Tree Planting Season Begins

Last year it was 5000 trees on 11 acres at Banks and this year the plan is for some 2500 trees to be planted on a field off Becconsall Lane in Hesketh Bank. The saplings were delivered this morning so now it is race against time to get the bare rooted plants into the ground before they dry out.

Planting trees in Hesketh Bank
Planting trees in Hesketh Bank

As the ground is still very very wet, the trees, stakes and guards have all been moved onto site with the low ground pressure trailer and a compact tractor.

Ready to go - tree planting 2017Ready to go – tree planting 2017

As we passed the recently restored ‘bomb hole’ pond, two Snipe got up from the rushes on the pond edge . I have not seen snipe in these fields for the twenty two years we have been here so that was noteworthy.

Preparing for tree planting
Preparing for tree planting

Distributing the stakes and tree guards around the plot without doing damage is very difficult when it is so wet. Our small compact tractor with grass tyres was again used but this time with some pallet forks fitted rather than a trailer. To minimise the impact the front weights were removed which meant additional trips but really did minimise the ruts left. After the next (seemingly inevitable) downpour there was little evidence left of a tractor being on the field.

Winter 2017/18 Tree planting at Becconsall Lane, Hesketh Bank
Winter 2017/18 Tree planting at Becconsall Lane, Hesketh Bank

It will be 10-15 years before this new coppice plantation will become productive so it is not a short term project.  It will eventually provide a source of timber for traditional woodland crafts, wood chunks for flavoured smoke for food smokers and BBQ’s (WoodChunks.co.uk), fuel for wood fired pizza ovens and firewood (CarbonNeutralFuel.co.uk) but, in the mean time, the growing trees will store carbon, will provide a home for wildlife, absorb air pollution, help reduce water flow/flood risk into the Douglas and Ribble and help river water quality by absorbing any nitrogen run off from the sheep grazing on the higher land.

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Growing SRC willow for firewood

For some years now we have been growing a variety of traditional basket making willow for use as wreath bases, twig wreaths and wreath decorations with any leftovers and offcuts being used as fuel for use in wood boilers. Nothing at all goes to waste.

We spotted a number of websites proclaiming hybrid willow and poplar to be a rapid source of wood fuel with some astounding claims on the potential harvest so we decided to conduct our own trial.

Willow SRC in third year of growth
Willow SRC in third year of growth

We to try a commercial hybrid willow which is planted as Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) for biomass production. It has taken about 6 years to get enough plants propagated to establish a meaningful crop on the different soil types around the place and whilst there will be a another couple of years needed to complete the planting plan, the initial plants are now in production phase. The first patch is now into its third year of growth so if it was to be used for biomass it would be harvested this coming winter.

SRC Willow 3rd year of growth
SRC Willow 3rd year of growth

The stems are long and straight with the average diameter being around 50mm at 1m height. If harvested this winter and left to season, the crop would already be ideal for use as wood boiler and wood fired pizza oven fuel but we intend to leave this until at least 6 years to see if the firewood logs claimed by the sellers of the hybrid plants are attained and produced in any quantity.

The photo below is of a row of established SRC willow which was harvested in February 2015. The 5 months of growth is now at a height of around 2.5 meters (8ft),

Row of 1 year old SRC willow
Row of 1 year old SRC willow

Our processed willow is sold through a variety of channels depending on what it is made into:

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