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Northumberland turns to wonder-fuel wood

Other posts by  |  Steve Smith on Google+ |  October 10, 2011 | 0 Comments

Woodfuel Week hopes to encourage landowners to grow more timber © Forestry Commission

The growing take-up of woodfuel has prompted forest chiefs to stage a special week of awareness events in the region between October 16-23.

Woodfuel Week workshops will be staged at Kirkharle in Northumberland and on the Barningham Estate, near Barnard Castle, County Durham, to encourage landowners to join the green revolution and produce more timber. 

A firewood fair and auction will also be held for the first time on the Meldon estate, near Morpeth, on October 16. 

The Forestry Commission and Northwoods – the North East’s Woodland Initiative based at Rothbury – wants to see more timber used as an energy source.

Ed Millbank, from the Barningham Estate, is a keen advocate and is supporting the latest moves.  He explained: “We installed a woodfuel boiler last year and also obtained a Bioenergy grant to build woodchip storage sheds. That means we can supply our heating needs from the 120 hectares (300 acres) of estate woodland we have.  These woods have been under-used for a generation, but now with oil prices so high, they have become a big asset for us. This winter we are planning to plant another 28 hectares (70 acres) of woodland.”

Demand for timber is soaring as woodfuel boilers are installed in schools, hotels and offices with oil and gas prices rising. Ashington Academy and businesses like Battlesteads Hotel, both in Northumberland, are amongst those switching to wood chips and pellets.

But a brake on this welcome development could be securing timber supplies from within the region’s borders. 

“It’s great news that more people are going down the woodfuel route, but a bottleneck could be a lack of locally supplied timber,” said Ian Everard from the Forestry Commission.  “That means we need to get more felling and planting into our neglected woods in the North East.”

The capacity to boost timber supplies is in the private sector’s 50,000 hectares (125,000 acres) of woodland in the region 

But as much as 50% of this could be under managed.  That’s an economic opportunity going begging.

To put woods back to work a new grant scheme is set to be rolled out by the Forestry Commission helping owners pay for woodland roads and tracks to be built so timber can be extracted from often difficult to work woods.

Ben Tansey from Northwoods added: “Some private woods are not managed because they were planted on inaccessible terrain making harvesting tough and previously uneconomic.  But with firewood prices rising 20% over the past year and with this new grant coming it becomes a much more viable proposition.”

To explain more free workshops are being held at Kirkharle Courtyard on October 19 and on Barningham Park on October 21. There’ll also be details of Northwood’s Bioenergy Programme that provides grants for forestry equipment and machinery, along with tours of both estates. 

To find out more contact the Forestry Commission on 01388 488721 or go to


Category: Industry news

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