Firewood demand sparks woodland regeneration

Sid Cooper, Woodfuel East business development adviser

Sid Cooper, Woodfuel East business development adviser - Credit: Archant

GROWING demand for domestic firewood has sparked a resurgence in woodland management in East Anglia, a wood fuel group says.

Woodfuel East says woodland owners and contractors across the eastern counties have responded “with enthusiasm” to the financial incentives it has made available to bring neglected woodlands back into active management.

Its total grant funding of about £2.5million since early 2009 from the Rural Development Programme for England has sparked “the first significant investments in timber management as a fuel source for 25 years”, it says.

Sid Cooper, Woodfuel East business development adviser for Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk, said: “For many years the market for thinning and lower grade wood has been quite depressed but now the domestic firewood market has burgeoned, a lot of woodlands which were unviable to manage have now become viable. This is increasing the area under active management.

“Over previous decades, many woods became under managed because there was no market to stimulate the management, so there was no incentive to thin or coppice. In time this meant it could be very expensive to deal with a typical block of 10 to 15 hectares which probably badly needed to be thinned. To get to a point that trees have value the woodland has to be managed by thinning and other silvicultural practice.

“Now, because firewood is worth something, there’s a stimulus for landowners and contractors.” Prices for round wood, firewood or fuel at roadside have been good in the last two years because of colder winters, he said.

“Last year some hardwood at roadside for firewood was making about £45 tonne, although prices have since eased by about £10 per tonne, depending on grade and presentation,” he said. “As oil prices have risen steadily in the past couple of years, timber and woodchip looks increasingly attractive when it is on the doorstep. With demand for woodchip, including Stansted taking about 3,000 tonnes of woodchip each year, and the growing demand for firewood, the prospects for woodland management appears to be more buoyant than for some years.”