When I’m not sweeping chimneys, washing up or entertaining the kids then my spare time is spent building benches from materials sourced from managing local woodlands. But why do we need to manage woodlands I hear you say?
There is a common misconception that British woodlands are wild and can look after themselves and that it helps wildlife to adopt a non-intervention policy. The Sylva Foundation state there are no wild woodlands in Britain as every woodland has been influenced and exploited by people. Since the last glaciation people have cleared woodland to grow food, and harvest wood for building and heat, thus taming the wild woods of old to ones reliant on management. Our woodlands have been tamed and wildlife associated with them adapted to these managed conditions, to the point where they have become largely dependent on man-made change and especially so for letting light in and onto the woodland floor. If centuries of woodland management activities change then we must expect the wildlife dependant on these practices to also change.
There is strong evidence from studies of plants, insects and birds that some woodland wildlife species are in crisis. Woodland plant species’ richness has declined by 19%, woodland butterfly populations by 74%, and birds by 32%(1). When you also take into account new diseases and pests that are attacking our trees then only through sustainable woodland management activities can our woodland be saved for future generations. Key aspects of sustainable management include allowing light in to aid germination for saplings and flora and fauna. Establishing a mixed tree stock that differs in species, size and age will create a diverse habitat for wildlife. Opening rides, creating glades, thinning out trees, leaving dead wood whilst sensitively managing veteran trees are all important management techniques that help keep woodlands and the associated wildlife diverse with healthy ecosystems and biodiversity. References and for further reading please go to:
sylva.org.uk and (1) Wildlife & Countryside LINK statement: http://www.wcl.org.uk/docs/2009/Link_position_statement_Woodfuel_Strategy_03Jul09.pdf
When trees are felled then the timber is either left as dead wood habitat for the woodland owner, or is milled into planks, posts or beams. Some of the timber we take as payment and is used to construct garden or household furniture.
In December 2018 Bedfordshire Woods application for European Funding under the LEADER programme was approved and helped to procure a new mobile bandsaw mill to increase efficiency and a wider selection of lumber. The funding also helped the business purchase new secondary processing machinery that included a table saw, thicknesser/planer, bandsaw and dust extraction equipment. The new machinery will increase the range of lumber based products that can be produced and increase outputs. A massive thanks goes to the staff at Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity for all the help and support I received during the application process.