Annular Further – Britain – Forest Industry

Harvesting tree stands in Cumbria  – Photo – Forestry Journal

This section provides an overview of forest and timber industry sector in Britan.

It is divided into four sections beginning with an introductory overview of the British forestry and timber industry. This is followed by three sections, the first focused on the main timber manufacturers, sawmills, and principal construction and carpentry related companies. The remaining two sections provide overviews of the sector’s professional and promotional organisations, and a second section profiling Government and public sector organisations involved in forestry and forestry culture.

You can access each of the sections by clicking on the links below.

Overview

Sitka spruce woods in Wales – Photo – FSC

Forest industry – companies, factories, and sawmills

Britain’s forest and timber sector has long been dwarfed by its continental neighbours, and there is a long history of the country importing timber from different parts of Northern Europe, which stretches back to the Middle Ages. Indeed, today Britain is the third largest importer of timber, after China and Japan. To understand why one needs to look back to Britain’s late 18th and early 19th century industrial revolutio the almost complete disappearance of productive woodlands during this period – bottoming out at less than 5% wood cover by the end of the World War I – precipitating the crisis which would result in the formation of the Forestry Commission, illustrating the lack – in extremis – of home-grown productive wood available.

As of 2019, Forest Research (the Forestry Commission’s research branch) reported a total UK forest area as 3.19 million hectares, which stands at 49% broadleaf and 51% conifer although this varies regionally. In Scotland, conifers account for nearly three quarters (74%), while in England this is closer to one quarter of all woodland (26%).  Half of the conifer forests are Sitka spruce. Almost all British timber production is from conifer stands, although there are a few hardwood exceptions, including research and other experimental projects. As of 2015, the UK timber harvest stood at about 11.3 million tonnes annually from overwhelmingly (95%) coniferous stands, with the remainder coming from broadleaved species.

In the last decade there has been a gradual increase in the use of British timber proportionate to imported timber.  Still, British timber imports amount to £8.3 billion, and while there has been increased use in the fencing and decking – with about 70% sourced from British – primarily Scottish – forests, the proportion going into construction use is only about one sixth or 16% of the total use. Imported timber is primarily bound for the mass housing markets, where both timber frame house building and timber frame construction have seen a consistent increase in use compared to other building materials.

For instance, nearly half of all UK structural timber originates from Swedish timber mills and manufacturers. Given the close links to Nordic timber, a number of the promotional organisations – eg, Confor and Wood for Good – receive significant funding from the Nordic, and specifically the Swedish, promotional wing of the forestry industry.

The South East of England is where the largest amount of timber frame housebuilding occurs (as well as in Scotland), while timber frame construction is more popular in the North West and Eastern regions. Although this indicates an increased use of timber in mass housing, generally large-scale volume building companies continue to be completely impervious to considering home-grown timber against cheaper, higher quality imported softwoods, and softwood timber technologies from – primarily – the Nordic and Baltic regions.

Although housing has risen up the architectural agenda, many of the high profile and experimental projects which have characterised the re-emergence of 21st century timber architecture have involved new engineered timber materials, which are primarily manufactured and produced in central Europe – there is a single indigenous Glulam producer, Buckland Timber in Devon, and one CLT production line, Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, in Hamilton near Glasgow – see further below. The profile of the timber sector below is therefore divided between the large-scale timber companies primarily engaged with mass housing timber construction, and the more specialised and, at times, clearly more sustainable building practices and processes. Research and development of indigenous woods for construction has been happening at the small scale across the woodier parts of Scotland, Wales, and South East and South West England, and there is a network of small-scale niche timber companies, products and projects, but to date this homegrown timber remains a niche material at the edges of the mainstream industry.

Organisations and manufacturers

Photo BSW

James Jones assembly line, Scotland – Photo – James Jones & Sons

Project in production at Buckland Timber – Photos – Buckland Timber’s Facebook page

Manufacturers

Large scale UK timber companies

The two largest UK timber companies are BSW and James Jones & Sons. Each are headquartered in Scotland with mills and national sales networks.

