Kent is one of the most wooded counties in the UK, and much of this is broad-leaved woodland. It is one of a few counties where people are still employed in the coppicing industry. The Stour Valley has many large areas of woodland such as the Blean Woods complex, King’s Wood, Denge and Eggringe Wood. There are also many small woods which, in addition to being valuable in the landscape, provide wildlife habitat and stepping stones for wildlife from the larger woodlands. The area is well wooded partly due to poor soils being of little use to agriculture, and because woodlands have provided a valuable economic resource.Coppice and high forest are types of woodland management which can result in economic, wildlife rich, attractive woodlands. When coppicing occurs sunlight is allowed onto the woodland floor which results in many plants taking advantage of the light to flower in profusion e.g. bluebells, wood anemones, violets and foxgloves. As the coppice grows and bramble and other ‘scrubby’ plants appear, it becomes excellent for birds such as nightingale, blackcap and other warblers. In the Blean the heath fritillary, one of Britain’s rarest butterflies, has long been associated with coppicing and ride management. Another special Stour Valley species, less associated with coppicing, is the lady orchid found in the wildlife rich woods on the chalk downs.
Sweet chestnut is still used locally to make fencing, and former uses such as furniture making are being revitalised. Oak has many uses including furniture, gates and planks. Beech is used in furniture. Other less commercial, locally found broad-leaved trees are used by producers in this guide, such as cherry, alder, hazel, birch, and ash. All broad-leaved trees will provide charcoal and firewood.
Forests around the world are being plundered for their timber with little thought given to the effects on wildlife and global warming. Tropical rain-forests and important boreal forests are being devastated by logging operations, whilst charcoal often comes from unsustainable sources. The only certain way to ensure you are not contributing to this destruction is to avoid using such products. Another problem for home grown timber and wood is that plastic has come to replace it in many items today.
Remember, by using local hardwoods you are helping to provide jobs, a home for wildlife, and ensuring Kentish woodlands remain a valuable part of the landscape.
Visit our timber products directory.
Woodland Regeneration Project
Andrew and Peter Massey’s Woodland Regeneration Project grew out of their father’s cabinet making business.They now sustainably manage 100 acres of their own woodland and other pieces for organisations such as English Nature.
The woods are managed to provide timber for their furniture making business. No pesticides or herbicides are used. Rabbit damage is prevented by the use of electric fencing.
Charcoal is produced using only waste wood from the furniture production. In the UK 93% of charcoal is imported, usually from unsustainable sources. This project’s charcoal is sustainable and doesn’t require transporting thousands of miles from source to market.
In addition to making furniture the brothers run training courses for the European Union and Kent County Council. They hope to open a training and marketing centre under the Intereg II scheme.
The project is also developing low impact housing – they have built a replica iron age round house which cost only £2000 to construct, and are constructing a rammed earth building using local stone and compacted local soil.
A major project that is being undertaken is the removal and reconstruction of Yonsea farm. The farm which is of great historical significance lies on the route of the channel rail link at Hothfield. By moving it to Woodchurch it will be preserved for future generations. The farm was designed by John Nash and built between 1816 and 1819, it provides an excellent model for organic farming. It is planned that the reconstructed farm will be run as it originally was. It will be open to the public through the Rare Breeds Centre.
During the reconstruction several apprentices will be taken on. A combination of on the job training and day release will give the trainees unique skills in construction. The public will be able to see the reconstruction in progress and enjoy the working farm when it is finished in hopefully four years’ time.