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British Hardwoods and Woodfuel

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Re: British Hardwoods and Woodfuel

Postby oldclaypaws » Tue Nov 25, 2014 10:39 am

A plantation of oak to harvest can become a protected wood and no profit.


When the FC visited my wood, I found myself in the curious position of arguing for minimum or gradual intervention, while the FC officer said they'd be quite happy for me to clear fell the lot, as many would. I think they recognise the difference between a mixed more 'natural' forest and a definite single species plantation of mature trees of uniform age, which isn't the best for biodiversity or future environmental challenges. I'm very precious about my wood and part of me shudders at the thought of any of my trees coming down, but the fact is they were planted as a 'crop' and are now 'ripe'. Unlike hedgerow oaks which are low and squat, mine are tall and straight. Once you start thinning, they might all be prone to the wind, leaving a portion might not work. I fell in love with what I thought was the Amazon, then found it was quite man-made and a crop. Tricky to look 50 years ahead and ask whats best. Do I harvest & replant Oak as it does so well on the site, or try to turn it into something of low potential commercial value, but maximum wildlife benefit. If the future is firewood rather than timber, maybe its doing everyone a favour to put in a good diverse mixture which will support a mix of wildlife but also coppice well for fuel. Its hard to look 5 years ahead, never mind 50 or 100. The guys who planted the Chilterns with Beech did so thinking it would all go to High Wycombe's furniture factories, they've now closed and so what to do with the towering beech trees? Burn them apparently. Smojo is planting Sweet Chestnut in Yorkshire. Maybe we should chuck in a few Olives in ours to prepare for the worst climate change scenarios? My Olive tree, Bamboo and Tea bushes seem fairly happy in the garden (quite true), although the python will keep chasing next doors cat.
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Re: British Hardwoods and Woodfuel

Postby smojo » Tue Nov 25, 2014 7:20 pm

I'm very precious about my wood and part of me shudders at the thought of any of my trees coming down, but the fact is they were planted as a 'crop' and are now 'ripe'. Unlike hedgerow oaks which are low and squat, mine are tall and straight. Once you start thinning, they might all be prone to the wind, leaving a portion might not work. I fell in love with what I thought was the Amazon, then found it was quite man-made and a crop


I'm no expert but am learning quick. I know you are very knowledgeable but sometimes we need someone to offer a different point of view to our own so here goes.

It's still the wood you thought you'd bought and fell in love with, it's just your perspective has changed and sometimes we need to take a step back to basics and the reasons we did something to start with. Maybe you've been too pre-occupied with making a business and profit from those oaks and forgotten some of that. Your oaks aren't going to go "off" in the next few years, or in fact in your lifetime. There's no sell by date stamped on them. I'm sure also that taking a few out to thin them won't create too much of a windblow risk if done sensitively.


I'm guessing your planted wood is also a PAWS site (no pun intended). In which case you could take a leaf (no pun again) out of the Woodland Trust's approach to ancient semi natural woodland restoration and work gradually toward re-introducing some mixed native species and your dream Amazon, rather than virtually clear-felling an area and replanting a wood that is now a field. The total amount of ancient woodland in the uk is about only 1 or 2 % and half of that is in small acreages typical of what we own, hence their interest in helping and encouraging us to work toward restoration. The message they give is do things gradually. Making sudden drastic changes can affect the delicate balance of so many things in a woodland. Felling lots of trees will raise the water table, introduce more light - and too much light might harm delicate mosses and lichens etc and encourage invasive species like the dreaded bramble and bracken and so on and upset the whole ecology of your wood. Trees grow slowly anyway so it has to be gradual in that sense. As the guy from WT said "it's easy to take things down but impossible to put them back up".

They suggest a three point priority plan.

1) secure - protect aspects of ancient woodland that are at risk of being lost for whatever reason. It might just be a very old piece of fallen tree or deadwood that is a host to lots of small life so don't remove or burn it and too much light might dry it out and kill of much that is living in it. Or it might be a rare orchid growing along the ride edge just where you thought you might stack your felled oak. Or you may have invasive rhodos stifling any ground cover which need removing

2) maintain - continue to look after those ancient remnants you have identified with sensitive management

3) enhance - replace non natives like larch with mixed natives, continue sensitive thinning to encourage regrowth of understorey and ground cover etc

In case you think I'm some sort of Woodland Trust canvasser I'm not. I just believe their advise is sound and what's needed to save our threatened landscape and although I don't go 100% with what they advocate, it's a very good philosophy to base your management plans on. They publish two very informative booklets worth a read if you can get hold of them - Ancient Woodlands, A guide for woodland owners and managers and The conservation and restoration of plantations on ancient woodland sites

