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More productive forestry trees (and Dr Steve Lee).

More productive forestry trees (and Dr Steve Lee).

by Angus ~ 24 November, 2016 ~ comments welcome

Since 1960 commercial trees in the UK have become about 25% more productive.  This has been achieved through selective breeding, mostly of Sitka Spruce and Scots pine where plants have been chosen for their rapid growth.  It has also led to better quality timber which produces more sawlogs.  Unfortunately according to the Forestry Commission's Steve Lee, no similar effort has been made with broadleaved trees so they have suffered a relative disadvantage compared to the progress with conifers.  He says, "We dropped tree selection for broadleaved trees in the 1960s because it was thought to be not worthwhile."

Read more...

Bud burst and street lights.

Bud burst and street lights.

by Lewis ~ 24 August, 2016 ~ 2 comments

Street lighting may make our roads and homes safer places, but it also contributes to light pollution.  The bright lights of towns and cities make it difficult for us to see the stars and constellations in the night skies.  In places, the ‘warm yellow’ glow of street lights is being replaced with the white light of LEDs,  the benefits of LED lights include energy savings plus an increased life time as compared to conventional lights. However, when compared to older street lamps they emit more  blue light increases.   Some think that this blue light can suppress the production of melatonin ; this is involved in the regulation of our circadian rhythms - particularly our sleep patterns. Read more...

How are owners and woodland managers responding to climate change?

How are owners and woodland managers responding to climate change?

by Angus ~ 11 November, 2015 ~ one comment

Gabriel Hemery of the Sylva Foundation has a deep interest in how woodland owners behave.  He wants to know what's really happening out there so he's been asking people - particularly about how they are responding to environmental change.  Bearing in mind that 92% of British deciduous woodlands are privately owned, Dr Gabriel Hemery points out that it's worth finding out about the attitudes of woodland owners and their managers. Recently he got the views of about 1,500 of those with an interest in woodlands.  It's the British Woodlands Resilience Survey and some of the results were surprising. Read more...

The new 'must-read' tree book : "The Ash Tree" by Oliver Rackham

The new ‘must-read’ tree book : “The Ash Tree” by Oliver Rackham

by Angus ~ 5 November, 2014 ~ one comment

When I last saw Oliver Rackham I was infected by his curiosity.  Someone suggested, as we walked though a woodland, that one spot might have been historically used for making charcoal so Dr Rackham dived into the undergrowth armed only with a set of keys and dug into the soil and he soon emerged triumphant with some old charred remains, proving definitively that this location had in fact been used for charcoal making.  This sort of curiosity and dogged ferreting for facts runs through his new book on the ash tree.  He considers what threats the ash tree faces, but he also uses the book as a platform for a wider diagnosis of the state of British woodlands.   Read more...

The Harcourt Arboretum

The Harcourt Arboretum

by Chris ~ 11 August, 2014 ~ comments welcome

When in Oxford, it is always a pleasure to visit the Oxford Botanic garden but until now I have never made it out to its ‘satellite’ – the Harcourt Arboretum.  The arboretum is only some six miles away, near the village of Nuneham Courtenay (on the A4074).

The ‘core’ of the arboretum is the Pinetum (associated with William Gilpin 1762-1843), where mature monkey puzzle trees and giant redwoods can be seen.   The grounds are extensive including native woodland areas and a  considerable area of meadow (together, these would have originally formed an impressive entrance to Nuneham House).  Read more...

Coppice and wood pasture.

Coppice and wood pasture.

by Lewis ~ 6 June, 2013 ~ comments welcome

After the last Ice Age, plants, animals and humans moved back into the vast areas vacated by the retreating ice.  Plant, and then, animal communities became established and much of the area was covered by what has been termed ‘wildwood’ – see previous Wildwood blogs.  These areas would also have been home to human populations migrating from the hinterland of Europe and Doggerland.  Communities developed and we may suppose that areas of forest/woodland/wild wood would have been cleared - for housing, the grazing of animals, to provide firewood/timber.  Such forest / woodland would have been managed to a greater or lesser degree. Read more...

Ash dieback - what to do?  Pre-empt, plant, persevere, keep calm and carry on.

Ash dieback – what to do? Pre-empt, plant, persevere, keep calm and carry on.

by Richard ~ 30 October, 2012 ~ 5 comments

The last ice age endured for about 100,000 yrs.  Some 18,000 yrs ago, mammoths, sabre-toothed tiger and woolly rhino (preyed on by prehistoric man) roamed our land.  Thick ice sheets lay to the North, whilst to the South was tundra - much like that now seen in Northern Siberia. Then 10,000 years later, the ice sheets started to melt and the tundra receded; sea levels rose and low lying areas were flooded.   The North Sea and English Channel formed, cutting us off from mainland Europe. This was a gradual process (in our terms) and as Europe warmed,  trees migrated northwards - some reaching the UK before we were cut off from the rest of Europe.  Most plant colonisation was by seed and spores, animals followed bringing with them other taxa. Read more...

Yurts, Yurtmakers and camping in a yurt

Yurts, Yurtmakers and camping in a yurt

by Angus ~ 1 June, 2012 ~ Comments Off on Yurts, Yurtmakers and camping in a yurt

Recently, I visited the Sustainability Centre in Hampshire where a brand new yurt was being erected.  Intrigued, I fell into conversation with the yurtmaker, Henry Dowell (of yurtmaker.co.uk).  He turns out to be a rather remarkable character and has himself lived in a yurt for over 4 years and learnt how to make them, mostly through trial and error - to me it looked like more trial than error!  Henry explained that he makes most of the parts out of "green ash" (ie unseasoned ash timber) which he bends using steam and that process also helps to season the wood so that it will last for many years.   All this preparation happens in what he calls his "corner of Shropshire" where ash grows very well and can be milled locally.  This creates a new market for ash which is often overlooked but is a very useful timber tree, saving it from being used only as firewood. Read more...

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