Old Castle Wood
Our woodland is mostly oak with beech at the eastern edge and alder to the west. Our woodland is privately owned by a group of ten and we gather for work days. Beech trees create a dense litter of beech nut husks which are very effective at suppressing any under-storey. One of our tasks is to prevent the beech becoming so dense it covers paths or encroaches into the oak wood (as it will end up dominating it). We achieve this by pulling up beech saplings using a hand winch. This is surprisingly hard work. The large tree to the right of Angus is being used as an anchor and the winch extends to the left and is attached to small beech trees. As the winch is tightened it pulls the beech out by the roots. Work days always involve heading to our shed or campfire for a cup of tea.
It may seem counter – intuitive but one of the best ways of improving a native woodland is to fell some trees. Our woodland, which we manage as part of a group, is a beautiful mixed native woodland of 50 acres. It has a great number of veteran oak trees, planted over a hundred years ago, which were initially coppiced for tannin used by the leather industry. Our woodland, called Old Castle Wood was largely neglected since WW1 (after the dramatic demise of men working on the land) combined with a move to chemical processing in the leather industry. These veteran oak trees are now very over-crowded.
Selective felling brings light and into the woodland, helping the remaining trees to thrive. Selective felling as part of a sustainable forestry management plan bring life into a woodland; it results in greater bio-diversity of plants, fungi, insects, birds, bats and other creatures.
Perhaps surprisingly we are not selecting the “best” trees to fell but planning to create the best possible timber in the future. Angus now knows the lengths and widths of timber he can typically use in his furniture making practice and the decision about which few trees are felled each year is made with an extremely knowledgeable forester in our group – Rick Worrell. Felling starts with a good look at the trees.
Images by www.ciaramenzies.com
Most of the timber from our woodland is the native oak ‘Quercus robur’. All the timber will be used by Angus for fine furniture making or by the group for firewood. The timber is milled by Angus and Rick and can be assessed at the time as whether good for steam-bending (if long straight grain) or best to be kiln-dried (interesting characterful grain pattern). We do all the processes from standing tree to finished fine furniture and our designs make best use of this precious timber.
This micro scale selective felling is very different from ‘clear fell’ which occurs on an industrial scale. This is the norm in many countries out-with the UK and will be the method for all mass production of “oak” furniture. This will be the subject of another blog post. However please do note that if ‘solid oak’ furniture is cheap and the source of timber has not been clearly stated it will be clear fell timber, not our native oak species Quercus robur, and being manufactured in the Far East whatever the branding may suggest.
For a little more see
We are licensees of Scottish Working Woods label – http://www.scottishworkingwoods.org.uk
which guarantees that wood is local, ethical and sustainable and members of the Association of Scottish Sawmillers