Category Archives: Woodland

Main category for all items related to woodland, management, conservation, habitats, planning etc.

Some useful things about firewood

While our British summer is stuttering along with varied weather, I thought a post to help people who buy firewood would be useful, specifically, non-kiln dried firewood logs. So how can you tell good firewood from bad?

Ideal hardwoods that are most readily available and good for both open fires and woodburning stoves are:

Another good hardwood is Sweet Chestnut but it can spit out hot embers. Sweet Chestnut can be burnt safely in a wood burning stove, but you still have to be careful when the stove door is opened. All these hardwoods have a high proportion of woody material per volume, which means they have a high bulk density, so more wood means more fuel to burn.

Common hardwoods that are not so good for firewood logs:

  • Aspen
  • Poplar
  • Sycamore
  • Willow

Freshly felled these hardwoods have a high volume of water and less woody material. When seasoned the bulk density of the log is much lower with these hardwoods and that means less fuel to burn.

Softwood logs:

Several softwoods when seasoned burn well in a stove. However, you will get through more logs compared to good quality hardwoods. Larch being one of the better softwoods.

How to tell if the wood is of good quality:

  • seasoned firewood will have a lower odour
  • have loose bark and/or peeling bark
  • visible cracks & splits, especially on the ends
  • dead fungi
  • have a lighter weight

How to tell if it isn’t seasoned:

  • unseasoned firewood will have a strong possibly sweet odour
  • the bark will be firmly intact
  • the ends will be damp
  • the end grain will be more uniform in colour
  • the log will be much heavier as it is loaded with water
  • if part-seasoned there maybe moulds and active fungi visible

All wood will burn, but firewood logs that are wet will be no good.

The dangers and problems of unseasoned wood:

  • steam containing volatile compounds will be produced and will deposit in your flue lining or chimney
  • a build up of these deposits will increase the risk of a fire in the flue or chimney
  • the logs will be difficult to light
  • You won’t get much heat due to the higher water content, which defeats the purpose of buying the firewood logs in the first place
  • you could damage you’re woodburning stove. Always check what fuel types and quality are approved by the manufacturer for the woodburning stove

Delivery horror stories – why you should always check your load:

  • logs that were claimed to be seasoned but weren’t when they arrived
  • unseasoned logs disguised by a top layer of good quality logs
  • tree surgeon waste logged up and sold immediately
  • apparent seasoned wood delivered in the pouring rain uncovered during transit and dumped on the driveway

When a delivery arrives you often have little time to check the quality of the firewood and you can feel pressurised into accepting it. Any reputable firewood merchant shouldn’t mind you spending a few extra minutes checking a sample before accepting the delivery. If you consider the product to be poor then reject the delivery.

I once heard a story where someone bought hardwood netted logs in bulk and it transpired that the logs were only part-seasoned. The logs had to be dried out on radiators to reduce the moisture before they could be used in a woodburning stove. I’ve even heard of another case where leaves were still growing on some of the logs that were alledgedly seasoned!

In contrast to UK customers, buyers of firewood in France generally make more checks before accepting a delivery. Often firewood is being bought a year in advance and it will still be rejected if the moisture content is too high.

Whilst you might be restricted on how much firewood you can store, leaving your ordering of firewood to the last minute could limit choice and may increase the risk of getting a bad deal. There is a fair amount of effort involved from forest to delivery, so very cheap firewood should ring alarm bells, either its poor quality or may even be stolen.

Storing your wood
Make sure that you have a dry ventilated place to store your firewood; there’s no point in letting moisture return after all the effort to season the wood.

Don’t forget the kindling
Lastly do get hold of a good supply of quality kindling and make sure you don’t use contaminated waste wood as a substitute, as this will create noxious smoke. A small amount of British lumpwood charcoal is also good for starting fires.

Keep warm and enjoy your real fire!

Charcoal, Firewood logs and Kindling for sale.

Wood for?

A few weeks ago I attended a woodfuel seminar, which was a useful update to previous ones I had been to. This is certainly a market that over the years is developing significantly from the traditional log and charcoal products. There is a long way to go to a mature market and there will be bumps along the way before we reach that point. With new Government backed assistance through schemes like the Renewable Heat Incentive, the Forestry Commission launching a Woodfuel Woodland Improvment Grant and existing EU funding to aid the rural sector in development, the market could shake off many of the current constraints and propel itself forward very quickly over the next few years. 

This brings me to the question in the title of this post “Wood for?” One particular thing stood out at the seminar and it was not from the course content but came from another delegate. This person was already using a significant amount of wood for heating on their farm and they had recently taken delivery of an lorry load of hardwood. It transpired that the wood was mainly Oak. However it was not just branchwood corded up but contained main stems cut to cord lengths. As you can imagine a few of us winced when we heard this. There are several other similar situations I have heard about or encountered where quality wood resources are being diverted to energy consumption instead of useable timber products. There is a significant risk that such occurrences will become more and more common place over the next few years. The hope is that this doesn’t happen.

