Woodland Hutting

I’ve added a page over on the Hutters.uk website about Woodland Hutting – a proposal to extend the rival of hutting that has started in Scotland across the whole of Britain. Until the 1940s we had the freedom to build weekend and holiday huts on our own or rented land. How can we get that back, with appropriate environmental safeguards?

A rocking chair

Last month I invested in a wooden rocking chair for the log cabin. There have been benches there for years but on an evening you want something you can sit back in. In the past I’ve sometimes brought a folding garden chair, especially when staying overnight, but it’s better to have something there all the time.

Henry David Thoreau famously had three chairs in his cabin in the woods: “one for solitude, two for friendship, and three for society”.

Thoreau was also an early proponent of the hutting tradition of bodging and scavenging, and what we now rather grandly call upcycling. In the chapter “Economy” of “Walden”, he explains:

My furniture, part of which I made myself — and the rest cost me nothing of which I have not rendered an account — consisted of a bed, a table, a desk, three chairs, a looking-glass three inches in diameter, a pair of tongs and and irons, a kettle, a skillet, and a frying-pan, a dipper, a wash-bowl, two knives and forks, three plates, one cup, one spoon, a jug for oil, a jug for molasses, and a japanned lamp. None is so poor that he need sit on a pumpkin. That is shiftlessness. There is a plenty of such chairs as I like best in the village garrets to be had for taking them away. Furniture! Thank God, I can sit and I can stand without the aid of a furniture warehouse”.

Thanks to the internet we can advertise the contents of our garrets, lofts and garages on Freecycle if they are free for taking them away, or on eBay where there is a much wider choice. I bought my rocking chair on eBay for £25.

It’s a traditional fiddle-back style but the modern colour still looked a bit Ikea so I stripped the varnish off with paint stripper and applied dark oak wood stain.

The chair has already earned its keep on the long dark autumn evenings and during the rain storms I posted about last time. As so often, Thoreau was there first though:

“Some of my pleasantest hours were during the long rain-storms in the spring or fall, which confined me to the house for the afternoon as well as the forenoon, soothed by their ceaseless roar and pelting; when an early twilight ushered in a long evening in which many thoughts had time to take root and unfold themselves.”

Storm Alex in the log cabin

I’d planned to spend most of the weekend at Century Wood before the warnings about Storm Alex started, and after a close look at the forecasts I went ahead. Despite 18 hours of continuous rain, the overnight stay was comfortable and I got a lot done on Sunday which was dry.

I made this quick video of the rain when I arrived on Saturday afternoon. It was basically like that until about 9am on Sunday. I got some firewood from the log store, fired up the wood stove, and unpacked the car.

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Response to the England Tree Strategy Consultation

I’ve been writing a response to this year’s England Tree Strategy Consultation. This is the essentially the final draft, which I will submit before the deadline on the 11th:  TreeStrategy2020Response.pdf

I focus on three problems with the planning system and the the new firewood regulations:

  • Consistent national guidelines for the minimum size of sheds, barns etc which will be viewed as reasonably necessary for forestry.
  • Processing wood into finished products should be classed within the definition of forestry, when using wood from the same woodland.
  • Woodland-based education should be classed as forestry.
  • The legal requirement to join the Woodsure auditing scheme at the cost of hundreds of pounds a year will wipe out any profit for many small woodland owners.

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Henry David Thoreau


Thoreau died 158 years ago today, on 6th May 1862, at the young age of 44. Tuberculosis finally carried him off 17 years after the spring of 1845 when he built his cabin in the woods by Walden Pond. His works are full of quotable passages, and I picked one suited to the current lockdown:

We should impart our courage, and not our despair, our health and ease, and not our disease, and take care that this does not spread by contagion.

(Walden, Ch 1, “Economy”)

“Into the forest” by Qing Li

This concise but beautifully illustrated book was originally published as “Shinrin-Yoku: the art and science of forest bathing” but now appears as “Into the forest: how trees can help you find health and happiness“. There is plenty of substance behind the pictures: Qing Li is regarded as the world’s leading expert on forest medicine, and was instrumental in providing a scientific basis for the benefits of Japanese shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing”.

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“Thirty years in wilderness wood” by Chris Yarrow

“Thirty years in wildness wood” is the long story of the Yarrow family’s purchase of a 63 acre woodland, how they lived in it, managed it, and made a living from it. The book has strong parallels with “A wood of our own” by Julian Evans: both Evans and Chris Yarrow are trained foresters, buying woodlands privately and then managing them for decades, improving the mix of species with long term objectives in mind. Their stories are set against the same backdrop of English forestry in the last few decades, and both had to deal with the aftermath of the Great Storm of 1987. But Yarrow’s project was more ambitious: to use the woodland as a primary source of income,  and to demonstrate the idea of multipurpose forestry by harvesting wood and timber, producing and selling wood products on site,  and admitting a paying public.

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