The rules for taking fallen wood

The rules for taking fallen wood


Posted 24th February


An incredibly windy Thursday saw winds reaching up to 100mph in parts of the country

Some people have taken to both the streets or local parks and woods, seizing the chance to collect fallen branches and logs for their fires and wood burners.

However, what they probably don't know is that this is actually illegal.

Phil Wood, UK & Ireland Country Manager for wood burning stove company, Contura, advises on sourcing wood legally:

"Taking wood may seem like a harmless endeavour, but if you see wood on the ground, whether in woodland, in a park, on the roadside or even just on the streets near your home, this belongs to the land owner – meaning to remove it is in fact stealing if you don’t have the owner’s permission to do so."

"Historically, wood theft was less of an issue, as landed gentry would offer any extra wood to villagers due to their ‘estover’ rights."

"However, nowadays the majority of public-owned woods belong to the Forestry Commission and many people do not realise that helping themselves to wood is an offence, regardless of whether this was caused by strong winds or not. The most serious outcome is the risk of arrest and a potential court case."

"Rules do not apply across all of the UK. For example, an old bylaw for Epping Forest states that visitors may take fallen wood as long as it does not exceed the stated amount of no more than 12kg of loose or dead wood and no more than 5cm in diameter and 91cm in length."

"Cases like Epping Forest are very few and far between though, and with very good reason. Taking wood for free has a negative effect on the livelihoods of woodland trusts, charities, conservationists and tree surgeons; the majority of whom rely on wood sales for vital income, with members of the public unwittingly buying stolen wood."

"The simplest way to avoid any issues is to contact the landowner to check if you can take or purchase wood found on their land. It’s also possible, for a small fee, to obtain a licence from the Forestry Commission that allows you to legitimately collect wood. But if you’re ever in doubt, continue to purchase your timber legally from verified wood merchants. Try to ensure the supplier is local, to minimise the environmental impact of transporting the wood, and that the wood is sustainably sourced from managed or coppiced forests."

Contura's tips for sourcing and getting the best from your firewood include:

- Purchase from merchants that source their wood sustainably from either locally managed or coppiced forests to be assured of your wood's origin.

- Buy good-quality kiln-dried woods or logs (these are otherwise known as 'ready to burn'). The moisture content will be below 20 per cent - this helps ensure you get the most efficient burn.

- Species including ash, beech or birch will also burn especially well and come in bags which make them convenient to store. If you find you have suitable storage space you can always cut and store your own logs - for instance in a wood-shed which allows air circulation. This 'seasoning' process can take between 12-18 months – therefore you will need to plan ahead depending on the species.

- Use a wood burner as opposed to open fire for maximum heat efficiency - 80 per cent of the heat generated by a wood burning stove is radiated and convected into the room, compared to just 20 per cent with traditional fireplaces (it is also illegal to burn wood in an open fire in Smoke Control Areas).

- Wood burning stoves will also require less wood. This is because a couple of logs will burn for up to an hour, compared to 15 minutes on a traditional open fireplace. This means you will use less logs and get optimum energy out of each one.

- Purchase plenty of kindling and natural, non-petrol based firelighters. This will also be handy to get the fire started without needing dangerous flammable liquids.

Images courtesy of Henry Hemming / Debbie Andrews 





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