rhamnus spp Bark
Rubus fruticosus Leaf
Salix spp Bark
Sambucus nigra Flowers/ fruit
Thuja occidentalis Leaf
Tilia cordata Flowers
Viburnum opulus Bark
Vitex agnus castus Leaf
Zanthoxylum americanum Bark
We have been grateful for support and advice from South West Forest, Forestry Commission and for the input of our volunteer helpers. We have also benefitted from a variety of individuals and organisations for advisory support, including the Royal Horticultural Society (especially Rosemoor Gardens), Plants For a Future, Small Woods Association, Plantlife and the Agroforestry Trust.
You can get involved with our project
See our EVENTS page for details of open afternoons, wood working days, and courses.
Come to a WOOD OPEN AFTERNOON
C. from East Devon visited and wrote ‘It is a lovely place and I came away feeling inspired’. Come and find out more about how Holt Wood works to produce medicinal tree and shrub supplies. This open afternoon includes a walkabout to see what is growing and how the Wood is progressing. You will see some of the woodland products that can be made for herbal health. Boots advised as ground is uneven. Our OPEN AFTERNOON are usually 2-4 pm on a Saturday once or twice a year. Get in touch if you would like to book a place and we can confirm details and send travel directions.
Join in with a WOOD WORKING DAY
A chance to join us for a day and get to know Holt Wood through being involved in maintaining the Wood. Morning and afternoon activities include clearing, weeding, harvesting and various projects. Boots and gardening gloves advised. If you prefer to be less active then you can make the tea! We bring refreshments for lunch. Our WOOD WORKING DAYS are on Saturdays every other month, usually 10.30 am-4 pm. Get in touch if you would like to book a place and we can confirm details and send travel directions.
Follow our BLOG
See our blog with updates about Holt Wood, news about medicinal trees and projects.
You can also buy HERBAL BODY AND SKIN CARE with ingredients from Holt Wood
Herbal cosmetics for body and skin care are available through our shop including Devon-distilled Witch Hazel from Holt Wood. Every product purchase increases funding for the Medicinal Forest garden Trust.
Join a RESEARCH DISCUSSION GROUP
If you are active, or interested, in research which could help to support developments in sustainable plant medicine then consider joining the email discussion list Sustainable-Plant-Med. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.