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Fuel and the landscape

 As the price of oil and gas has gone up, and up, wood burning stoves have become the thing to have.   And as woodburning stoves have become popular, wood which previously had no economic value has become worth paying money for. 

Here in the Tamar Valley, there is a lot of land which until recently was more or less economically valueless.  It was ex-mining land, covered in hazel, beech and oak plus in some places the leftovers of old orchards, or small conifer plantations that someone thought might make a few bob once upon a time.   The fields are steep and small, and some of them are probably contaminated as well: access is poor and there are areas of woodland that exist pretty much because it wasn't worth anyone's time to keep the land cleared. 

Now the wood is worth the effort, people have started to cut the hedges (today I saw overgrown oaks in a hedge cleared that must have been fifty years old at least) and clear the coppices.   It will be interesting to see if this change persists and results in a move to more traditionally coppiced woodland, or if the land is cleared once then put to some other purpose. 



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
9th May, 2011 11:48 (UTC)
Most of the large-scale coppicing around here seems to be done by conservation bodies to encourage biodiversity, rather than commercially. I wonder if it will become possible to earn a living by coppicing again? I know a few gardeners with chainsaws who do a little coppicing on the side, but that's more to supplement their income.

Last winter I saw people gathering dead wood from the common for the first time ever... I haven't seen anyone resorting to furze-cutting yet though.
9th May, 2011 12:28 (UTC)
It's fascinating to see the effect of this price change on the land (if a little sad to see large oaks and beeches felled for firewood in the springtime!)

Move to a more peasant lifestyle? My neighbours on the right now have pigs and chickens, and those on the left have ducks...

Bit worrying though, there are so many more houses and people to heat than there were in the days of coppicing as a costeffective business practice.
9th May, 2011 16:04 (UTC)
Yes, shades of Easter Island - will there be enough wood to go around when the oil runs out? And there's already a definite drop in the air quality on a cold, still winter evening.
14th May, 2011 15:50 (UTC)
Fascinating post! And the mention of Easter Island sent a wee shiver down my spine...
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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