Paws - I know you quite well now and have your interest at heart. You have given me some very good advice this year, so hopefully this might help you do the right thing. You can probably pick some holes in what I've said but I'm quoting your own words. I would suggest you take a breather from your oak felling, money-making plans and think about your woodland's future and your own sense of satisfaction. Remember the Buddhist philosophy of "The Middle Way". Take things slowly when deciding how much to fell. Try a small area first and see how that responds to what changes you make. Your large mature oaks still have a lot of life in front of them and if left to stand will gain character as well as girth so don't be in a hurry to ditch them. Amen. ;)
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Re: British Hardwoods and Woodfuel

Postby oldclaypaws » Tue Nov 25, 2014 10:07 pm

Have some faith Smojo. Yes, I've talked on and off the forum to you about milling, tractors and the economics of planking oak, but that doesn't mean I've sold my soul to Satan and am about to send the loggers into the Garden of Eden. I've just counted the apples on the tree of knowledge and realised it needs pruning and there's enough spare to make some chutney.

What has happened in the last couple of years is I've talked to lots of people who know a great deal more than me, read a lot and taken all their best advice on board, so I have a far more balanced and informed view. I've learnt what I have isn't a wonderful rare natural forest which should be preserved at all cost, its a wonderful ancient woodland site where somebody had the idea 130 years ago of sticking a dense single species plantation, which although impressive isn't the healthiest sustainable thing to do with a wood. It'll benefit greatly from thinning, retaining the best of whats there, letting in some light and then supplementing with a new generation of more mixed wildlife-friendly native trees. On a site the size of mine its suggested for a healthy mixed ecology there should ideally be around 50 big trees, not the current 150- they are competing for resources and its too dark underneath for the next generation or other species to grow. In the process of thinning, I can find a good home for some of this wonderful natural resource, make some useful stuff myself and feel busy, healthy and fulfilled while leaving the wood a better place too. I will do it slowly and carefully and can see it taking me 30 years, so I'd better crack on. I need the right kit to shift and process the giants I've got, it can't be done with a Bahco folding saw and a wheelbarrow. I've never been motivated by money, just quality of life and trying to tread a worthwhile path. I seem to recall I packed in a lucrative rat-race career in my 20's to become a craftsman, eco campaigner and part time zen monk- I've never lapsed back to office or materially motivated life !

For interest ('cuse length of post but you got me going) I attach the excellent report and advice from one of the various six consultants who've been to the wood- I think he got it spot on and its what I'm acting on, they all near enough agreed but he put it most eloquently;

Thank you for inviting me to offer advise on your woodland on Monday. I hope it proved useful,
The main points that presented themselves to me were:

1/ Although the woodland is primarily ASNW planted Oak, there is variability within in it in terms of light levels having an effect on regeneration and secondary canopy species. Currently the woodland is primarily of even age. This is to be expected of a woodland this size. However as custodian I would suggest you give some thought to what the woodland will be like in 20yrs+. Is there the next generation of tree stock coming through considering the current tree stock is over 100yrs. Due to the fact the canopy species is oak this is not a big problem as the oak will continue for many decades to come but there is an opportunity to contribute to the age class distribution and species distribution.

2/ The woodland is certainly overstocked in areas as illustrated by the areas of poor shrub and ground cover. The woodland can take a sustainable arboricultural thinning and retain its wind firmness.

3/ Due to the age and condition of the trees It indicates that the trees are providing habitat for Bats. These are European protected species and is a consideration when carrying out thinning works.

4/ Where light is reaching the ground layer natural regeneration of Ash is prolific and these areas should be focussed on for providing the future tree stock. Unfortunately at this stage Chalara infection could limit this resource greatly. If you decide to thin the oak and take out specimens I would recommend enrichment planting of noble hardwoods such as Wild cherry, sessile oak, small leaved lime, sweet chestnut and possibly beech if squirrels are not a great problem. Although squirrel damage was evident on the sycamore.

Further species for panting to diversify the species mix would be Rowan, Wild service, Guelder rose, Crab apple, wild pear and bird cherry.

5/ In areas the hazel was well stocked and showed reasonable form. These areas can be a focus for stool regeneration in conjunction with oak felling to allow more light in.

