Wood co-ops offer access to woods, free logs and friendship
Posted by Cathy Debenham on 9 August 2011 at 10:20 am
Where the wood will come from is one of the issues to consider when investing in a wood burning stove or biomass boiler. The provision of wood pellet and wood chip are growing industries with measurable standards. Log supply, however, generally remains local, with variable quality, and difficulty comparing prices.
As well as the standard trailer load delivered by a local businesses, wood co-ops are offering an enjoyable way to get your wood supply and cut your fuel bills.
Axewoods Co-operative in Devon is one of a growing number of community groups bringing together woodland owners and people wanting to work in woods. In exchange for a day's work in the woods, volunteers can take home a boot full of logs. It's a fun and sociable day out, and people build friendships as well as a log pile.
"People love filling up their vehicle and taking home the small stuff," says co-ordinator John Bell. "They thrive on having something to take home to show for their work. It also helps people realise that they can take more responsibility for their heating.
"Because the unmanaged woodland in East Devon tends to be small in size, with poor access and steep slopes it is generally not commercially viable. So owners and volunteers opted to work for lower priced fire wood and access to woodland (which they wouldn't otherwise have) to enhance wildlife, and for recreation and education."
The initial pilot project (funded by Making it Local) started in August 2010 in woodland owned by the National Trust. The co-op has 40 members, of whom 10 are regulars. It's loosely based on old commoners rite of housebote which allowed anyone with the rite to claim wood of a certain size for their domestic fire.
"A distinction was established between arm-sized logs and leg-sized logs," says John Bell. "We learnt early on that c-operative supporters would jump at the chance to gather wood for themselves if it was small enough for them to handle easily (ie arm-sized). If it was any larger (ie leg-sized) then it should support the co-operative, and be sold on the open market."
At the start of this article I mentioned that it is often difficult to know the standard of local log supplies and compare prices. Axewoods Co-operative is an exception to this. It sells a builders bag of predominantly hardwood logs at £70. Logs are cut to 8"-12" unless otherwise specified and have been split and dried under cover for a year. Moisture content will be 25% less. It also sells freshly cut or green logs at a cheaper rate.
The Working our Woodlands project is another local project (also funded by Making it Local) which contributes to future wood fuel supply. In this case it helps by bringing more private woodland into management, offering training days, and bringing together owners, contractors and wood-fuel suppliers.
If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.
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