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From little acorns grow mighty oaks

Submitted by on August 24, 2017 – 1:08 pmNo Comment


Examples of good ride management, thinning and re-planting and volunteers at work!

And similarly so has our small firewood enterprise, which has come a long way from its early conception back in 2010 . . . all those years ago!

The idea first originated during a volunteer task at the Grange Estate (Willington) where the woodlands were being thinned to allow more light onto the woodland floor and give the young regimented plantations a more natural shape.  The volunteers were generating a lot of material that was to be left as deadwood and habitat piles all of which is great for the bugs and small mammals but probably not in the quantity we were generating . . . which got me thinking of alternative uses . . . firewood!

So in 2010 we started to process the arising’s from tree thinning operations using hand saws and axes and storing the material under a tarpaulin in what was the old compound within the Millennium Country Park at Marston Moretaine.  The fledgling firewood enterprise had a good mixture of success and failures regarding processing and quality control which was mainly due to the lack of suitable storage facilities and the fact everything was done by hand through a mixture of staff, volunteers and what was the Community Pay Back scheme. For the first few years sales were modest with the enterprise making small hundreds in profit but year on year this grew as did the quality of the firewood as we learnt and improved.

In 2013 a new bespoke barn and workshop was completed with funding from Natural England and the Forest of Marston Vale Trust that also included machinery to cut and split the wood.  The new machinery increased the quality and amount of timber that could be processed and also enabled us to turn unwanted cords of Poplar wood into good quality kindling.  The new barn not only provided a dry and sheltered area to produce the firewood but also the room to store and season the wood.  Sales continue to grow year on year with customers returning due to the quality of the firewood which reflects the dedication of our staff and volunteers who work hard to insure the wood is seasoned to around 20% moisture content.  Click here for more detail about seasoning firewood.

As previously mentioned all timber used as firewood is sourced from thinning operations within local woodlands.  But why do we need to fell trees I hear you say?  The woodlands that surround our places of work and play are not the wild woods that once covered Europe thousands of years ago as after the ice age people got busy clearing this woodland for agriculture, grazing and using the wood for fuel and a timber.   Gradually over many centuries the wild woods of old were tamed and exploited and many of our woodland plants and animals adapted to the more actively managed woodland landscape which we see today.  The future of woodlands relies on effective management, as trees need to be thinned to allow light to reach the woodland floor and give adjacent trees room to grow whilst other species of plant need to be managed so they don’t dominate other plants and prevent natural regeneration from occurring.  Woodlands that are managed for a purpose be that public access, timber or firewood are more likely to survive into the future by providing social, economic and environmental value to the local community.

The Forest of Marston Vale Trust (FMVT) have recently partnered up with the Woodland Trust to help them manage an area of woodland located within Brogborough called Reynolds Wood which was planted in the early 90’s and is a mixed broadleaved woodland containing Ash, Oak, Maple, Willow, Aspen and Birch.   The FMVT will manage the thinning operations of the woodlands via a mixture of volunteer/corporate conservation tasks and using woodland contractors and in payment get to keep the felled material for use as firewood.  Before any works were carried out felling licences were obtained from the Forestry Commission to insure best practice is carried out.  The timber generated from the woodland will be processed into firewood for the 2018/19 firewood season.

All profits made from the sale of firewood goes back into the charity so finally the circle is complete as the Forest of Marston Vale Trust now actively plants, manages and harvests its woodland whilst delivering on social, environmental and economic targets as set out in the Forest of Marston Vale Forest Plan.

For more information on firewood or the management of woodlands please visit the following websites, or for information regarding the Trust’s firewood enterprise please email Darren Woodward or call 01234 762603.

Smallwoods – Managing a Woodland

Managing Ancient Woodland

Woodland management and conservation



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Marston Vale Farms Ltd. Registered in England No 6537891. Registered Office for all: The Forest Centre, Station Road, Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire, MK43 0PR
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