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Planting trees - millions of them

Planting trees – millions of them

by Chris ~ 17 June, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Following the First World War, the UK’s woodland coverage was at an all time low – just 5 per cent of total land area. The Acland Committee reported to then Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, that state organisation would be the most effective way to bring about re-afforestation of the UK and plan for the future of British woodland.  

As a result, the Forestry Commission was set up and, throughout the early decades of the twentieth century, it voraciously bought up land.  The aim of the Forestry Commission was to ensure that there would be a strategic reserve of timber, so, as it acquired land, it began to plant - mainly with conifers .

Low grade’ lands (those that were less in demand for agriculture) were pressed into service such as areas around Thetford Chase and Kielder, as were some sandy coastal sites (e.g. Holkham in Norfolk Read more...

Trees, woodlands and methane

Trees, woodlands and methane

by Chris ~ 12 June, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Methane might be a clean fossil fuel when in a pipeline but it is second only to carbon dioxide in terms of contributing to global warming, when present in the atmosphere.  Over the last two centuries, the level of methane in the atmosphere has increased dramatically (and now stands at approximately 1800 parts per billion). Much of this increase has been linked to certain agricultural practices (farming of cattle and other ruminants, paddy fields) plus the emissions from decomposing landfill etc. 

However, recent work in a number of forested and woodland areas (for example, The Amazon, Borneo, China, Hungary etc) has suggested that the release of methane by trees is significant, and given that methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas - this has to be considered in relation to climate change.  The methane contribution from  trees has not really been considered when working out the global methane budget but it now seems that they make a contribution.   Read more...

Expanding access to nature - allotments and woodlands

Expanding access to nature – allotments and woodlands

by Angus ~ 25 May, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Both allotments and small woodlands bring owners closer to nature and lead to personal fulfilment.  Whilst the number of woodland owners is increasing rapidly we wanted to explore why the number of allotment owners isn't increasing.  So Erica Douglas* of woodlands.co.uk undertook a study of the history of allotment ownership and how the numbers of allotments couhld be increased.  She found that allotment expansion is very constrained by the ability of local authorities to find suitable land and that, if anything, many existing allotments are under threat of being closed by the pressure on local councils to find new building land. Read more...

Plastics, pollution and soil

Plastics, pollution and soil

by Chris ~ 29 April, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Plastic mulch - white (though sometimes black) polyethylene strips, each about a meter wide, can occasionally be seen stretching across fields.  Crops grow through the slits or holes in the thin plastic sheeting. The sheets are used because they help to

  • conserve water, 
  • suppress weeds, 
  • reduce soil compaction
  • boost soil temperatures
  • reduce waste - by keeping ripening fruit off the soil

Read more...

21st March - The international day of forests

21st March – The international day of forests

by Lewis ~ 11 March, 2019 ~ comments welcome

For some years now, the United Nations has promoted an ‘international day of forests’.  Essentially, the day is a celebration of forests and woodlands; it seeks to raise awareness and importance of all types of woodland (large or small).  Woodlands and forests offer a wide range of ‘ecological services’ : Read more...

Wood, wood burning and wood burning stoves.

Wood, wood burning and wood burning stoves.

by Lewis ~ 4 March, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Wood is made up of three main chemicals - cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin.  Cellulose is a long chain-like molecule made up of glucose residues; it is the main component of both hard and soft woods.  Hemi-cellulose is chemically more diverse than cellulose - with a variety of sugars present such as xylose, mannose, galactose & arabinose.  Lignin is a very complex chemical, again a polymer with much cross linking.  The lignin binds to and holds all the components of wood together.

When wood is burnt completely about half the mass of the wood is converted to carbon dioxide, and about half to water.  This process releases large amounts of energy - approximately 20MJ per kg.  This represents light energy that the tree trapped through photosynthesis.   What is termed the primary combustion of wood is the burning of the solid material - the embers, the charcoal, whereas secondary combustion is the burning of the gases /fuels producing the flames of a fire. Read more...

Chestnut coppicing - an alternative to the 15 or 18 year cycle

Chestnut coppicing – an alternative to the 15 or 18 year cycle

by Angus ~ 29 January, 2019 ~ 3 comments

In Kent and East Sussex there are thousands of acres of chestnut coppice (see featured and last image).  That means fairly uniform sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), where every 15 or 18 years the stems are all cut off to create poles mostly used for fencing materials.  Chestnut is a hardwood and splits well.  The cutting is done in sections (“cants”) and the corners of each section are often marked by leaving a stem which is cut at about 1.5 metres above ground level.   The great benefit of this sort of woodland is that it is very productive and the trees do not need replanting after felling - the coppice just sprouts back from the same roots or “plate”. Read more...

Help - they've felled my wood

Help – they’ve felled my wood

by Angus ~ 24 January, 2019 ~ 12 comments

Arriving at our woodland after an absence of some time I was devastated to find that a whole section of it had been felled.  I hadn't given permission and it’s not what I wanted at all.  Hundred-year-old oaks and big ash trees had gone.  Oh, and there were the stumps of those beautiful beech trees which I’d loved.  To tell the truth I was quite emotional.  I cried, and then I was angry.  Then I was frustrated, knowing that whatever the explanation it wouldn’t bring back the trees.  Even if I replanted them - which of course I would - the new trees wouldn’t reach maturity in my lifetime.

The explanation turned out to be as prosaic as it was disappointing Read more...

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