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Monday, 2 August 2010

What Forest Harvesters Do

timber!
We parked a car in a pal’s farmyard, mainly to gain a little bit of height, and wandered up through old pastures, seeking out hidden mineshafts. We found one, with a mat of grass covering five or six concrete sleepers with little in the way of cracks to allow depth to be gauged.
uncovering a shaft
We entered a bit of forest. The landowner came up on his ATV and we chatted for a while. Various Alston Moor issues were chewed over. It rained heavily for a short time.
Upwards through the thick forest. This is a public footpath and you’d only know by feel. The actual routs has had the lower branches snipped off to provide a comfy way through – but its not obvious. This wood is doomed, though. Within the next few weeks the trees will have gone and all that’s left will be piles of brash. This will probably block the path.
forest edge
We exited the wood on the far side and walked around the top end where the harvesters were working. Brian started a conversation with the chap working the lopping machine whilst I went off to investigate a line of spoil heaps – discovering each had a concrete-covered shaft. There were lots of other bits of diggings and old pits and so on. You can trace the vein reasonably well…..
Meanwhile – Brian had discovered that the harvesters were a family concern from the Borders, that the machine was about as complex to operate as flying a helicopter, that the wood here was heavier than in other places due to the short growing seasons which leads to narrow tree rings, that the price of timber is £40 a ton and that 26 tons had just been transported away, and that the wood had 40000 tons of wood in it. That’s a million and a half quid. And its not a very big wood – you can walk around it in twenty minutes…. 
fiddlers 004
The machine cuts a tree, strips off bark and small branches, cuts it to size and piles up the timber for extraction by another machine.
We gave them the phone number of the campsite at Westgate for their caravan and Brian offered various bits of local help, including a photo a day of the wood slowly disappearing for their website. You can see the wood clearly from his front room window.
The wood is occupied by a few deer and some small birds, all of which will find alternative accommodation close by.
nenthead from fiddlers
For anybody about to bemoan the loss of a bit of woodland – this is commercial forest, planted about forty years ago for the purpose of providing timber. It has to be harvested like any other crop, otherwise there’s no point. Inside the wood is  not a specially nice place to be anyway – its dark and progress off the cut path is difficult and, in some places, impossible. It’ll get replanted in due course.
This little corner of Nenthead will be a bit colder this coming winter, though….

4 comments:

Greg said...

That last photo brings back memories of cycling up that hill out of Nenthead on the CtoC. Also of having to camp in someone's garden cos we couldn't find a camp-site.

Mike Knipe said...

Thats a serious hill, Greg. Most people get off and push, I think...

Greg said...

I seem to remember the hill up out of Stanhope was even steeper.
Are there any campsites around this area ? It kind of puts you off when you wander round late in the day with no where to stay. I did the c2c years ago and there was a site between Alston and Nenthead but when I came back the second time it was shut to tents and was all statics.

Mike Knipe said...

There's a campsite in Alston and you can camp behind the village hall at Garrigill. I've heard of people arranging camping at Rookhope too, though there's no campsite. If a person was to enquire at the pub in Rookhope, I daresay an arrangement could be made.
There's another site at Westgate, a bit off-route.