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.

If you’ve read my pieces “The long tail of forestry” and  “Regulating wet firewood” you will be familiar with the background to these proposals. We shall see if the message is picked up in the consultation.

Wood Tractor: lawn tractor

I’ve bought this second hand lawn tractor to convert into a sort of “wood tractor” to use at Century Wood.  At the weekend, I took the tractor to the wood to try it out in its stock configuration, before making any mods to it, and made the YouTube video at the end of this post.

The tractor was built in 2004 at the Electrolux factory in South Carolina. At the time they had the contract to make tractors under Sears’ “Craftsman” brand, and the same place now makes Husqvarna lawn tractors.

The first thing is that it doesn’t have the removable mower deck on the bottom which did the actual mowing. It had rusted away and that helped push the price of the tractor down on eBay.

It has these wide shallow-treaded “turf saver” tyres which don’t chew up your nice lawn while you’re mowing. I’m thinking about replacing them with ag tyres that have a much deeper chevron pattern and work in the mud. You can see in the video at the end of this post how the current tyres do.

Between them is this hitch, which is a just a horizontal plate attached to the chassis with a hole in it. It’s there for pulling carts around gardens. But they’re not very strong as you can imagine and I’m planning to put a much more substantial hitch on there, since the main job of the tractor will be pulling trolley loads of wood around.

There are two bulbs on the front, powered by a dedicated 5A winding in the alternator. I plan to replace them with LEDs packaged as bulbs which draw a lot less current, and that will allow me to power 12V accessories.

I took the tractor to the wood and back with the same Maypole 1.5m trailer I used for the scythe mower in my last post.

Here is the video. It has more details about the mods I’m planning, and good look underneath using a jack. Then there’s a drive around the woodland rides. My next video about the “wood tractor” will show the first set of upgrades.


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”.

Continue reading ““Into the forest” by Qing Li”

“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.

Continue reading ““Thirty years in wilderness wood” by Chris Yarrow”

Regulating wet firewood

Woodfuel has been in the news the last few days following the government’s announcement about restrictions on selling firewood to domestic users in England. What they’re trying to do is worthwhile, but the proposals raise some issues for owners of small woodlands. I believe there need to be exemptions for people selling less than about 50 cubic metres of firewood per year. Otherwise the regulations will inhibit small woodlands’ role in fighting climate change and attempts to bring half of England’s native woodlands back into management.

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“The hidden life of trees” by Peter Wohlleben

Wohlleben’s book was originally published in German in 2015 and then translated and published in English in 2016. The book attracted a lot of mainstream interest due to Wohlleben’s “wood wide web” description of trees communicating with each other and sharing nutrients. I was aware of this at the time and I must admit the way he presented it all put me off. But I’ve now read the book and that’s only a small part of the wide range of topics he covers.

Peter Wohlleben began his career as a forester for the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany but became disillusioned with the “big forestry” style of management and began managing a beechwood for the local council of Hummel. He published several successful books about forests, nature, and threats to the environment, before “The hidden life of trees”.

Continue reading ““The hidden life of trees” by Peter Wohlleben”