North East's £40m forestry sector celebrated at Forestry and Firewood Fair

Forestry and Firewood Fair set to attract landowners, farmers and those with an interest in wood burning as sector continues to thrive

James Cookson of Meldon Park Estate
James Cookson of Meldon Park Estate

Visitors from across the UK will be flocking to Northumberland next weekend for the biggest ever event celebrating the North East’s £40m forestry sector.

An unprecedented surge in the popularity of wood fuel heating will bring together landowners, farmers and others at the Forestry and Firewood Fair at Meldon Park Estate, near Morpeth, on September 27.

The event will provide a one-stop-shop for everything to do with forestry, giving visitors the opportunity to learn about the latest developments and technology in the sector, which employs more than 1,500 people in the region.

Among the attractions set to draw in the crowds will be the demonstrations of low-impact horse logging, whereby horses are used to remove wood harvested in conservation areas, protecting the delicate ground conditions.

Businesses in the forestry sector will also be able to examine the latest equipment and hear presentations from industry experts on key topics from funding to land management.

Andrew Kitching, project manager at Northwoods, which is organising the event in conjunction with Northumberland County Council and Meldon Park, said: “The Forestry and Firewood Fair is the biggest event of its kind ever staged in the North East.

“This is a vibrant, expanding sector which is set to create even more jobs and income for the region’s economy. The event is a must-attend for anyone with an interest in our woodlands, be they farmers, landowners or consumers keen to find out more about the benefits of wood fuelled heating and the Government incentives available to make the switch.”

The upsurge in interest in biomass heating is one of the key drivers of the forestry sector’s current success.

Among the sponsors of the fair will be biomass heating specialist re:heat, whose director, Neil Harrison, believes it will benefit anyone interested in woodfuel heating, whether wood producers or consumers wanting to find out more.

“This is such an important event for the industry because currently there is unprecedented activity in the wood heat sector,” he said. “I am proud to have been involved in this sector in the North East for the last 12 years, and it is growing year-on-year.

“Because market conditions have improved, demand for firewood has increased significantly and there is now a major industry in providing locally sourced energy for people in both Northumberland and the wider area.

“This is an event for consumers who burn wood, either in open fires, in stoves, or in biomass boilers. It is also an essential event for landowners and farmers who want to hear from the experts about the grants and funding available to help them exploit woodlands on their land or learn about growing for the expanding biomass market.”

Throughout the day, the Woodlands at Meldon Park will host demonstrations, illustrating everything from mechanical timber extractions and harvesting to the horse logging teams of Dales ponies and cobs run by Charlie Parker from Roandale Stud in Barnard Castle.

Meldon Park owner James Cookson said: “With both timber prices and the interest in woodfuel on the increase, we are now beginning to look at the estate’s woodlands as being more of a commercially viable asset.

“Support from Northwoods has enabled us to look at our woodlands and bring them into a programme of work which means they will be more actively managed, resulting in an additional income for the estate whilst improving the timber quality for the future.”

Talks and presentations will also be taking place in the Forestry Information Centre, where members of the public will be able to meet with industry experts.

Equipment demonstrations, run by everyone from tree surgeons to woodfuel and boiler suppliers, will likewise be held in the trade stand area.

Kenny Dobson, a partner at Wark-based Forestry Machine Services, said: “We will be attending the fair to show customers the firewood machinery and harvesting equipment we sell, service and repair.

“We are seeing a growing demand for the machinery we work throughout the UK and primarily in the North East and Scottish Borders.

“This really is an expanding industry and we are pleased that this important event has come to fruition and will provide a platform for all elements within the industry.”

The fair comes at the end of a week of training events focused on providing the next generation of woodland workers for this growing sector.

The event, which has received support from Northumberland County Council’s Economic Regeneration department, is being run on a not-for-profit basis and will charge a £2 entry fee per car.

Forestry and the North East:

* Total woodland cover in the North East amounts to 155,660 hectares, of which 49,862 is owned by the Forestry Commission

* It is estimated that 79,183 hectares of woodland are currently under management

* Total Broadleaved Woodland Areas cover 25,000 hectares, with conifers covering 60,400 hectares

* Standing timber volume of conifers in the North East comprises of 13,789,000 m3

* Standing volume of broadleaved species in the North East comprise of 5,297,000 m3

* The North East’s forests attract 11.3m visits per year

TALKS SCHEDULED IN THE FORESTRY INFORMATION AREA

11.00–11.15 - Introduction to New Environmental Land Management Scheme (NELMS)

Richard Pow, Forestry Commission

This seminar will provide the latest information on NELMS, the New Environmental Land Management Scheme, which is set to be launched in January 2015. NELMS will combine Environmental Stewardship and the English Woodland Grant Scheme.

11.45–12.05 - Wood Heating Association (WHA) - Talks tent

Neil Harrison, re:heat

The WHA is a new organisation looking to support the needs of organisations and individuals providing services in the rapidly growing modern wood heating market. This talk will provide information on how the WHA could help support woodfuel businesses as well as the benefits associated with becoming a member.

12.30–12.50 - Plant Health Update

Alan Ockenden, Forestry Commission

It is becoming clear that a number of tree and woodland pests and pathogens are here to stay. This seminar will provide an overview of the current threats affecting the UK, as well as up-to-date information on the appropriate controls to minimise their spread.

1.20–1.40 - Funding Opportunities for the Forestry Sector

Richard Pow, Forestry Commission and Will Richardson, Rural Development Initiatives

The first part of the session will introduce what funding support programmes will be available to forestry businesses under the next round of the Rural Development Programme. Following this introduction, Will Richardson will explain what support will be available to businesses who want to look at accessing the new round of funding.

2.10–2.30 -Biomass Suppliers List

Andrew Howard, Pennine Biomass

The Biomass Suppliers List (BSL) was launched at the end of April. This is the list of suppliers of woodfuel who have been accredited as demonstrating that their fuel meets the sustainability criteria required under the RHI. This seminar will provide more detail on the BSL and how signing up to the BSL could provide opportunities to those businesses looking to enter the supply of woodfuel.

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