BSW – owns seven large sawmills across Britain, plus one in Latvia and another in Slovenia. Founded in Boat of Garten, Scotland, BSW employ 1200 people and is now headquartered near Carlisle. Divided into five main groupings, including timber systems, the company supply FSC certified construction timber throughout the country. This includes C16-C24 general construction timber, cladding, beams, composite decking and a new IRO modified timber product. BSW were bought by ESW, a Leeds based private equity firm in February 2020.

James Jones & Sons – the other UK timber company within national reach, were founded in Kirriemuir, Scotland, with the HQ in nearby Larbert. With 900 employees and 20 sites, the sawmill company have developed a timber systems section, with a range of engineered timbers including James Jones I-Joists (JJI-Joists), and glulam and LVL in partnership with continental players, Binderholz and Stora Enso respectively, as well as sawn wood construction timber. Products are FSC and PEFC certified and their sustainability efforts are highlighted online.

Glennon Brothers UKan Irish originated sawmill and manufacturer, operate two sawmills in Scotland and a timber frame design and build company. The next largest companies operate single sawmills, such as Balcas, Munro Timber, Pontrilas and Cordiners, which generally tend to have more regionally based supply chains.

Sawmills

Since 2017, 164 Sawmills have been processing UK roundwood with 115 of them processing softwood, 9 processing hardwood, and 50 processing both. The number of Sawmills has been in decline, down from 197 or 17% in 2008. There are currently 88 in England, 53 in Scotland, 14 in Wales and 8 in Northern Ireland. 30 of these mills produced 25,000 m3 or 85% of all UK sawn wood in 2017.

Preparing glulam beams at Buckland Timber – Photo – Buckland Timber’s Facebook

Curved glulam in preparation at Constructional Timber – Photo – Constructional Timber

Left – Eurban CLT project in the heart of London – Photo – Eurban

Brettstapel systems – Image – Wood Skyscrapers

Timber technologies and engineered timber companies

Glue based engineered timbers (Glulam, CLT, etc) – in UK remain overwhelmingly imported, and at present there are no commercial UK CLT or LVL manufacturers, although there has been several initiatives to begin CLT production in Scotland.

Buckland Timberthe only UK Glulam manufacturers working at a scale that can compete with continental producers exporting into the country. Set up in 2012, the Devon based company run a factory with a production capacity of 5000 m3 producing engineered beams, posts, and bespoke niche products, particularly curved glulam sections, as part of a design and build service. Only a small proportion – between 100 and 150 m3 – is locally sourced, primarily larch and Douglas fir.

In-Wood Developments – based in East Sussex, produce and has previously manufactured glue-laminated sweet chestnut post and beams on a commission basis for one-off projects. They also produce other locally sourced timber materials, including finger-jointed sweet chestnut cladding.

Glulam Solutions – close to Aberdeen in Northern Scotland, Glulam Solutions is probably the most northerly provider of glue-laminated timber and cross-laminated timber (CLT). For their glulam, the company work with continental suppliers, Mein Mayer-MelnHoff (from Austria), while CLT is sourced from Latvia’s Skonto.Donaldson Timber Engineering (DTI) – are Scottish structural timber engineering specialists, with their main office in Buckhaven, Fife, whose focus is I-Joist flooring systems, roof trusses, spandrel panels and floor cassettes. The I-Joists incorporate Finnish Metsawood Kerto LVL and OSB or the webs and are manufactured at the company’s Ilkseton, Derby plant.

Constructional Timber – based in Barnsley, are the largest specialist UK engineered timber companies, focused on providing manufacture and construction services across current engineered timbers, including glulam, CLT, trusses, BauBuche beams, and engineered roof and wall cassettes. They have also recently invested in a Hundegger K2 Industry machine, increasing their manufacturing capacity.

Eurban – the first timber engineering company in the UK to focus on CLT and solid timber construction, Eurban was founded in 2003, growing out of one of the earliest sustainable materials suppliers, Construction Resources. Eurban have gone on to become one of the main CLT engineering companies in Britain, providing both engineering and construction services and passing 300 projects in 2017, when they also opened an office in Switzerland.

