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...
Each year, some eight million ‘natural’ Christmas Trees [which may be Norway Spruce or Silver Fir or Nordmann Fir or Scots Pine] are bought in the U.K; it is estimated that several million of these end up in landfill. When a tree ends up in landfill, it costs the local authority as they have to pay for every tonne of waste sent to landfill. Whilst consigning them to landfill is better than them being discarded in local streets or left on pavements etc, the needles and wood of the trees take time to decompose [think of the soft cushion underfoot when walking through a pine woodland]. Also, the process of decomposition releases significant quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Sometimes the councils have schemes so that the trees are shredded / chipped to create material that can be used as mulch / weed suppressant / soil conditioner. Read more...
Sweden has a lot of forest and woodland. In fact, roughly half of the country is covered by trees. Travelling back some two thousand years, the trees were mainly broadleaved but then oaks and alders began to decline. However, by the mid twentieth century Spruces and Pines were dominant. This was mainly due to the process of forestry management, producing wood for fuel, charcoal [used in iron smelting], potash, tar and timber for building.
However, the recent record breaking temperatures and drought across many parts of Europe have put large areas of Swedish forest at risk. Rainfall in Sweden this year has been dramatically down - approximately a seventh of the normal amount. One has to look back to the C19th century to find similarly low figures. Read more...
Each year, a variety of conifers are sold as Christmas trees, for example, the
- Norway Spruce Picea abies
- Silver Fir Abies alba
- Nordmann Fir Abies normanniana
- Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris
and in North America
- Douglas Fir Pseudotuga menziesii and
- Balsam Fir Abies balsamea.
In autumn 2016 my wife and I visited a small wood for sale on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. We had seen a few other sites but this held more promise as it was part moorland, part regenerating ex-forestry land. The three things that made it of particularly interest to us were that: it was only twenty minutes away from home; it had a small natural pond; and it had some open space for planting new trees. As a green person at heart, I often pick up acorns on walks and pop them in a pot. I was however running short of space and needed somewhere to plant them!
Dan, from Woodlands.co.uk, met us on site and explained that the management plan favoured planting oak trees so that made it ideal for us. After a few months of paperwork, we received the key to the padlock of the woodland gate just before Christmas. A nicer present could not have been had. Read more...
I love sitting quietly in a woodland, especially on a comfortable wooden bench. Being still and silent in a wood allows you to feel closer to nature and nature gets closer to you: when you stop trampling through a wood the animals stop feeling threatened and they come out. Birds and deer and even badgers will appear as you sit unmoving and comfortably on your home-made bench. If sited carefully, you might also be able to enjoy a panoramic view from your woodland bench.
A group of us recently decided to have a bench-making competition and four different benches were produced during the afternoon. The prize was a bottle of vintage port and the rules were simple - you had two hours to finish and you had to use materials found in the woods Read more...
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."
Mature woodlands and forests populated with deciduous trees remove significant quantities of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere, locking it up in complex organic carbon compounds - such as starch, cellulose and lignin. Such compounds add to the biomass of the trees. However, come the Autumn deciduous trees shed their leaves, and in Autumn and Winter winds break off branches and twigs. These dead leaves and twigs etc contribute to the ‘litter’ on the woodland floor and the humus in the soil. This material represents a vast source of ‘locked up carbon’. Read more...