(temporary)U-turn on collecting wood in North Wales

Darren Hill mail at vegburner.co.uk
Tue Nov 4 20:34:11 GMT 2008

U-turn on collecting wood in North Wales

Nov 4 2008 by Eryl Crump Daily Post


FORAGERS will be allowed to exercise their 800-old right to collect 
firewood from North Wales forests this winter after a dramatic U-turn.

There was outrage last week after the Forestry Commission overruled the 
Magna Carta and stopped people picking firewood from woodland – because 
of health and safety concerns.

But yesterday bosses at the commission announced a dramatic turnaround. 
They said they would re-start the policy of allowing people to apply for 
30-day licences to collect wood, for £10.50 a go.

The decision will today be celebrated by foragers, as rocketing energy 
prices mean more people want to gather cheap fuel on common land.

Among them is Mike Kamp, a 59-year-old retired builder who lives in a 
cottage in the Gwydir Forest near Trefriw, in the Conwy Valley. Last 
night he said he was delighted.

But there is a drawback: this could be the last winter Mike will be able 
to collect firewood for himself. The Forestry Commission still plans to 
create a network of local merchants to collect and then sell firewood.

This scheme could be in place by next winter, meaning locals could be 
forced by buy wood instead of collecting it.

Forestry Commission Wales spokesman Peter Garson said: “We have heard 
the arguments put forward on this issue over the past week and have 
listened to those people who are affected by the work we do in 
sustainably managing our woodlands.

“Therefore, we are happy to let people know we will resume considering 
requests from individuals to collect firewood from our woods this 
winter, as we have in the past, where it is considered appropriate.”

Mike said: “I’m delighted we have got this U-turn. It is good news for 
me and all the people who live in the forest and those who collect their 
own firewood. I would be very disappointed if this was short lived but I 
will be seeking assurances this tradition will be allowed to continue in 
future years.”

Last week the Daily Post exclusively revealed forestry chiefs had 
decided to overrule Magna Carta for health and safety reasons.

The charter of 1215 included a Forest Charter which recognised the 
rights of commoners to get subsistence from common land. They were 
granted “estovers” – dead wood – for fuel, to repair their homes, fix 
tools or make charcoal.

Mike has used a wood-burning stove at his cottage since moving to North 
Wales 12 years ago and now will be able to apply for the 30-day licence 
to collect firewood from a specified section of woodland. But Forestry 
Commission chiefs warned not everyone may be able to get a licence.

Mr Garson said there may sometimes be sound practical reasons not to 
issue a licence, such as the importance of dead and decaying timber as 
part of the woodland ecosystem and as a habitat for insects and fungi, 
and on a reasonable assessment of the potential risks involved.

He said: “We understand more and more people are turning to wood to heat 
their homes and we want to ensure that everybody, including the elderly 
and infirm who may not be able to get to their nearest woodland, is able 
to have access to this wonderful fuel source. This will be one of the 
benefits of moving to a network of local merchants who can supply anybody.”

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