As recently mentioned on our facebook page, one of the things I really enjoy is seeing the timber we fell, from the woods we manage, going on to be used.
This is most obvious when we are milling the timber for use by ourselves and the rest of the ranger team across the Brecon Beacons and Monmouthshire.
A few weeks ago the mobile sawmill came to help us do just that. Not only is the process just mesmerising, but also seeing the calculation of what is on the cutting list and how the sawyer estimates as he goes along, what he’ll get out of each log. And best of all, there is no waste. The sawn timber heads off to the rangers for their projects, the slab wood (the outer edges of the logs from something round being made square) goes into the log store for our bunkhouse and office and even the sawdust gets cleared away as our tenant farmers find it useful for animal bedding or when they are tagging to keep the yard clean.
On the cutting list this time around, we had timber for new benches and gates, a roof purling to repair storm damage to a historic grain dryer, planks for making habitat boxes, timber for cladding a shed in wavy board – these are boards where one side hasn’t been squared to show the contours of the tree as well as all the regular sizes that we just seem to get through repairing stuff.
This however is just a small amount of the timber the woodlands produce, the rest goes its different ways, all dependent on species, diameter, length and how straight or knotty it is. All the species have their own properties that make them desirable to particular uses. It may be strength, flexibility, colour, resilience to weathering, ease of working. Whilst all softwood may be referred to as pine, you’re just as likely to be picking up spruce or fir species.
Thinking of the trees we have been felling at Pont-ar-Daf, the biggest and best will often find itself in mills, destined for the building industry as beams, boards, studwork, joists, batons, kitchen carcasses, almost anywhere in your house. Second pick probably goes to industrial or outdoor uses. Here the timber may be heading in to fencing, farm gates, fencing panels, pallets and many more uses that we are probably yet to hear of. The final picking will be the bendy bits and odd length off-cuts, these will make their way into the fuel market, either for firewood logs or to be chipped and fed into power stations or boiler systems.
Tim – Woodland Ranger