On a chilly March morning the residents in the vicinity of the Bovey Valley Woods had the chance to pick up a load of firewood from the woodland gate. After the winter’s thinning work throughout the valley, a few remaining stacks of logs stood beside the forest track. The bulk of the large Douglas fir and larch sawlogs resulting from the work had been extracted to commercial sawmills, leaving a few tonnes of low grade hardwood thinnings.
People gathered with a collection of vans, trucks and trailers; industriously stacking and loading logs into their vehicles while the firewood processing machine cut and split the wood, making a heap of hand-sized chunks. The processor is an ingeniously simple gadget that measures, saws and cleaves the short lengths of wood with a blade and hydraulic ram.
Firewood day in the Bovey Valley is a sociable time when local people and the forestry management team can stop for a while to talk about the woods. Distributing off-cuts of firewood shows how local resources can be shared and Dave Rickwood, the Woodland Trust manager for the Dartmoor area said “getting people together like this gives us a chance to demonstrate the range of timber products arising from sustainable woodland management. It’s also a good time to chat with our neighbours”.
Another beautifully simple device was on site to clear up the numerous small chunks and strips ejected from the processing machine. A locally designed rocket stove was burning all morning to keep a kettle boiling and the hot drinks flowing. Rocket stoves are a very efficient way to generate heat from small pieces of wood and this new robust design allows the fuel to feed into the fire by gravity while sending a concentrated blast of heat to the kettle on top. The art of making tea in the woods is constantly evolving and this latest development kept the atmosphere warm.
It is widely believed that firewood keeps you warm in three ways – when you cut it, stack it and then burn it. Adding in a few off-cuts from the previous softwood milling demonstration, an ideal blend of fuels was made ready to take home. This will be stacked to season in preparation for next winter when the gradual woodland thinning will continue, slowly restoring the Bovey Valley Woods into a more natural and diverse wild place.
by Matt Parkins