KLH UK – the UK arm of Austrian CLT pioneers KLH are, alongside Eurban, the other original UK CLT company, also originally emerging out of the Construction Resources. KLH-UK were responsible for the CLT provision on two of the earliest UK landmark CLT projects, Murray Grove (by WaughThistleton) and Kingsdale school sports hall (dRMM) both in London. KLH UK have since become one of the leading companies within Britain’s engineered timber and construction sector.

Further – see Unstructured extra 9 feature on Hackney, improbable world centre for Urban CLT. For more on Eurban and KLH UK and how they brought CLT to the UK, see this Detail Green feature.

Brettstapel being produced – Photo – MAKAR

MAKAR Brettstapel Duntrodden House (left) and Sylva’s refurbished Grain Mill in Oxfordshire featuring Vastern’s Brimstone themowood façade (right) – Photos – MAKAR and Vasterns

Glue-free massive timber systems 

There are a small number of companies experimenting with glue-free massive wood materials and products, and specifically the Brettstapel approach.

MAKAR –the Inverness based Makar have developed a Brettstapel closed structural insulated panel system, as part of their complete architect, building, materials and forestry material sourcing company. The manufacturing process includes their own version of SIP’s panels using locally grown timber and natural sheep wool insulation materials, rather than toxic volatile organic compound (voc) chemical glues. See this video for an introduction.

In-Wood Developments – the East Sussex local timber manufacturers have been involved in producing Brettstapel.

An in-depth overview of Brettstapel on Fourth Door’s Unstructured website by Wood Knowledge Wales’s Dainis Dauksta can be found here.

Vasterns Brimstone modified timber – Photos – Vasterns

Modified Wood

Vasternsthe UK’s largest indigenous timber supplier and manufacturer, launched the first UK modified wood product under the brand name Brimstone in 2018, using primarily the species of poplar, sycamore and ash. Other species include lime, sweet chestnut, and Douglas fir. As of early 2020, Vasterns have been producing modest levels, around 600 m3 annually, with a medium-term goal of increasing to between 1000 and 1500 m3 and are currently preparing to build their own facility complementing existing other plant and technology.

IRO – IRO modified wood is a recent timber product developed and marketed by BSW.

A Review of Wood Modification Globally –  this is an extensive review of wood modification and literature by two researchers based at Luleå University of Technology, Sweden.

Carpenter Oak oak frame home in Cornwall – Photo – Carpenter Oak

Carpentry companies

Oak and timber frame carpentry companies

Timber and oak framing saw a major revival from the 1970s onwards. The original oak framing companies were  Border Oak (1980) and Carpenter Oak & Woodland (1987 – now Carpenter Oak). Since then, there has been a mushrooming of other companies starting out. Some of the older, more established of these outfits include WestWind Oak, Oakwrights, the Oak Frame Company, the Green Oak Carpentry Company, and the Timber Frame Company.

A spectrum can be found between less and higher tech-oriented timber framing companies. Oakwrights, near Hereford, have developed a factory led, pre-fabricated and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) approach to their house and housing products.

Further – for a brief history of the return of timber-framing see this Carpentry comes back Annular Archive piece

Forest industry organisations and promotion groups

Dynamic Woods’ social enterprise, the Scottish Woodlands wood store – Photo – Dynamic Woods

Scotland

Scottish Forest and Timber Technologies Industry Leadership Group – this is a cross forestry and timber sector business network and industry leadership group. With senior figures from both the private and public sector the SFTTILG develops strategic thinking and advises on policy relating to the sector. The organisation supports the sector and there are four regional groups: Highlands & Islands, North East Scotland, Mid-Scotland and South Scotland.

Forest Policy Group – an independent think tank which makes the case for, in its own words, a more ‘ambitious’ approach to forestry. The group advocate the growing of a broader, environmentally resilient, and more diverse range of forest species, rather than the current focus on conifer softwoods, and a more decentralised system supporting smaller local sawmills, forestry enterprises, and more equitable political governance. Producing regular research, report proposals, and policy analysis, the FPG provides a network for discussion and action, for and with its members.

