Timber use at Blackdown

A wooden bench with a view over the forest.

A wooden bench with a view over the forest.

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Good woodland management can sometimes mean thining woodlands. Our team on the Blackdown esate have been finding useful ways of using this timber so that it doesn't go to waste.

Blackdown in West Sussex, lies on a conspicuous hill among the surrounding, low lying Wealden landscape. The woods on the estate are a mixture of pine, birch and oak. There are areas of older woodland with beech or hazel and oak, and also areas of sweet chestnut coppice.

What do we use the wood for?
Managing the woodland produces a variety of useful timber. Most of the pine is sold to sawmills for conversion into fencing and building materials. The oak and sweet chestnut is mostly used on the property or at nearby National Trust sites.

What do the different trees get turned into?

  • Sweet chestnut is regularly coppiced and turned into fencing materials. It is a naturally durable timber and makes a good substitute for chemically treated softwoods, and of course it only has to travel a few hundred yards rather than many miles. It works equally well on functional post and wire stock fences or more traditional cleft post and rail fences.
  • Oaks are sometimes thinned to allow more light for the remaining trees, or for the developing coppice. The wardens at Blackdown recognise the value of this excellent, versatile wood and put it to good use.

The process of turning trees into timber

  1. The trees are converted on site, by a contractor using a mobile bandsaw.
  2. The sawn wood is dried under cover until it is ready to use.
  3. Offcuts are cut up, dried and contribute to heating a basecamp and small office at the property.

Does any of the timber get used on the estate?
There are many seats and benches on Blackdown, normally next to viewpoints. They are made in a variety of designs and often have a limited life. The wardens, with the help of volunteers, now make sturdy, durable (and comfortable) benches from Blackdown oak. Gradually these are replacing some of the old benches.

Volunteers on a working holiday at Blackdown helped to reconstruct an old apple press, using Blackdown oak. They collected apples from a small orchard on the property and produced quantities of apple juice to drink fresh or for cider making.

Blackdown wood has also been used to build or rebuild working sheds, a timber store and parts of the office building. Gateposts are normally made of home grown oak and hazel is used for revetments, to support the banks of ponds.

There are exciting and ambitious plans to do other things on the estate with local timber. We hope to be able to tell you more about this in the future.