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North East turns to wonder-fuel wood - but more timber needed!

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Ed Millbank, from Barningham Estate, with wood chips and felled timber on his County Durham estate

The growing take-up of woodfuel in North East England has prompted forest chiefs to stage a first ever “Woodfuel Week” in the region from 16-23 October.

Workshops will be staged on the Barningham Estate, near Barnard Castle, and at Kirkharle in Northumberland to encourage landowners to join the green revolution and produce more timber.  A Firewood Fair and action will also be held for the first time on the Meldon estate, near Morpeth, on Sunday 16 October. 

The Forestry Commission and Northwoods want 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.

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 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, near Newcastle, on 19 October, and on the Barningham Park on 21 October. 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

Note to Editor

  1. Ashington Academy and businesses like Battlesteads Hotel are amongst those switching to wood chips and pellets. The region also has the country's largest biomass power station at SembCorp on Teesside.

  2. For more information on the firewood auction near Morpeth (Sunday 16 October, 10am to 4pm) contact Northwoods on 01670 513292, or  There will also be trade stands, exhibitions and demonstrations. 

  3. The BEn project is an online database of the North East's biomass activities -  Northwoods has been working with the wider regional biomass sector for a number of years to improve the network of those working or wanting to establish themselves in the sector.

  4. Forestry Commission England is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands.

Media calls to Richard Darn on 0775 367 0038 or Ian Everard on 0776 6998583.