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  • Blogs

    1. Member Blogs

      Latest Entry

      By cgb,

      anybody know where i can buy larch logs for milling i am based in south wales

      can only take approx 5 ton short of space

    2. Man has always had a direct link to the landscape, though that link, whilst it is always there, may not be in the form that it once was. Keeping with the wood pasture theme, which I am really enjoying learning about through books and journal articles, I thought we’d look at how the manner in which we approach the ecosystem has changed over the centuries (quite briefly). Of course, what is written below doesn’t stop just at wood pasture – it has cross-over to other ecosystems, where the reasons for interaction with the landscape have altered through space and, more pertinently, time.

      Historically, wood pastures were managed for economic purposes. The grazing of animals on grasslands containing trees (and the feeding of the livestock with cuttings from pollarded trees, and a tree’s fruit crop), such as cattle and pigs, was for the direct benefit of communities, who relied upon the produce of the livestock (milk, meat, and so on) in order to make a living, and to generally therefore survive. Of course, the wood pastures needed to be conserved, so that they did not disappear, due to over-grazing. In this sense, they were actively conserved (by replanting dying and dead trees, and limiting grazing intensity), though largely because, without actively conserving them, the livelihood of many tens of thousands of people would be challenged. A by-product of this conservation of wood pastures, for the benefits created from grazing livestock, was that the sites were very rich in biodiversity – birds, fungi, insects, and plants, for example. The complex mosaic of niches within the wood pasture, ranging from open and disturbed soils through to the (perhaps sizeable) groves surrounded by the mantle and fringe vegetation, meant that a large number of organisms could viably frequent the site. However, for all of the biodiversity present as a result of the careful management and conservation of wood pastures throughout history, biodiversity was not the reason for management – until recently.

      The shift, in Europe, probably begun when wood pasture became disliked (for hope of a better word), during the 19th-20th century (varies depending upon the country). Foresters wanted to maximise output from the trees (coppice – sometimes with standards), and farmers wanted to maximise agricultural output. Therefore, the two practices, initially married, were divorced from one another (somtimes farmers were forced to stop grazing their livestock in wood pasture!). Wood pastures were thus either cleared of trees entirely, or alowed to regenerate into forest. With this came a decline in the richness of biodiversity and, eventually, this loss of biodiversity caused a rather evident of panic amongst conservationists. Ironically, therefore, the rationale behind creating and maintaining wood pasture became largely ecologically-driven, in place of economically-driven (though, particularly in Spain and Romania, wood pastures remain, are these are generally economically viable). Regardless of reason however, the status of wood pastures essentially went full-circle.


      A fantastic wood pasture in Estonia. Source: Ideas for Sustainability.

      Of course, this new found love for wood pastures does not necessarily mean that they can ever exist in the manner in which they did before. First and foremost, wood pastures are extensively grazed, and thus, for operations to be self-supporting financially, they must cover large expanses of land (unless the wood pasture is maintained for subsistence purposes, or grants are provided as a means of financial support). As farmers in Europe are generally in ‘the game’ for profit (they must make a living), managing livestock in wood pastures is probably not going to be all too popular, as it’d probably signal a marked drop in profits and / or a marked increase in labour input (at least, initially). Scope does exist to harvest edible mycorrhizal mushrooms from the wood pasture, such as truffles, though this is a specialised pursuit that is far from the current farming status quo of Europe.

      Furthermore, European culture has changed. Gone are the days of communities being self-sufficient, and instead many Europeans now work a job (that they may even hate) and buy their food from the supermarket (or even order it online). Therefore, is there even the desire to re-introduce wood pastures, for anything other than ecological reasons, or to supply the market with a niche animal product (such as Iberian ham from the black Iberian pig, in the holm oak dehesas of Spain). With this change in culture there has also been a change in learning priorities, and unfortunately many today seem to be fixated with knowing pointless facts about sports teams and celebrities. Functional and practical knowledge is largely gone. As a consequence, the management of wood pastures will be left to an expert few, where knowledge has either been gained academically, or via being passed-down through the generations (usually limited to rural areas where grazing still takes place). However, as more people now live in cities than in rural areas, and this trend will likely continue as rural areas are swallowed up by urban sprawl, or people move into cities for economic reasons, this tradition of passing practical knowledge on and keeping up the family tradition of extensive livestock grazing within wood pasture may very well become ever more the stuff of legend.

      black iberian pig dehesa

      The black Iberian pig grazing amongst a landscape of holm oak, in a Spanish dehesa. Source: Andrew Petcher.

