Following a number of years of research Oliver Barnsley set up WoodPoint in 2012 to address some of the challenges facing lowland forestry, environmental management and employment in England in the 21st century
Oliver Barnsley has worked in British Forestry and Timber Products for 30 years during which time has managed forest estates, set up and run harvesting operations both for management companies and in his own right. He has run and owned timber yards supplying whole sale timber and other goods to merchants, farmers, landscapers and also direct to the public.
Oliver says ‘My passion is to use what we have around us rather than bringing it from afar.’
‘I wanted to weave together the market for everyday garden & home products and the need to get people working in the woods again in new real jobs. I wasn’t interested in subsidy; it had to be real products sustained by a good demand creating permanent jobs. If we can reach some of the young unemployed and stop some imported products coming to Britain that would be a great achievement. The politicians have misunderstood our young folk; they don’t want to be unemployed and not every young person wants or is suited to work in IT or Retail! It is time to look at what can be achieved on a doorstep and with our own people. We need to peel back some of the hysteric glamour & froth associated with the new 21 century tech industries and pay a little more respect to manufacturing, growing, harvesting natural resources and engineering like Germany & China; they don’t seem to be doing too badly!
‘We are surrounded by beautiful but overgrown and underworked woodlands and forests in Britain. Young woodlands in particular are crammed full of useful round poles and sticks that are just going to waste. Look around timber merchants, garden centres and home stores and you can see firewood, kindling, tree and fence stakes, plant supports, garden arches, pergola poles, bird boxes, broom handles and pea sticks. Most are made, or have components made from small diameter round poles and nearly all are imported.’
To create these products from British Woodlands and to create skilled rural jobs in Britain is one of WoodPoint’s goals
The theory of WoodPoint’s woodland improvement
Young woodlands are particularly overlooked due to the mechanisation that has occurred in timber harvesting during the last thirty years. Large expensive harvesters cannot afford to operate in thicket type crops where volume production rate is low. Yet to thrive woodlands and forests must be thinned.
In these woodlands there are numerous small diameter trees that need to be removed to create space for the best trees to grow. Management and fire risks are improved when young woodlands are thinned. Also because air can circulate more easily around the trees and the microclimate is less likely to induce some tree disease and pests. More light on the forest floor encourages more plant and insect life diversity which in turns helps the animals and birds.
Even recreations like walking and bike riding are more pleasant and safer when vitas open up through the trees.
In short there are no losers when young woodland are thinned!
Garden and home products from British Woodlands can create jobs and reduce imports whilst benefiting the environment and carbon emissions.
In every city, village and town there is unemployment and in particular there are young people looking for a start in work. In rural communities the problem can be extreme with few employment options as most manual jobs in farming and forestry have transferred to a much lesser number of machine operatives.
However, forestry and timber processing in small diameter thinning has the advantage that most of the products produced are small and light enough to handle manually. This means that WoodPoint can use manual felling and timber processing techniques for most of the production work. Even loading for distribution by hand is possible for some products like bagged firewood and kindling or small bundle garden stakes and rustic poles.
The forest can benefit as well from small scale manual operations. Smaller machines means less damage to forest soil and skilled manual tree fellers can select trees for removal with greater precision than timber harvesters.
There is great potential throughout Britain for creating rural jobs in first thinnings for woodlands and plantations and scrub clearance work. WoodPoint has started to unlock that potential.
Poles for everything!