Association of Scottish Hardwood Sawmillers (ASHS) a co-operative network of Scottish individuals, charities and companies involved in Scottish hardwoods. Underscored by collaboration and working together to make the most of native Scottish hardwoods in construction and other uses, ASHS organises events, training, information resources, and an annual journal, The Full Circle (available in look through format online). Dynamic Woods – a small community charity supporting a deciduous woodland near Dunfermline finding new uses for its hardwoods. The charity works to connect different interested groups within the regional community, as well as providing training, cooperative promotion, wood processing and supplying timber to 23 stores in the locale. It also runs its local greenwoods and hardwoods outlet, Scottish Woodlands, a social enterprise working with the long-term unemployed.

Scottish Working Woods ASHS, Reforesting Scotland, Scottish Woodlands, and the Scottish Furniture Makers Association are co-founders of the certification scheme, highlighting the value of locally sourced woods to local economy, ‘wise use’, and benefits to biodiversity.

Future Woodlands Scotland – set up to continue the work of the Scottish Forests Alliance (SFA) – partnership of the Scottish Woodland Trust, the RSPB Forest Enterprise Scotland, and British Petroleum (BP) – which operated between 2000 and 2011 and established 5000 hectares across 14 new native woodland sites. Future Woodlands Scotland co-ordinates a grants programme that includes a focus on research into forest ecology and changes incarbon in wood stocks and soil, welcome research on its 14 sites. According to the website a newFuture Woodlands Fund is about to be launched, although it does not clearly indicate when this was announced.

Scottish Woodlot Association – generally small, though with exceptions, woodlots are tracts of woodland, and a ‘woodlot’ is a system where owners licence rights (known as a Woodlot Licence) to fell the woods within allowable legal limits (known as the Annual Allowable Cut) while also taking on responsibilities for replanting and sustainable management. The Scottish Woodlot Association assists with matching those wanting to take on Woodlot Licences with those interested in offering their woodlands for licences.

Welsh Low carbon homes – Photo Good Homes Alliance

Wales

Woodknowledge Wales is a not-for-profit organisation focused on the development of forest-based industries in Wales. A membership organisation WKW delivers projects that bring together stakeholders at different levels of industry and society. Its projects combine applied research, innovation in product design, manufacture, systems or services, policy and stakeholder engagement across housing and construction.

The Home Grown Homes project connects affordable housing, timber manufacturing and the forest industries. During its research phase (final report here) it developed the case for Zero Carbon Homes and established a framework for Wales to achieve ‘net zero’ in housing. The Welsh Timber Windows Project (2020-2022) aims to develop a joint window specification for social housing in Wales to be manufactured by Welsh joinery businesses using local timber. The Forest Nation Centre looks at training and skills development for future zero carbon housing construction. WKW has close links with Bangor, the WKW manifesto is available here (pdf) and a broad range of guidance documents on embodied carbon, building performance evaluation and further topics are available for download from the website.

Confor Wales – the forest industry’s promotional organisation has a national officer for Wales, Anthony Geddes contact details here, then scroll down.

Institute of Chartered Foresters, Wales/Cymru – details of the ICF’s national office can be found here (scroll down to map).

Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) – dating back to 1973, CAT was founded in a disused quarry outside the West Wales town of Machynlleth, and over subsequent decades became a mecca for a broad spectrum of green and alternative technologies, including building technologies. This involved considerable building and research into timber and other natural materials, with a long list of experimental buildings constructed over the years. Research and guidance papers on building with timber have been part of CAT’s work, as have courses, including a MSc in architecture – see architecture Wales.

Wood Campus’s front page – Image – Wood Campus

England

The Timber Research and Development Association (TRADA) the principal UK body promoting and highlighting construction and materials developments in timber. TRADA provides research and project information regarding industrial timber in the built environment context. It is a membership organisation providing a broad cross-section of technical information, case studies, technical guidance, standards information, and updates. The organisation runs training and online technical CPD courses, represents its members at events, publishes technical timber books and papers, and acts as a hub of information exchange. There is also a student arm, working with architecture schools and higher education where timber is involved. TRADA is partially funded by major construction industry companies. Its testing and standards certification arm, BM TRADA was sold to the American company, Exova, in 2015.

Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor) – was established to support the forestry industry, from nurseries, woodland owners, to saw millers, and other forest product suppliers and services. Created in 2004, with ongoing support from the Swedish Timber industry, Confor operates from its HQ in Edinburgh as an umbrella organisation representing its members in its interaction with the Forestry Commission. On behalf of its members it lobbies the four UK devolved Governments, policy makers, and regional authorities. According to its 2020 business plan, the company has a turnover of £1.3 million.

Timber Trade Federation – represents much of the UK timber products and supply chain sector. Members include around 370 companies, including manufacturers, importers, timber merchants, sawmillers, etc. There are regional associations, regular regional and national events, promotional campaigns, timber sector training, and CPD sessions. At a political level, it lobbies national and regional Government and related organisations. Its main office is currently in the Building Store in London.

Confederation of Timber Industries (CTI) – is an umbrella trade organisation for companies and organisations involved in all parts of the timber supply chain. The CTI was set up by the TTF and was launched in June 2015. Supported by timber companies, including Jewsons and SCA, and working with other core lobby groups, it has been involved in lobbying in the context of Brexit and as an influential player within the UK’s Industrial Strategy.

Structural Timber Association (STA) – represents over 600 businesses who operate across the timber construction industry including suppliers, manufacturers, erectors, and designers. Focused on the increasing spectrum of structural timber companies, the STA promotes itself as a key source of authoritative expertise for technical research and guidance. The STA was relaunched out of its previous incarnation, the UK Timber Frame Association. Articles and technical guidance can be found here.

Wood for Good – a wood promotion organisation raising the profile of timber and wood in the built environment across the professional and political arenas. It disseminates information on case studies, provides training, and runs events.  It also hosts an online Life Cycle Analysis database. Wood for Good is owned by Confor and Swedish Wood, the marketing arm of the Swedish timber industry.Wood Campus – an online timber portal aimed at a cross section of professional industry sectors, DIY and self-build networks, including CPD modules for architects, informational material for self-builders, and a ‘Knowledge Centre’ on timber materials. Wood Campus was also initiated by Swedish Wood, the promotional arm of the Swedish timber industry, and is sponsored by many British timber industry players.

British Woodworking Federation (BWF) represents woodworkers across the construction and products fields. Its website states that there are 700 members, comprised of manufacturers, distributors, and installers of interior joinery. The organisation supports members, providing information, CPD, and a technical consultant service. It also lobbies for its members at the political, industrial, and wider general public levels, alongside providing media support and promotion for members.

Trussed Rafter Association – the promotional, lobbying, and trade organisation for timber truss rafters (and metal flange connectors) in the UK and Ireland. It does so through technical support, health and safety guidance, and promotional work.

Wood Protection Association (WPA) – the rational for the need for this association is the emergence and uptake of modified wood – wood that has undergone either chemical, biological, or physical processes which enhances its performance – over the last twenty-five years. The WPA provides information, guidance, training and an online info-resource hub on the various modified woods currently commercially available, alongside its own Benchmark Product Approval scheme.

British Woodturners Association (BWTA) – the professional organisation for the commercial and industrial woodturners world. Joining the membership-based association is through approval of the association’s other current members.

Wood Technology Society (WTS) – one of the twenty-two specialist materials communities that work within and under the umbrella Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining organisation. The Society’s objective includes the scientific, technological, and practical advancement of timber and wood-based materials and products. To this end the WTS organises events, runs conferences, and supports training. The WTS publishes the International Wood Products Journal, and its All About Wood resource is one of the more comprehensive to be found on the web.

Forestry Contracting Association (FCA) – the membership association represents individuals and businesses involved in forestry contracting. With both central and regional networks covering England, Scotland, and Wales, the FCA provides guidance, information, and policy, as well as lobbying on behalf of its members.