      Society is simply in a different place than it once was. For this reason, the conservation of wood pasture is to be far from mainstream. People are certainly aware of nature (of which wood pastures feature), though more and more awareness comes from watching on the television and less from direct experience, and with this comes a discord. There is less emotional and cultural attachment to nature, and as a result, less of an impetus to associate with nature. Why help with the recreation of wood pasture when you can watch about its conservation on television, utter some lamentations, and then switch the channel and soon relegate it to a mere memory? That’s even assuming people watch such programs, in large numbers, in the first place.

      This probably turned out far more dystopian than I ever intended for it to come out as, though hopefully this illustrates how social changes have led to landscape management changes, with specific focus upon wood pastures in Europe. This is obviously applicable to other landscape types as well, of course. The principle generally carries across.

      Source (of inspiration): Hartel, T. & Plieninger, T. (2014) The social and ecological dimensions of wood-pastures. In Hartel, T. & Plieninger, T. (eds.) European wood-pastures in transition: A social-ecological approach. UK: Earthscan.

    3. We have been splitting logs lately, the timber has been lying in the yard for a couple of years and now we want to get it converted into logs to finish seasoning indoors so we have been busy with the firewood processor. Looking at the pile of logs and thinking about selling it all next winter has led me to consider the best way to market and sell our produce.  Since Trading Standards and the Weights and Measures Act 1985 have little to say regarding firewood we are a bit in the dark when it comes to quantities, packaging and pricing. With most goods the law is quite clear and very strict with serious penalties for suppliers who sell goods in quantities or measures outside those prescribed in the Act. Firewood however is a bit of a mystery, I suspect that it falls under the category of solid fuel, but its hard to confirm if thats the case. However it is viewed officially it would appear that the market is wholly unregulated.


      Logs are sold in a variety of ways, here are a few of the most common:


      By weight; usually by the “ton” however this is almost never confirmed by any kind of weigh bridge ticket something which  is likely to be illegal as far as the weights and measures act goes as one thing they are strict on is selling by weight. There is however a fundamental problem for the consumer with buying timber by the ton, this is simply that the wetter the wood the more it weighs. So there is an obvious incentive for the supplier to sell unseasoned wet wood as this will significantly ‘up’ his margin, if he bothers to weigh it at all that is!  Supermarkets have been dicing with the same issue for years when it comes to meat, hanging the meat performs the same function as seasoning logs, it dries out a little and whilst the flavour may improve, and possibly the price per kilo, the lost moisture is lost profit since they bought the meat by weight in the first place. They have got around this problem by injecting the meat with “stuff” to bulk up its weight, and apparently this is ok with trading standards! This has gone on for years of course, in times gone by bakers used to be infamous for adulterating their flour with fillers such as bone meal, chalk, sawdust and even gypsum! Thankfully at the end of the 19th century laws were brought in to standardise what could be called flour, maybe its time they took a look at bacon! (all that white stuff that comes out as it fries is the supermarkets added filler).


      So back to logs, selling by weight simply encourages the supplier to sell wet wood, and wet wood is not good for burning, not only does it produce little heat but because it burns at a lower temperature the combustion is incomplete, so gaseous tar and soot condense in your flue potentially leading to chimney fires. It would perhaps be ok to buy logs by weight at a known moisture content as happens in the wood chip for biomass industry, but that rarely happens.


      By far the best way to buy firewood is by volume, this way you get what you pay for, they may still be wet, but 100 logs are still 100 logs wet or dry, so now the incentive is with the supplier to sell a quality product, assuming he wants to keep your business that is. So the next problem to arise is quantifying that volume, a cubic meter is a relatively common unit and should be the ideal but thats not always the case, which leads us to what is perhaps the most common way of selling logs…..


      The load. So what is a load of logs? Well, anything you want it to be really, and this is where the industry really needs some guidance from the government. The load could be a bulk bag, but these vary in size from 2 cubic meters down to less than 0.5, or it could be a vehicle of some sort, trailer, pickup, 4×4 or even a car boot. From the consumers perspective how are they to compare one ‘load’ with another, does the back of one suppliers transit van compare favourably with another’s trailer? Who knows?  The upshot is the poor consumer is left in the dark. With weights and measures regulations so strict on other industries, including coal and smokeless fuel, why is it that logs are still in the dark ages when it comes to consumer protection?


      The answer may lie in the fact that during the industrial revolution we abandoned wood as a fuel, only to re-discover it in the last 10 years or so, and when the laws on weights and measures were made firewood just wasn’t on the radar. But these days it is most definitely back as a serious contender in the fuel market, sales of wood burning stoves have soared thanks to the carbon neutral credentials of  burning wood over fossil fuels. (don’t get me started on the carbon credentials of imported eastern european logs though!)


