Woodland Awards, 2020

At the end of this very odd year I received the award for Best Woodland Blog for CenturyWood.uk (jointly with Clare Mansell’s Little Green Explorers). These awards are run by Woodlands.co.uk, one of the two main “retail” woodland sellers, and you can see the other winners in the winter 2020 edition of Living Woods magazine and on the Woodlands.co.uk website.

The citation reads: “A lovely, reflective and regularly updated blog about running a small woodland, with photos and videos about activities, woodland issues, the ‘log cabin’, projects (e.g. using a scythe mower to clear a glade), woodland travel pieces, beavers and pine martens, and Henry David Thoreau.”

I’ve now received a box of prizes and a certificate. Sometimes these kind of things are token gestures, but in this case they are generous and genuinely useful.

Firewood numbers

There are a lot of numbers associated with firewood and I’ve tried to collect best estimates relevant to small woodlands, here in one place, along with enough context to use them. They’re not a substitute for what you actually see in your own circumstances, but they’re the kind of thing you need if you’re putting together a woodland management plan, prior notification for a drying barn, a business case, or even deciding roughly what you can do.

I’ve organised it in the same order as the firewood processing sequence: how much grows per year, what lengths to cut, when to split, how drying works, how much heat different species produce, loose vs stacked, and bag sizes.

Continue reading “Firewood numbers”

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.

Continue reading “Storm Alex in the log cabin”

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.

Continue reading “Response to the England Tree Strategy Consultation”