UK Timber Grading Committee  – supports the regulatory body responsible for common safety standards in timber grading, the Construction Product Regulations and European Standards by linking industry with the committee work at British Standards (mostly B/518) CEN (mostly TC124) level.

FSC certified timber en route to site – Photo – FSC

Timber and forest products, standards certification organisations

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – well-known across the Western forestry and timber world, the British branch, FSC United Kingdom is part of the larger worldwide certification system, organised around two principle elements; Forest Management and Chain of Custody. Each provides certification that the original forests are managed to the FSC standards and that all parts of timber’s journey from forest to site also maintain similar standards. The process provides confidence for businesses and consumers that the timber materials they are using are from well-managed woods. Participants promote themselves as accredited by the FSC. The system has been established for several decades and is widely used across Britain.

Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)- the British branch of the international non-profit third sector, PEFC International provides independent certification services for the entire forest supply chain, as part of the organisation’s role in promoting best sustainable practice in timber and forest products across the world. PEFC UK was founded in 2000 and is one of the main bodies delivering British related certification to the standards and regulations of PEFC International. To this end it also supports the promotion of the UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS), as the national certification standard for sustainable forest management in the UK. Together with the PEFC International network, the UK chapter contributes to 311 million hectares of certified forest, the largest of any certification organisation.

UK forest related organisations: government and public sector

Giant Sequoias in Benmore Botanic Garden, Argyll, Scotland which were originally planted in 1863 and today reach
over 50 metres high – Photo – Dougie Macdonald Wikipedia CC BY 3.0

Scotland

As part of the Forestry Commission’s centennial anniversary shake up in 2019, the reorganised Forestry Commission Scotland was split, and now consists of Scottish Forestry and Forestry and Land Scotland.

Forestry Scotland – Coilltearachd na h-Alba – the Scottish Government’s newly formed public body responsible for forest and woodland policy, regulation, strategy, and support of both the timber and forestry sectors. Scottish Forestry’s timber industry partnerships include several collaborations, including, for instance, working with the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre.

Forestry and Land Scotthe recently reconstituted Forestry Commission (2019) body responsible for much of Scottish woods and forests. Their remit encompasses timber production, new plantations, land and forest management, biodiversity and conservation, and recreational uses.  

Also, Forestry Scotland, and Forestry and Land Scotland’s 50 year Scottish Forest Strategy was part of the overall relaunch. It is laid out here.

Scottish Environment Protection AgencyBuidheann Dion Arainneachd na h-Alba (SEPA) – responsible for environmental regulation being maintained across the country and for ensuring the best sustainable standards at both the human and environmental level. This includes Scotland’s ‘Forestry and wood processing sector’, one of fifteen sectors the agency is responsible for. There is a SEPA sector plan for forestry, which includes developing further preparedness for ‘climate ready forestry’ and for delivering the country’s Forest Strategy. A pdf of the Forestry and wood processing sector is here.

Nature Scot (NS) – (the rebranded Scottish National Heritage/Dualchas Nadair na h-Alba) – oversees the care and enhancement of the country’s natural environment and heritage, including its forests and woodlands. NS’s objectives cover balancing the management of the natural environment with ensuring biodiversity is maintained, working across the country and supporting regional authorities, community organisations and central Government. Resources include an online information hub, research reports, data services andbiodiversity and ecological services pages.

The Environment and Forestry Directorate – the Scottish Governmental authority responsible for forestry and environmental policy, scientific support, and evidence-based provision to government, alongside disbursement of state funding for relevant public organisations.

Cairngorms National Park Authority and  Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority – these two national park authorities manage the county’s two national parks, each of which are responsible for sizable areas of forest and woodland. For further details see their entries in the National Parks section here.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RGBE) – a major botanical research centre with a collection of over 13,000 plant species. Its research is focused on three overlapping themes; Scottish biodiversity, plants and climate change, and conservation. Among its collection are many unusual tree species, held within its principal Inverleith Botanic Garden site in Edinburgh, and at several further sites in Scotland. The Inverleith gardens feature the well-known palm houses, the rainforest glasshouse, the garden’s arboretum with a collection of 3500 trees, and the woodland garden. The RBGE also run the Benmore Botanic Garden, near Dunoon, Argyll, on the Scottish West Coast, with a collection of trees from high rainfall regions and Logan Botanic Garden which features a sub-tropical climate with a variety of southern hemisphere plants.