      Its time for HM Government to wake up to the burgeoning market in firewood and apply a little common sense to the way in which our logs are sold. We could do with a standardised moisture content for firewood, so that customers can expect to be able to get a certain calorific value from their wood, at least if its advertised as ‘ready to burn’ anyway. Then theres the weight / volume issue, logs really should be sold by volume, and all prices should be advertised by the cubic meter, irrespective of the size of vessel used to deliver them. This way the consumer can confidently compare prices from one supplier to the next. We have found that selling by the cubic meter we loose out to other suppliers selling by the bulk bag, our £60 per m3 has less appeal than a £50 bulk bag even though that bag may only contain 0.6 cube, making it considerably dearer, what do we do, sell unseasoned wood in order to cut our prices further, or try and skimp on the amount we sell?. Sadly the lack of regulation is currently driving quality down as firewood producers engage in a race to the bottom to stay in the game.


      So if you agree with the views expressed above please share this article on Facebook with your local trading standards office, yes they all appear to have FB accounts! You could also share it with your MP. You never know we may end up with a fairer firewood market in the not to distant future.


      For some further reading here’s a helpful PDF from the Forestry Commission.

    4. Sunday 28th October marks the official end of British Summertime, although we are already experiencing a drop in temperatures compared to July and August. The Forestry Commission recently announced that the result of dry soils left by the long, hot summer coupled with late summer rain, we are in an early autumn period.


      This year’s APF event saw the Forestry Commission celebrating 100 years of the Forestry Act, providing advice and support to the sector and commenting on latest activity. With forestry workers 6 times more likely to be killed at work than a construction worker, knowledge sharing and education remains a critical part of the work required for future development. With the HSE citing growing concerns on the level of competence and high expectations of newly trained/qualified operators, this has never been more important.  


      In this industry, with the nature of the job including working at height and the risk of falling objects, working with chainsaws and other equipment, careless oversights could quickly turn into serious incidents. The role of technology has increased, as has the need for tree maintenance. Workers can feel instantly reassured by this, possibly too reassured. A reliance on technology could result in arborists and forestry workers becoming less alert to potential issues. 


      We all know that PPE serves as an essential part of helping to protect those in the forestry industry at work, however, a safety conscious attitude and frame of mind at work is equally as important. It is not enough for workers to rely on PPE, believing that they are 100% safe when they have their PPE is prepped and ready to go. Health and safety needs to be a forefront of the entire workforce’s mind, helping to reduce the amount of carelessness and distraction at work. Put simply, even with PPE and advanced technology employers and site operation managers need to reiterate to workers that this does not render them unexposed to potential incidents. Accidents can still happen and it is critical that workers have a good understanding of this.


      1,2,3 – PPE 

      The purchase of PPE is only the first step in the equipment’s journey.  It must be regularly maintained and replaced, whilst continually ensuring it is most suitable for the job being completed at the time.  


      Successful management of health and safety and the role of PPE requires co-ordination of activities and communication of information, and must start from the top down. Leading by example will not only resonate and encourage workers on the ground to follow suit, it will go a long way in fundamentally improving health and safety performance across the industry for both newly trained and more casual users.  


      PPE is not a guarantee of safety, and the role of the individual remains crucial.  Stay aware and alert. Appreciate the equipment with the knowledge that you also play a significant role in ensuring you do not get hurt at work. 


      For more information on HAIX’s range of forestry boots visit www.haix.co.uk, or to find your nearest dealer contact Workware www.workware.co.uk 

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  • Our picks

    • Bug Fung
      a little place to corall images around the interaction of the above
      From a collection of environmental photos I caught this morning from the Guardian.........
      Ants harvesting fungi
      Latest news, comment and reviews from the Guardian | guardian.co.uk
      lets see the relationships you've seen
      • 165 replies
    • A common conflict between development and veteran trees centres on the protection of the rooting environment.
      Difficulties exist due to the subterranean nature of this important part of the tree, concealing it from view. The Ancient Tree Forum and the Woodland Trust have long drawn attention to this often overlooked part of the tree, emphasising the importance of healthy soil, mycorrhizae and roots and the need for appropriate management of the land around veteran trees.
      In November, the Forestry Commission and Natural England updated their standing advice, Ancient woodland and veteran trees: protecting them from development. This document sets out the principles planning authorities should consider for developments affecting ancient woodland and veteran trees. The standing advice picks up from the National Planning Policy Framework with regards to the importance of veteran trees and the need for their protection. Together these documents state that planning permission should be refused if proposals involve the loss or deterioration of veteran trees, unless the need for, and benefit of, development in that location clearly outweigh the loss (see the note at the end of this article for more info).
      The loss of a veteran tree is clear cut and easily defined; in such circumstances local planning authorities would weigh up the loss against the need for and benefit of development when determining an application. However, the deterioration of veteran trees is perhaps less black and white.


