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.
Stack of Sweet Chestnut coppice produce destined for fencing
Stack of Mixed Broadleaf coppice destined for the woodfuel market
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.
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.
After finishing the coppicing the next job is to extract the cord wood and erect the deer fencing. There are lots of deer in the area and it is important that they do not damage the coppice regrowth. This might look drastic at the moment but by mid-summer this area will be reinvigorated with fresh new growth.