My recommendations for the next steps are to:

1/ Produce a plan of the woodland and compartment notes should be created setting out what the attributes and negative points are for different areas. e.g., where has good regen, where is out shaded, where has particularly old veteran trees for biodiversity retention, Are there any wet flushes, what are the areas of good hazel stocking, where are the ancient woodland indicator species. Identify areas for enrichment planting, Is there deer/squirrel damage, and on what species. Do a deer dropping quadrat count to estimate the deer numbers. You can even count the oaks and measure stem girth and timber height (stem height to where the stem becomes unclear) to work out standing volume. I attach a forestry commission pdf on the thinking behind thinning,

2/ The above information will give you a picture of your woodland and start to give ideas on what you can do with it. To this you can bring your preferences, What do you want to do. Your ideas for using the woodland to provide the raw material for artisan craft seems appropriate. Cost benefit this to see what kit you need, do you know someone who has a winch tractor or front loader. I cannot claim to have a detailed knowledge of the planning criteria for the workshop/shed you mentioned but I see no reason why it cant integrate in to the woodland well.

Please contact me if you need anything else. Below is a link to stinging nettle beer.

http://www.ediblewildfood.com/stinging-nettle-beer.aspx


BTW, Re. 'Pun'. Its true I'm referred to as 'Paws, have a Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site and am currently contemplating a new direction with it, so its fair to say my wood is a 'Paused 'Paws PAWS'. :lol:
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Re: British Hardwoods and Woodfuel

Postby smojo » Wed Nov 26, 2014 9:23 am

it can't be done with a Bahco folding saw and a wheelbarrow.


I bet Dexters shed would have a go though as long as they are Chinese made :D

Nice to hear your balanced outlook Paws. I knew you would have thought it through well. It all makes good reading for the rest of us though. The report you had done was very interesting too. Once you start delving into woodland management you realise how complex and delicate an issue it can be. My biggest regret is that I didn't buy one 30 years ago. My age now means I can only scratch the surface with how I would like to see my wood develop but I am going to thoroughly enjoy the process of improving it. Thoughts of what the future holds for us as a race and our woodlands and wildlife fill me with fear and despondency but all we can do is what we feel is right at this moment. We have to live in the present and embrace what we have now and try not to worry about the future. But that also means trying to make the right decisions now so we get it right for those who will inherit what we've done and that's quite a responsibility isn't it.
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Re: British Hardwoods and Woodfuel

Postby Dexter's Shed » Wed Nov 26, 2014 10:22 am

smojo wrote:
We have to live in the present and embrace what we have now and try not to worry about the future


this is probably why I don't really fit in here, I don't look beyond my years and what the wood will be like, I cant expect anyone to have the same feeling as me when I turn onto our private track, it's a changing world and I think that our generation was the last of the good ones, I hope to last another 20-30yrs, and that time will be spent having as much fun as I can in the woods, shooting,mower riding, and pretending to be a woodland worker, but anything I do is just a very small tip of the iceberg, these woods have been here since the 1600's, and may or may not be here after I'm gone, but I'm sure as eggs are eggs, that when this does get handed down, it'll go straight up "For Sale" kids of today didn't read any Enid blyton books, didn't stay out over the parks till the street lights came on, they may enjoy the camping occasions at the woods, but at the end of the day, I bet they will look at the value and just see ££££'s in their eye's
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Re: British Hardwoods and Woodfuel

Postby oldclaypaws » Wed Nov 26, 2014 11:29 am

Unfortunately, we don't have kids or any interested young relatives to pass the wood onto. Its also not so easy to find a body which will take it on in the future with the same degree of appreciation and awareness we have. The woodland trust are interested in big woods and new plantings, they declined when I said I'd like to leave it to them in my will. they said they'd just sell it. (after all, why would a Woodland body want the distraction of looking after a lovely little ancient wood?- they seem preoccupied trying to sell me Christmas cards and leaf design jewellery :? ). My Godson is a delightful, intelligent and 100% sound young man who is a credit to his parents, his 18th birthday request was that we planted a tree in the wood for him. I'd happily have left him the wood as the next custodian, but his practical skills stop at being able to sharpen a pencil, infact I think he'd reach for his ipad instaed of a pencil- he's just not hands-on.

I'm trying to have a balanced and optimistic view about the longer term. I'll enjoy it as much as I can, which in my case involves practical work, contemplation and observation rather than treating it as a cross between the Shanghai branch of B & Q, Butlins and Brands Hatch (a completely random reference, nobody at all in mind) :lol:. I'll thin and plant new trees, then perhaps have the guilt and lost sleep of taking on the squirrels when they eat my new Wild Service Trees. The wood will survive, who knows how it'll change, but I'm almost certainly the first owner to go there every day and feel such attachment to it, most of the previous owners probably just saw it as a name on a list of holdings and never even visited. (if they did, I could put up a blue plaque saying "Henry VIII might of had a slash here?")

