Storm Erik has left parks, roads and train lines strewn with fallen branches and even whole trees blocking our paths in places. It may seem like a good idea to head outside and start collecting wood debris for fires and wood burners; however the majority of us may not be aware that doing so is actually illegal…
Contrary to popular belief, all trees in the UK are owned, meaning the seemingly harmless act of taking wood for free could land you in court for theft.
Phil Wood, UK & Ireland Country Manager for wood burning stove company, Contura, gives his advice for sourcing wood legally:
“Collecting fallen wood thanks to the blustery weather may seem like a harmless endeavour, but it’s important to know that this is not free wood.
“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. To remove it is in fact stealing if you don’t have the owner’s permission to do so.
“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.”
Here are some tips for sourcing and getting the best from your firewood:
Purchase from merchants that source wood sustainably from locally
managed or coppiced forests to be assured of your wood’s origin.
Buy good-quality kiln-dried wood or logs (also known as “ready to
burn”) as the moisture content will be below 20%. This helps ensure the
most efficient burn.
3. Species such as ash, beech or birch burn particularly well and are available in bags, making them very convenient to store.
Use a wood burner as opposed to open fire for maximum heat efficiency.
80% of the heat generated by a wood burning stove is radiated and
convected into the room, compared to only 20% with traditional
Wood burning stoves also require less wood as a couple of logs will
burn for up to an hour, compared to 15 minutes on a traditional open
fireplace, meaning you use less logs and get the optimum energy out of
every one used.
6. It’s also worth purchasing plenty of kindling and natural, non-petrol based firelighters, as this is really handy to get the fire started without the need for dangerous flammable liquids.