Sweet Chestnut stack of coppice produce

Stack of Sweet Chestnut coppice produce destined for fencing

Stack of Mixed Broadleaf coppice

Stack of Mixed Broadleaf coppice destined for the woodfuel market

May Tree

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Hawthorn blossom is a sure sign that Spring has arrived in England and it usually reaches full bloom during the second week of May, but in Scotland it’s a different matter; here it can often be as late as mid-June. The Scots even have a saying: “Ne’er cast a cloot til Mey’s oot”, roughly translated this means don’t pack your woollies away until the May flowers are in full bloom [Hawthorn blossoms].

In Celtic folklore it is believed that the Hawthorn can heal a broken heart, whilst in Serbian and Croatian folklore, Hawthorn stakes are thought to be deadly to vampires.

On a more practical level, the wood of some species of Hawthorn is extremely hardy and rot resistant. Not recognised as a timber growing tree by the UK Forestry industry but is nevertheless an important species for wildlife. Hawthorns are also recommended for hedges and water conservation landscapes.

Native Albino Bluebell

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It seems to be a blogger’s rite of passage to mention bluebells at the moment. Before they fade from seasonal popularity I thought I’d post a photo of a less common albino bluebell. There were others like this scattered amongst a sea of familiar bluebell colour. These were found in a woodland that coppiced cordwood is being extracted from. Many tonnes of Sweet Chestnut, Ash, Silver Birch, Hornbeam and some Hazel have now been transported to the landing site, ready to be turned into fencing materials or sold on for firewood. Other coupes that were coppiced in previous years are growing rapidly and are buzzing with wildlife. There is now 1.5 hectares of coppice that is protected by temporary deer netting. The hope was to reuse the netting from a few years ago. However, even though the coppice has put on tremendous growth in that particular coupe, there is some natural regen in parts that the owner did not want to risk losing to the deer. There is a large fallow herd in the area that could pass through anytime and destroy all the good work. Whilst on the subject of deer, there was a sad discovery of a recently dead roe buck that was the victim of a road collision. It looked like it was struck at the rear and collapsed a short distance in the woodland from the main road.

Heywood Wood

Fine Douglas stemsDouglas Fir Veteran TreeDouglas Fir Veteran Tree main trunk


A great place to visit is the Forestry Commission’s Heywood Wood, near Eggesford in Devon. There are fine examples of well formed Douglas fir growing throughout; it has a stunning veteran Douglas fir growing in the northern part. A short distance from here you will find the motte and bailey remains of a Norman fort. Whilst walking along one of the rides I managed to take a photo of a Speckled Wood butterfly, which is with the rest of this photo set on Flickr.

Coppice Wood Extraction

What a difference a couple of weeks have made. The woodland is bursting into life with the leaves on the trees flushing, the Bluebells taking over from the finishing Wood Anemones. On the work front good progress was made on extracting the coppice wood to the landing site. The extraction route is a quite a distance from the felled coupe and in parts it is not straightforward to navigate. The Iron horse is coping well with the task, although there is a lot more to do before this job is finished. The majority of the coppice stools have new shoots developing. What is encouraging is that some of the coppice stools that were in a very poor condition before cutting are also sprouting new growth too. Whilst working a pair of buzzards were circling high above in the thermal updrafts. With an environment like this to work in it is difficult to better no matter how hard the work is.

Exe Valley Woodland

Wonham KilnI paid a visit to a 14 acre woodland today in the Exe Valley after receiving an enquiry about nesting boxes for Dormice. This small wood is in its first year of management after not being managed for about 30 years. The owners main objectives are habitat management and providing a sustainable supply of woodfuel for their home and two holiday lets Wonhan Oak. The site is dominated by an old Limestone quarry that closed circa 1910. It is stocked with plently of Ash, Willow, Hazel, Oak and some Beech. Dormice are known to be in the local area and the Hazel in the wood does produce large quantities of nuts each year. There are numerous old hedgerows providing wildlife corridors that link the woodland with other areas. The site is a promising one for installing some Dormouse nesting boxes, especially in conjunction with the coppice restoration work.

Deer netting goes up

Temporary deer nettingThe first few days of April were dedicated to erecting 270 metres of temporary deer netting with Sweet Chestnut posts. In this particular woodland Fallow deer are frequently seen and the occassional Roe deer, so it is vital that protection is in place before the coppice stools start to regenerate with new shoots. There was plently of insect and bird activity, some common butterflies seen while working were Orange-tips, Yellow Brimstones and possibly a Small Copper but couldn’t be certain on the id. Wood Anemones are growing in abundance, along with small groups of Primroses and Purple Violets growing on the ride margins. The Bluebells are developing well in preparation for their vibrant bloom in the near future.