Spring 2022 will see an exciting new phase for the Norbury Park Estate. Rejuvenated sawmill facilities will once again be operational, offering carpentry and woodland management skills, complementing the existing charcoal burning operation and providing a refreshment spot for visitors under the trees.
Nestled in the woodlands high up within the Norbury Park Estate, the sawmill site will become a low impact ‘Woodland Hub’ delivering a service fundamental to the management of Norbury Park’s plethora of woodlands, that supports nature recovery and increased biodiversity. Wood based training and skills development in carpentry will be engaged to produce hand finished wood products and used to teach a range of groups and provide opportunities for apprenticeship schemes. The surrounding woodlands will not only provide a perfect training ground for learning coppicing and traditional woodland management skills but will also provide timber for doing so.
Marisa Heath, Surrey County Council Cabinet Member for the Environment comments: “Surrey County Council is delighted to see this site put to such good use and to continue supporting rural wood skills. The Woodland Hub provides a wonderful space for people to connect with nature and understand more about woodland management. Well managed woodlands provide so many environmental benefits in terms of air quality and biodiversity but also support health and wellbeing, education and the economy”.
Carolyn McKenzie Director for Environment highlights that this is “a fantastic opportunity to link environmental, social and economic agendas together through this unique partnership of Council services within Surrey’s countryside to deliver multiple benefits. We look forward to working with partner organisations and stakeholders to maximising these.”
Norbury Park has been owned by Surrey County Council (SCC) since the early 1930s and is a much-valued resource for nature, woodland, farming and recreation. The 1,340-acre park is part of a European Special Area of Conservation (SAC) within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and comprises mixed woodland and farmland with pockets of chalk downland and water meadow. Paths, trails and tracks provide opportunities for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, with the estate being well used by the local community.
Working with partners, including those representing the AONB, and the community, SCC hope to improve the natural environment across Norbury Park and enhance the role it plays in balancing access to nature and management of this highly valued site for conservation.
Denise Turner-Stewart, Surrey County Council Cabinet Member for Education and Learning comments: “The Woodland Hub provides a fantastic new learning space for a wide variety of user groups. It especially provides much needed opportunities for young people to not only develop valuable new skills for the workplace but also to build confidence and independence. The power of engaging with the natural environment cannot be overlooked, not only does it invoke a sense of calm and aids wellbeing, but it also helps young people to foster an appreciation and understanding of their local environment into the future.”
Keir Schiltz, Surrey County Council Youth Offer Development Lead continues: “The hub will provide an ideal extension to our two carpentry workshops in Woking and Epsom where our youth development schemes empower young people to experience how to produce wood based goods make life changes, build self-esteem and resilience. Developing rural skills helps young people to foster an appreciation for green spaces as well as to develop skills to work in land-based industries like agriculture, horticulture and countryside management.”
Over the coming months (March – April) work will be undertaken to bring the existing workshop back to operational use and compliant for a range of user needs within the community.
The Norbury Park Vision was open to public engagement for a period of 6 weeks during October and November 2021, over 500 responses and representations were received. Comments received regarding the sawmill site included the desire to see the site operational again as a community asset, the need to restrict traffic movement within the site and to protect the SAC conservation status of the surrounding environment, to ensure the site is used for learning and productivity rather than accommodation for visitors and maximising its educational value as well as its role as a central point for visitors to learn about the environment in the centre of Norbury Park. A final version of the Norbury Park Vision will be available in April 2022.