Wales

Natural Resources Wales, Cyfoeth Natural Cymru (NRW) – formed in 2013 out of the Welsh sections of the Forestry Commission, Countryside Commission, and Environment Agency, forestry is part of its wider remit and responsibilities. It manages half of Welsh woodland (the remaining half is by private companies and individuals, advises the Welsh Government, public sector players and industry, and is tasked with responding to current challenges, from climate change to assisting those involved in land management. This also includes overseeing the 2018 Woodlands for Wales Action Plan, which itself emerged from the Woodlands for Wales forestry strategy.

Farming Connect, Business Wales – Welsh Government run support and funding for forestry related enterprises and businesses, with an emphasis of farm woodlands – see their Making the most of farm woodlands report.

Forestry Commission staff preparing for a 100th anniversary celebration at Kielder Forest in 2019 – Photo – Neil Denham

England

Department of Environment, Food, & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) the English Government department responsible for forestry. It oversees the English arm of the re-organised Forestry Commission – see below – including grants and other funding, co-ordination with other public bodies, such as the Natural England, and policy and strategy for forests in the broader rural economy and food security contexts.

The Forestry Commission (FC) – established as part of the Forestry Act 1919, having celebrated its centenary last year, it was the post-World War I response to Britain having almost exhausted all its forests and woods in the war effort – with just 5% wood cover remaining. The FC was tasked with replanting and afforestation of new forests, and overall management of existing woodlands and forests. Undertaken over the next century, the reforestation agenda was broadened and underwent changes through the intervening years. For instance, with the planting of monoculture Sitka spruce woods in the second half of the 20th century, which turned out to be and has been replaced with an emphasis on the forest’s amenity value, as well as its social and environmental benefits.

In 2019, coinciding with its centenary celebrations, the Forestry Commission went through a major restructuring, dividing the organisation into three core areas, a mix of separate devolved organisations in each of the four UK countries, and in the case of research, a single umbrella organisation.

Responsible for 0.86 million hectares (or 27%) of  the total 3.1 million hectares of public forest and woodland, the combined relaunched organisations, Forestry England, Forestry and Land Scotland, Natural Resources Wales and the Northern Ireland Forest Service, have been moving towards their forests meeting both amenity and timber production objectives.

Research – Forest Research’s National Forestry Inventory is here and the forestry stats portal here.

UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology – The centre emerged out of Government administrative decisions to draw separate environmental science institutes together under one umbrella. Research includes Ecosystem restoration and resilience, and in relation to wood and trees, developing, for instance, a national strategy for forest genetic resources and a study of the survival, health, and biodiversity significance of the highland Juniper tree. The Centre also hosts an environmental information platform with a variety of environmental data portals.

NHS Forest – part of the NHS’s Centre for Sustainable Healthcare unit, the NHS Forestry project supports and co-ordinates turning NHS estate land green, with gardens, woodland and other green spaces. The NHS Forest, made up of distributed woodlands across multiple hospital and health care sites, can be found here. With a brief to develop green spaces for improved health in patients and staff, ranging from art, gardening, growing food, and exercise and relaxation, the NHS Forest also co-ordinates Green Health Routes and ongoing events and workshops.

Grown in Britain – a publicly funded platform and organisation that highlights and supports native grown woods and forests in Britain. Grown in Britain set up after the 2012 Independent Panel on Forestry report recommended establishing such an organisation in the aftermath of the abortive forest privatisation in 2010. The Organisation focuses on two areas, certification and biosecurity. The certification system provides proof that timber is from UK grown forests and woodlands, while the biosecurity focus aims to lessen the spread of diseases across the British wooded world.