A woodfuel supply project that connects community groups keen to be involved in managing local woodlands and produce woodfuel, with landowners who own woodlands in need of thinning.
The Mersey Forest is a growing network of woodlands and green spaces spread across Cheshire and Merseyside that has been creating 'woodlands on your doorstep' for more than 20 years.
Working in partnership with local authorities, businesses and the community, over nine million trees have been planted so far - equivalent to five new trees for every person living within the Forest area.
The Mersey Forest also advises landowners on how to manage existing woodlands to ensure their future health and productivity. Over the last few years, the Mersey Forest team has developed an innovative new concept which is gaining traction and popularity in the Forest: wood allotments.
The team had noticed an increase in the demand for firewood as more people, mostly in rural areas, installed wood burning stoves to heat their homes. This increased demand had a number of impacts locally: more outlets began selling firewood, the price of firewood rose, and in some cases local woodlands were “poached” of whole standing trees which were processed into firewood for local sale.
As the demand for woodfuel increased, a considerable number of community woodlands in urban areas required first thinnings but the resources to complete this work were scarce.
The Wood Allotments project provides solutions to both of these challenges. The project, still in its early stages with two sites currently active, aims to connect community groups keen to be involved in managing local woodlands and produce woodfuel, with landowners who own woodlands in need of thinning. To assist in this process the Mersey Forest team has developed an online hub
For woodlands suitable for thinning, community members form an “allotment group”. An annual licence is signed and a small fee paid. The site manager identifies and marks up trees to be cut down. Volunteers are trained in basic tree felling skills before embarking on their work within the woodland. They work with hand tools only.
The Wood Allotmenteers work from October to March, felling the trees in their own plot and cutting the wood into manageable sizes. They cut down approximately 25 trees a year to dry out and keep for firewood that is suitable for open fires, wood-burning stoves and kindling.
At the moment all the logs produced are used by the Allotmenteers who transport the wood off site themselves.
The Mersey Forest is investigating the potential of this project to offer further skills and training and also to use the fuel generated to help those living in fuel poverty.
As well as providing a local source of woodfuel for community volunteers, the project helps improve the health and well being of participants, encouraging greater physical activity and social interaction while of course providing a workforce to ensure the woodlands continue to be managed sustainably benefiting both wildlife and tree health.