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Politics Show 2nd Feb

It was great the Politics Show visited Wilderness Woods in East Sussex to show an example of private enterprise providing a fantastic approach to woodland management. It must be remembered, however, that theirs is an extremely rare situation in that the woods are located in the heart of very affluent commuter belt. Over the last 30-odd years they have built up a successful enterprise through excellent iniativies like bushcraft birthday parties, selling woodland products and renting out Christmas trees.

However this is not possible everywhere. In fact there are very few places that offer the range of socio-demographic factors Wilderness Woods enjoy. We should not assume this can be done everywhere, and there are plenty of similar woodland enterprises scraping by elsewhere in the country that would endorse this view.

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Forest Sell-Off Update

The Save Our Forests group are going to London tomorrow to talk to Lords about the possible sell-off of England’s forests and woodlands. Good luck to them.

We have spoken to lots of folk from all sides in this debate. For some groups the sell-off is attractive, and some trees and woods might benefit, but the sustainability depends on a long view. We’re not convinced the market can be trusted with such long-term planning, nor that charities have the resources to manage woodlands and provide the sort of access and inclusivity that the Forestry Commission currently offers.

Jeremy Vine is featuring a phone-on about the potential sell-off of our forests today on Radio 2. Though there may be an argument for some woods to be sold as community woodlands, and possibly others for commercial use. However Living Woods has some key concerns.

1. That the Forestry Commission is undermined in any way. It is responsible for a huge number of initiatives that benefit people and wildlife that could be at risk if their assets are sold. The loss of assets could put the future of the agency at risk: baby and bathwater!!!

2. We desperately need an agency to guide woodland creation and management long into the future, to produce timber, fuel and space for amenity for an urbanised society. It is difficult to imagine the private sector and the market meeting those needs.

3. Just because the FC was created to fulfill a brief after WW1 that proved to be inappropriate to modern times, with cheap imports of softwood, doesn’t mean it has failed and that the market would be better. There are plenty of poorly-managed private woodlands. Some of the best private woodlands have thrived because they are part of huge estates, with the benefits of semi-feudal tenure that guarantees a long-term view through inheritance. The Forestry Commission is possibly the best alternative to that.

Champagne flute

The first of Roger Day's innovations for green woodworkers. A champagne flute.

We mentioned a couple of posts ago that the Surrey and Sussex Coppice Group have given Roger Day the job of devising innovative products for green woodworkers and coppice workers. He’s going to be writing about this in the next issue of Living Woods. His first product is a carved and bored champagne flute. Roger uses a stock knife (not a lathe) to shape the champagne flute and a reamer for hollowing. See more of his amazing work, including remarkable sculpture, at rogerday.eu. He’s is working on other innovations for green woodworkers which could open up interesting new markets for their work at shows and demos etc…

Sorby ProEdge with new knife jig

Robert Sorby, who are best known for their turning tools, have launched a jig to go on their ProEdge linisher for sharpening knives. This might prove valuable for green woodworkers, especially those working with axes, adzes, knives, froes and drawknives. We’ll be getting hold of a model to test very soon, and will report back in the mag.

Great news to hear that the Surrey and Sussex Coppice Group (coppicegroup.org.uk) now have a committee member with the sole remit of coming up with ‘innovations’. Roger Day has already devised some clever new products, we’re told, and there will be more details in the next issue of Living Woods. This is hugely important as it shows green woodworking, woodland crafts and coppicing to be progressive. In the same light we were excited to hear from Robin Fawcett that he’s now making dice from green wood, either on a pole lathe or by shaving. Hopefully we’ll feature them soon, or you can visit his blog at treewright.blogspot.com.

Larch disease

Forestry Commission image of ramorum disease in Japanese larch, recently found in Argyll

The ramorum disease (as it seems now to be being named), is spreading across Britain in Japanese larch, having recently been found in Argyll, Scotland. Previous outbreaks had been identified in Devon and Wales. So far only 1.25ha are having to be felled on the Craignish Peninsula, to stop the spread of the disease. Elsewhere the Forestry Commission have halted felling so that any outbreaks can be left to reveal themselves when the new shoots arrive in springtime. Western Scotland is likely to suffer because the pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum likes the wetter climate, and is also linked to rhododendron, which are common in that region.

The disease can lead to needle wilt and to bleeding canker. If notice any unhealthy larch, make sure you report them to a local FC officer asap. This is a growing problem, especially as larch is considered one of Britain’s finest species for building. For the moment only Japanese larch appears to be suffering from the disease, and not hybrid nor European, but there is no room for complacency.