Twenty five years of delivering logs from Hatfield Forest

Ranger Ian stood next to the Landrover and Selena the sheep dog in the back of the truck with National Trust logo and property details on the side

Our Ranger Ian Pease has been delivering logs from Hatfield Forest for 25 years. He can still remember his first delivery, to a converted church. The operation has been scaled up over the years, providing a useful output for the woodland management operation, as well as contributing to the income of the forest.

Ian's first delivery

In deepest, darkest Essex, a former church stands proud against the darkening winter sky. A lone figure trundles a wheelbarrow, brimming with logs, through the graveyard. The scene is the final step in a tradition dating back centuries.

For more than two decades a vehicle has pulled up outside this converted church to deliver firewood, the by-product of a natural cycle of life, kept alive in an ancient forest.

It is 25 years since Hatfield Forest ranger Ian Pease first made the journey.  He recalls visiting the former church for the first time. “I remember going out there. It took ages to find it,” he said. “Back then it was all about explaining it over the phone – there was no satnav or anything like that, but I eventually found it. We had a Vauxhall Brava pick-up truck then, which I unloaded by hand.” Ian now drives a Land Rover Defender pick-up with a crane, which is used to unload the 1.2 cubic metre bag of logs.  

Hatfield Forest logs

The logs sold from Hatfield Forest are mixed hardwoods, mostly hawthorn, blackthorn and birch, the result of work to restore rare wood pasture. Some of this is vegetation which has encroached on open areas since World War II. Coppicing also provides timber, mostly hazel.

The wood is felled, cut and left on site to season naturally over two years, rather than being kiln dried. These are the piles of logs you see around the Forest. When ready, they are collected, brought back to the Forest estate yard and processed to become the logs Ian delivers. ­­­

A working forest

Ian said, “Over 25 years I have turned this cottage industry into something more commercial, working quickly and efficiently to meet demand. Apart from the financial aspects, it’s important to retain the fact that we are a working forest. It’s part of the fabric of the site and what we are all about. Even if we sell only a few loads, it keeps the story going. It’s part of the context of the place – a part of our heritage.“

An important link with the local community

He added, “It’s an important link with the local community. A lot of our customers come back year after year. There are a lot of traditions here at Hatfield Forest. I’m keen we don’t lose sight of the cultural heritage of the forest and its many traditions.” It’s an age-old process that we have been providing to the community for six or seven hundred years and we are still doing that.”

Today

We now delivers about 150 loads a year, mostly within a 10 miles radius.

Ian’s customers enjoy sitting at home in front of a roaring fire on a winter’s afternoon, knowing that the logs they are burning come from the forest they walk in and know so well. “People like the whole ethos of it,” he said.