Wood you believe it at Attingham

Stacked pile of cut timber

Posts, chip, dens, and habitat; there’s a variety of uses for timber on our estate. Read on to find out what we use our trees for once they’ve fallen.

At Attingham we have a wooodland management plan. As mentioned in my previous blog post, some of the tree work we do at Attingham is to do with safety; checking that they’re not a risk to either person or property. We also manage the woodland in areas with the aim of returning some timber plantations to more natural structured woodland, developing the areas on the Deer Park into more woodland pasture for the fallow deer to roam. Throughout the year we discover the occasional (or more depending on the weather!) windblown tree, and these are used in a variety of ways.

Chip off the old block

The Rangers at Attingham provide the woodchip for the site's biomass boiler. This provides heat and hot water for the Stables Courtyard buildings and the Mansion. It plays a very important role in maintaining the right environment for the Mansion and collection which needs temperature and humidity control to prevent the various historic paintings and furniture from rapidly deteriorating. To reduce carbon emissions, we use some of the timber we fell and chip it on site. 

Cutting branches to size for loading onto the forwarder
Chainsaw operator cutting up a branch while a timber crane works in the background
Cutting branches to size for loading onto the forwarder

Our woodland plan is set that we can extract as much timber as will grow in the following year, we also use sustainably sourced timber from neighbouring National Trust estates. We extract the timber using a forwarder and stack it to dry before a large self-propelled chipper 'chips' it into our holding bay.

Big trees need a big chipper to get through them
Self-propelled chipper loading and chipping logs
Big trees need a big chipper to get through them

Saw it through to the end

Reasonably long and straight trees may be turned into posts, rails, and other timber products that can be used around the estate. When we have a sufficient amount lying ready, we will check our timber stocks and see what we need and from that will create a cutting list.

Once we have enough timber and know what products we want to make out of them, we call in another piece of specialist kit to chop it up: the Lucas Mill. This portable saw bench is brought out to site where the timber is stacked before being set up, at which point a log is placed in the centre ready to start being cut up in to the required pieces.

The saw table makes cutting our posts and rails much easier on site
Large saw bench cutting a log into pieces while a volunteer removes a cut piece
The saw table makes cutting our posts and rails much easier on site

Den building

Sometimes when we're removing a fallen tree we end up with a lot of branches and bits left over that we don’t have much need for: the brash, which usually consists of all the thin, whippy, leafy branches. Often this just gets left to naturally rot down or piled to make habitat as we will come on to below, but there is a more active role it can play in the form of den building. Den building is a fantastic way for children of all ages to get outside and involved in nature. By leaving the brash scattered around, it allows children to explore a little bit of the woods while selecting only the finest branches to build their den.

Den building at Attingham Park
A den built from logs and branches propped against a tree at Attingham park
Den building at Attingham Park

Creating habitats

Although it is useful for us to try and use as much of the timber that comes down as we can, we also have to make sure that we provide enough for the wildlife that lives all over the park. We have a lot of trees on the estate, and because of this we have a lot of bugs, beetles, and beasts that like living on and eating the various parts of a tree. We have a couple of important saproxylic or deadwood invertebrates such as the wood boring beetle, the flat bark beetle, and the cobweb beetle. These beetles as well as others are nationally scarce and important, which has resulted in much of the main Attingham site being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). We make sure we're helping these beetles, ensuring we are leaving some trees and dead wood where they fall to provide meals and habitats.

Habitat piles like these help support wildlife across the Attingham estate
A stacked pile of dead and rotting logs and branches to provide habitat
Habitat piles like these help support wildlife across the Attingham estate

However, it is not just the beetles we have to look after. The brash that's been left is nibbled by the deer which supplements their diet, and logs and brash piled up provide refuges for bugs, birds, and amphibians. So if you see an untidy looking pile of sticks, logs, and other brash, please leave it undisturbed as you never know who may be living inside it!