Held at three locations in England and Scotland in September and October, Fuelwood's open days offered attendees the chance to see live demonstrations of the forestry and firewood machinery specialist's ever-evolving line-up of equipment. Hilary Burke reports.

AFTER a successful machinery demonstration in Devonshire, the Fuelwood team returned to the English Midlands for a three-day event at Beausale in late September. With the APF on hold for another year, Jeremy Slatem grasped the chance to make the most of the opportunity and allow visitors to get their safety boots dusty on the forest floor in the woodlands bordering Fuelwood’s production facility.

The weather was glorious and the smell of sawn and chipped timber – mixed with the slight whiff of diesel emissions – was like a breath of fresh air to many of the visitors who had been denied so much professional social interaction for so long. One firewood producer from Oswestry in Shropshire was very pleased he had made the trip, commenting: “This is the way you have to do it. See the machinery working up close and ask the questions. So much better than watching a video on a computer screen!”

Forestry Journal:

He may have returned home without making a purchase, but he found out that one piece of kit he had been interested in was not ideally suited to his operation. He has the Fuelwood contacts and, if he finds something that dovetails in better with his set-up, he knows who to call.

For Richard Slatem, who founded the Fuelwood business, an equipment demonstration on a woodland circuit was particularly satisfying. The established woodland he purchased over 30 years ago when the concern moved to its current premises is now producing timber of considerable size. While sons Jeremy and Peter and the rest of the Fuelwood team deal with the machinery side these days, Richard has taken charge of the thinning programme.

Forestry Journal:

Richard admitted working on the saw is a little tough at his age and the arthritis and replacement joints sometimes complain at the end of the day, but he has full control over the thinning operation.

He is keen to minimise damage to the hardwoods in the crop and his trusty Holder tractor and winch are used for directional felling wherever it is deemed advantageous. He would like to see some fine oaks left for future generations to utilise.

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Jeremy Slatem is very pleased with the way the business is developing. There has been a huge investment in the service and backup side and half the production area has recently been upgraded. A new carousel storage system from Linnex (UK) has made spares and parts location much more efficient. The four new apprentices are really working up their skills.

Jeremy said: “We have had plenty of registrations for all our demonstration events and we feel the woodland here is our showroom. We still have a very personal touch with our customers and our investment in the service van fleet puts us closer to where they work.

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It is particularly pleasing that manufacturers are still coming to us wanting us to deal in their machinery.

“We have taken on Uniforest as a second dealer and its equipment is going down well.

The range has great engineering quality for handling bigger timber.”

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The Fuelwood family, according to Jeremy, continues to grow. Neal Hussey is one of the newest members, arriving back in the west Midlands from a Norfolk agricultural machinery dealership. His principal role at Fuelwood is to promote the Uniforest range of equipment.

Forestry Journal:

A selection of Uniforest machinery was on also show, along with other Fuelwood brands, at the Baddinsgill headquarters of Treeline Woodlands in Scotland’s Pentland Hills on 8–9 October. Treeline Woodlands firewood production facility is built around Fuelwood’s own UK-designed products.