      • 3 replies
    • After the best part of 20 years using sturdy Weaver leather harnesses I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Edelrid Treecore being an altogether different construction and material. However straight out of the box it seemed very well made, despite being a lot lighter than i’m used to.
      Trying it on for the first time 
      In comparison to harnesses I have used it is very easy to adjust and felt comfortable from the offset.  The buckles for the leg loops aren’t too fiddly and overall it was possible to get the harness dialled in to my satisfaction very quickly.
      First climb
      On my initial climb I was quite impressed with the bridge.  The d-rings sit on separate parts of the webbing, the top one connects by the side d s and is adjustable, so can transfer more of your weight from legs to waist, on long ascents it really makes a difference. It generally gave quite a stable feeling when suspended.
      The down side of that is it can feel a bit ‘busy’ with the main waist strap which has an SRT/chest attachment point also.
      Behind the side d-rings it has purpose made caritool attachment points and two tool loops on each side, I would have preferred the one nearest the side d s to be slightly further back.
      In terms of overall comfort the Edelrid Treecore excels. The width and thickness of the waist padding is just right as are the leg loops, offering just the right amount of support when in awkward positions.
      Once correctly fitted and adjusted the harness stays where it’s supposed to most of the time, although using bigger chainsaws does tend to drag it down more than I’d like.  The optional chest harness would eliminate this if necessary.
      The one negative I found was the side d-rings sit too far forward for my liking. When dangling from my lanyard under a branch I found the way they pulled uncomfortable. No doubt someone with a different body shape would have a completely different experience however.
      In conclusion
      Moving from 20 years of thick leather to the lightweight Edelrid was quite a shock to the system, and I was quite skeptical of the change.  To my surprise overall I really like the tree core but realise it’s very much to peoples personal taste when it comes to harnesses. As always, if you can try before you buy then all the better.  In terms of build quality, ergonomics and adjustability it gets a thumbs up.
        • Like
      • 0 replies
    • Reading Dean's log burning thread got me thinking:
      Why haven't logs gone up in price in line with electricity and gas, mine are the same price they were 5 years ago, the same could be said for tree work, costs have risen but have your prices?
      Are us tree surgeons really bad businessmen? We all know the big businesses look after each other really well, like the energy companies and oil companies who only compete "in theory" while in reality prices remain high and they make huge profits.
      "There are only 6 of them" I hear you say, "and loads of tree surgeons", so we can't have a cartel.........yet the plumbers manage to get consistently high rates for their services, as do joiners and sparkys, are we alone in the trades as the only suckers who will work for peanuts. Why is this? do we like the job so much that its irrelevant how much we earn, we'd do it for free? Or are we secretly all hippies who are not into the money "thing" and would rather barter our services for nuts and berries, (or stella in Mark Bolam's case)?
      Perhaps we just don't have that capitalist gene?
      What is the answer? I do think that (generalising) as a group we are a little more aloof than the general public and possibly a bit more hippyish, or maybe thats just those of us who come here on AT. I also think that as a bunch we tend to have a much stronger work ethic and would have far more interest in doing a job well than being paid well to do it.
      In reality we should be paid well to do a good job, sadly thats often not that case.
      My theory is that a self employed tree surgeon who has a van, chipper and a decent groundy ought to earn 40k+ for himself, how many actually manage that? Its hard to compare self employed income with salaried income as there are many perks to being self employed and you pay a lot less tax too. However the point I am making is that someone in the above situation ought to have the lifestyle of someone on a £40k+ salary.... do you agree?
        • Like
      • 120 replies
    • Arborists reminded of OPM hazard
      Arborists in south-east England are being reminded to protect themselves this spring and summer from contact with oak processionary moth caterpillar hairs (OPM).
      They are also encouraged to help control the pest by reporting sightings to the Forestry Commission, and to take care not to spread the pest when removing oak material from tree surgery sites.
      As well as damaging oak trees by feeding on the leaves, the caterpillar can impact human and animal health: contact with its hairs can cause itching skin rashes, eye irritations, sore throats and other health problems. In rare cases they can cause breathing difficulties and allergic reactions. Arborists in the affected areas are therefore strongly advised to wear protective clothing.
      The hairs can be blown on the wind, left in the caterpillars’ nests on and under oak trees, and can stick to bark, clothing and climbing ropes. The greatest risk period is May to July, although nests should not be approached at any time because the hairs remain active for many months.
      The known affected areas include much of greater London and parts of Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, West Berkshire, Surrey and Essex. The affected areas are organised into ‘Core’, ‘Control’ and ‘Protected’ Zones, and maps and explanations of the regulations and procedures applying in each zone are available in the oak tree owners’ manual at www.forestry.gov.uk/opmmanual.

      OPM nests and silken webbing trails. Nests can be attached to trunks and branches anywhere on the tree,
      but not among the foliage. ©Forestry Commission/Crown copyright.

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      • 41 replies


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