Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Site visit to Kielder Forest - tree felling

Following the Kielder Forest opportunity briefing, I was as keen as ever to have a trip there, and was delighted to get the chance to go on a site visit.

After a rather windy coach journey we arrived at Kielder where we met Peter Sharpe, the Curator. He kindly spent the entire day with us, directing the coach driver to various sites of interest around the reservoir, and then sharing his knowledge with us

Our initial stop was away from the reservoir and into the forest to the area which is currently being felled. We were met by one of the Forestry Commission employees who told us all about the work they do at Kielder.

Kielder Water and Forest Park forms part of the largest man made forest in Northern Europe. Each year the Forestry Commission harvests around half a million cubic metres of timber with the wood being used for many applications:
- constructional grade timber for house building
- logs for pallet wood and fencing
- small roundwood for chipboard and other panel products
- pulpwood for card production
- wood fuel both for domestic and industrial uses.

Around 200 people are employed both directly and indirectly in timber harvesting and so the forest plays a vital role in the economy of the north east of England.

Every winter/spring the Forestry Commission plants three and a half million trees to replace the ones which have been cut down. 

We watched as one machine carefully felled the trees whilst another machine picked up the logs and took them to the storage pile. The machine felling the trees used its saw to cut the tree trunk, then the tree was fed through the machine, which removed any of the outer branches and measured the diameter of the trunk. The machine uses these dimensions to decide upon the quality of the wood and what it is likely to be used for. It uses this information to choose the most appropriate lengths to cut the trunk. Once the trunk has been cut into these shorter sections, the other machine drives over all the branches that have been removed from the tree (this helps integrate them into the ground), collects the log and when it is full with logs, these are taken to the log storage where the trunks are added to the appropriate pile. Seemingly, these movements are performed with fluidity and the level of dexterity shown by the machines is incredible.

On average, a tree can be felled every minute.

The trees being felled were a mixture of Norweigen spruce and Sitka spruce. Every year, two giant spruces are transported from Kielder to London where they are displayed as public Christmas trees. For the past couple of years, the trees have been collected from the depths of the forest by helicopter, and then flown to London. We heard of one instance when the tree dropped from the helicopter and fell into the reservoir. Fortunately no-one was hurt.

A thorough management plan is used to decide upon the next area to be felled. This takes into consideration factors such as the age of the trees, whether any wildlife would be affected, and whether the surrounding area has recently been felled.

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