Firewood supplies becoming growth industry

Increasing numbers of people are looking to grow trees to provide their own supplies of firewood, the Woodland Trust has said. According to the Trust, one in ten landowners now applying to its Morewoods programme, which supports the creation of new broadleaf woodland, want to plant their own sustainable fuel sources.

The trust also said there was renewed interest in the ancient art of coppicing, in which semi-mature trees are cut back to encourage new shoots, repeatedly producing sustainable small logs. Forest nurseries are also experiencing a run on suitable saplings for fuel, with ash, field maple, beech, birch, hawthorn, hornbeam, hazel and oak among the trees most suited for growing for firewood.

Ash is the top choice, because it needs less drying than other species and burns hotly. In the wake of the harshest winter for 30 years last year, wood fuel is also the most visited area on the Woodland Trust's "plant your own wood" website, the organisation said. With the nights drawing in and thoughts turning to cold evenings with a crackling fire, the Trust said anyone who wanted to plant this winter should start planning now.

Clare Ollerenshaw, Morewoods programme manager, said: "We need more woodland and we need more firewood. People can now design their new wood to suit individual needs. Imagine having a regular supply of high quality, easy-to-fell firewood that's close to the house, doesn't need splitting, throws out heat and could be worth £100 a tonne."

Trees should be ready for initial cropping within seven to ten years, resulting in small logs that do not need cropping, and then can be harvested again within another ten to 15 years. She also said people did not have to make a choice between growing woods for fuel or to create habitat for wildlife.

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