The Forestry Commission estimates that a farmhouse and its outbuildings would require 35 acres of woodland if heating was to be provided by wood on an indefinite basis. I think it unlikely that the 200,000 wood burning stoves sold last year were all bought by landed gentry. This begs the question, where are the mainly middle class families looking to burnish their eco credentials getting their wood from? Are they all taking care to ensure that the wood they buy is coming from sustainable responsibly managed woodland sources? Even if they are looking into this would they recognise a well-managed and sustainable forest if they saw one?
We are not suggesting that the fire wood suppliers are a bunch of cowboys. Of course there are some but in the main our experience is that local firewood suppliers love the countryside and act responsibly. Firewood provision is a labour and time intensive business, especially as the wood sold should be well seasoned so it burns efficiently. This means there should be a maximum moisture content in the wood of 30% with 20% being preferable.
Generating firewood, when done responsibly is a natural and essential part of the woodland management process. Ancient woodland of the sort we look after needs to be coppiced in order to keep it in good health.
Coppicing is an English term for a traditional method of woodland management which takes advantage of the fact that many trees make new growth from the stump or roots if cut down. Done correctly it is a skilled process that requires proper training, but sadly the skills required are not being passed on as one generation retires and a younger generation takes over.
This is something that KWES is taking steps to rectify with its apprenticeship programme but much more needs to be done if irreparable damage to our forests is to be avoided. There is a danger that the growth in demand for firewood will lead to the destruction of some ancient woodland by well meaning but poorly trained landowners and wood suppliers.« Previous Post Next Post »