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Managing the timber

One of the key challenges facing both the country and the Forestry Commission was what to do with all the timber from the windblown trees. It is estimated there were nearly 4 million cubic metres of windblown timber from the Storm.

Estimated Volume blown by key species, size class and ownership,

Species

Size

Volume ('000m³) 

FC Private Woodland Total

Pine

Small roundwood (<14 cm diameter)

Sawlogs (>14 cm diameter)

200

500

200

350

400

850

Other conifers

Small roundwood

Sawlogs

100

100

200

250

300

350

beech

Under 40 cm diameter

Over 40 cm diameter

60

20

240

360

300

400

Other broad-leaves

Under 40cm diameter

Over 40cm diameter

15

15

520

780

535

795

Taken from p2 FC Bulletin 117. Water storage of Timber: Experience in Britain

 

Such a flood of timber onto the market would affect the prices, and there was not enough capacity across the country's saw mills to handle the amount of timber. Holding on to the timber, would damage the quality - and anyway, where could it all be stored?

The western end of the Lynford wet store taken in May 1989 .This storage was prompted by the need to store logs blown down by the gales of October 1987 and prevent them from fungal degrade . The security logs at the  ramped end of the stacks and the sprinklers can be clearly seen . Location: Thetford , Norfolk , England .Timber storage at Mundford

One of the remarkable stories of the Great Storm was the creation of a massive wet timber storage facility in Norfolk. A disused gravel pit near Thetford became home to 70,000 cubic metres of pine logs stored between March 1988 and July 1992. This storage enabled the timber to be saved from deterioration, and also allowed timber markets to stabilise before releasing the timber flow onto the market.

A high proportion of the timber in East Anglia was pine which degrades rapidly once felled due to its susceptibility to attack by bark beetles and sap stain fungi (blue stain). Although blue stain has no effect on timber quality, for many end uses blue stained timber is not acceptable due to its appearance.

Water storage in ponds and rivers has traditionally been used in Northern Europe and North America and a method where timber is stored on dry land, but saturated by a water sprinkler system, had recently been developed and had been used to cope with storm damage in European countries including Germany.

The Thetford wet store was the first time this technology had been used in the UK and, despite its success abroad, questions remained as to whether it could be successfully used in Britain.

Barry Griggs who managed the timber wet store said, "There is no doubt that without this store the financial return on the logs would have been very different - much of it would have been unsaleable. In all aspects this project was highly successful and provided valuable information about wet storage of timber that could be called upon again in the future."

A lot of the wood was also exported to Sweden as pulpwood for making paper.

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