Maybe in 30 years I'll interview prospective candidates and offer a free raffle on SWOG to find a successor? At this point an avalanche of spam in the form of PM's saying "me, me, me !" All applicants should consider I have every intention of living as long as my Oaks and have left instructions to the executors that I intend to undergo Sokushinbutsu and after my demise I'm to be erected mummified in the centre of the wood to keep an eye on future progress, that is if the Jays don't have my eyes on day 1, in which case I hope they enjoy them. NB, The left one is better, Mr Jay.
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Re: British Hardwoods and Woodfuel

Postby Dave and Verity » Wed Nov 26, 2014 7:07 pm

Surely there must be a charity somewhere that could use a piece of woodland for a quiet contemplative area. A youth group that needs somewhere to take younguns to get a taste of the outdoors/run off steam. Perhaps a reserve for red squizzers? Must be someone/somewhere.

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Re: British Hardwoods and Woodfuel

Postby oldclaypaws » Wed Nov 26, 2014 7:43 pm

No chance of a red squirrel sanctuary when we have greys, they carry parapoxvirus and the nearby woods (over 80 acres) are also full of greys. Not safe for kiddies there when you have large old oaks that regularly drop large dead boughs from a height (unless you felled all the big trees).

Might be able to persuade Somerset Wildlife trust, but they are picky. Always the possibility of trying to set up some sort of trust while alive, or just crossing fingers and hoping the right connection will appear at some point in the future, its hard to try and influence what happens after you've gone.

One of the frustrations with having been a fundraiser for the local RSPCA centre was seeing how the companion animal (cat and dog) bit was always short staffed and hard up, but the wildlife centre got through £900,000 a year to patch up various sparrows, pigeons and grey squirrels at £700 a time on average with a mortality rate of 70% at the centre. I always thought if they bought 100 acres a year and used it to establish wildlife reserves it would be a better use of the money, but old grannies like to see pictures of bunnies with bandages on, unaware of how short life is for wild animals and how difficult it is to cure their injuries.

I've friends who don't know what to do with their large ancient wood. Maybe I should start a new charity a bit like the National Trust, but for landowners with sensitive wildlife sites who want them protected and sensitively managed in perpetuity after they've departed. Nice thought, I like the idea of putting aside permanent areas of land as wildlife sanctuaries & reserves where humans can't muck it up. Small parcels are as useful as big ones.
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Re: British Hardwoods and Woodfuel

Postby smojo » Wed Nov 26, 2014 8:24 pm

kids of today didn't read any Enid blyton books, didn't stay out over the parks till the street lights came on,


Or build a bonfire and use it as a den until it was time to light it, then poke sticks in it next day when the embers were still hot and try toasting some stale bread on it. Or drink water out of the moorland beck when we were thirsty - no bottled water then! Or make "bogeys" out of old pram wheels and splintery planks of wood. Or make your own bow and arrow out of sticks and string and try to shoot starlings with it. Or play hide and seek in their local woods and moorlands. Or whittle a stick with a penknife. I wonder why we love our woods so much and they have no interest :roll:
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Re: British Hardwoods and Woodfuel

Postby boxerman » Wed Nov 26, 2014 10:02 pm

I'm following this thread with fascination - it's raised many questions in my mind that I had never considered. I guess because my love of woodland began with so may childhood memories of camping, doing basic forestry work and playing in a private 30 acre Ancient wood whilst in the Cubs, Scouts and Venture Scouts I never considered the need to replace plantation trees and visualised having to fell and replace an absolute minimum. This place is teaching me so much prior to my achieving the dream.

Paws - it's sad that you'd have no-one interested to pass it to but there's little sense in getting paranoid about it - who knows what will turn up in the future but for now I guess all you can do is try to protect it as best you can. Did someone here not register their wood as a Nature Reserve? No idea how much protection that might give but it might be worth looking at. I have two daughters and I suspect the eldest would see nothing more than the £££ but I think the youngest would have an interest.

Dexter & Smojo are right - todays kids have never been allowed to play outside let alone go down the garden and eat worms. When I think what we got up to as kids it makes me shudder but we survived and it taught us to cope with things. One Sunday every month during the winter we'd go to the woods we had access to and do general forestry work for the owner (I doubt we actually achieved much) and we loved every minute of it. Christ, we'd travel on the bus clutching our hand axes and with sheath knives strapped to our belts - you'd be surrounded by armed Police for that these days...... I think the biggest use for the sheath knives was playing chicken... no-one ever got hurt and I doubt they were ever sharp enough to go through a walking boot if we missed.. Todays kids just haven't been brought up in the real world.
Phil

https://twitter.com/boxermanphil for my Badger videos
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