Forest operations in South Wales Central
This is the first in a series of blogs by our Forest Operations team in South Wales Central. Here’s Chris Rees, Forest Operations Team Leader South Wales Central, talking about the multiple benefits that our forests bring to people and nature, and the work that his team does to manage them in a sustainable way.
Where would we be without a tree?
No apples, pears or plums for tea
No ships to sail across the sea
No tables, chairs or wooden stools,
No carts for horses, ox or mules,
No handles for the workers tools,
No warming fires as night air cools.
No sturdy props for pits or mines,
No casks or crates for ales or wines,
No sleepers for the railway lines,
No paper for the Sunday times.
No wood for windows or for doors,
No blocks, panels or parquet floors,
How would actors tread the boards,
No guitars, all hidden chords.
Then of course I do believe,
The forest makes the air we breath
So, take care wherever you might be,
And keep our woodlands wild and free.
The benefits of our woodlands
I hope you like the poem above which highlights the benefits of our woodlands and the timber they produce. Look around every room in your home and identify just how many products are made from wood, including paper and packaging products.
Wood has many uses and benefits the economy and environment of Wales. It has the potential for creating a wide range of businesses and jobs. Using wood in construction, for products and as a renewable energy source helps us to tackle damaging levels of carbon dioxide emissions.
Woodlands are culturally important to us, as defining landscape features. They are important places for biodiversity and for our own recreational, health and well-being. Trees are also very important to us in supporting our own urban ecosystems, by reducing pollution, reducing surface waters, reducing temperatures and capturing carbon - all important in how we can address the climate emergency.
Understanding and further exploring how we maximise the benefits of woodlands and restore our woodland ecosystems is an important part of the South Central Area Statement.
A competitive and sustainable forest sector
The Welsh market for timber products is dominated by imports, which means that both timber growers and manufacturers operate in a fiercely competitive environment. The forest sector in Wales now contributes and estimated £650 million to the economy and employs over 14,000 people in hundreds of small to medium sized rural businesses. We’re the largest supplier of certified timber to these businesses in Wales.
We produce around 850,000 tonnes of timber in Wales every year with around 72,000 tonnes being produced from South Wales Central annually.
Pests and Diseases
We are currently responding to an outbreak of the fungal tree pathogen Phytophthora Ramorum affecting the three main species of larch. As a result of this infection large areas of the woodland estate have been issued with Statutory Plant Health Notices which require the trees to be felled or destroyed.
Whilst the P.ramorum larch disease has impacted heavily on our landscape of the South Wales Valleys, this devastating disease has allowed us, as custodians of the Welsh Government Woodland Estate, to re-generate the forest and create a forest for the future.
With much of the forest being identified as previously native woodland, we have taken the opportunity to restore native woodland habitat across much of the public estate, rebuilding resilience in our woodland ecosystems for the benefit of biodiversity and communities around them.
Harvesting for timber
During the tree harvesting activities we ensure we market all the timber to attain the best value for money for the public purse.
The timber, even though diseased, still has many properties which can be used for timber construction and other uses.
Whilst we ensure not to utilise any of the larch bark or saw dust residues for garden composting, to eliminate the risk of the disease spreading to garden plants, the trees and timber are all put to good use.
The lower stem of the tree is still used for construction timber for housing, and locking in carbon for 100 years, whilst providing homes for the people of Wales.
The middle part of the tree is used to produce garden fencing and furniture and pallet making to ensure our food and pharmaceutical products are transported safely across the country.
The upper, and smaller, part of the tree once difficult to market now has many uses including farm fencing products, chip wood for manufacturing for chip and panel boards for internal housing and kitchen units.
And if there is anything left, we produce for the wood fuel market, which has grown considerably over recent years with many factories, local authority buildings and hospitals now using wood fuel heating systems and a renewable energy resource and system.
Our timber customers include many South Wales based companies which includes contractors who employ locally and provide skilled work as forest machine harvesting operators.
There is a renewed focus on forestry in the South Wales valleys which can sometimes be negative. We recognise the importance of woodlands and trees for their environmental benefits, but also for their many social and economic benefits that our forests provide. We are exploring how woodlands and trees are better managed to provide the benefits most needed in South Central, whilst ensuing woodlands are connected, healthy and diverse as resilient ecosystems for biodiversity and for future generations.
Read more about the South Wales Central Woodland Ecosystem.