Our readers have their say on fence posts, nurseries and lots, lots more. 

Dear editor,

With reference to the thought-provoking articles in the latest Forestry Journal:
Metal fence posts and their suggested life span of 20 or so years (‘A heavy metal blow for wooden fence posts’, FJ 331). I can show you sweet chestnut posts more than a generation old, still standing and sequestering carbon. Not that we can get sweet chestnut to coppice, being priced out by harvesters for biomass. 

So where is the logic? Expend copious amounts of energy producing steel and moving it from one side of the world to the other. As it rots, the soil becomes contaminated with heavy metal.

Just look at hedgerows savaged by contractors, smashed to pieces, wounded and open to infection. For a hedgerow to be efficient in an environment it needs to be 10 ft high. It will then contain wood that will bear fruit to feed insects, animals and birds. The hedge can be laid (or served, depending on which part of the country you live in) without destroying it, unlike that which is touched by the flail.

Nursery output and government targets do not appear to be synchronised (‘Nurseries rise to the challenge’, FJ 331). Let’s face it, the government has no real knowledge of what to plant, how to plant or, in fact, how to go about anything. Nurseries ship what they have available and if these are then distributed by a third party the mix is most peculiar. In one recent hedgerow mix, 40 per cent was taken up with rowan, dog rose and crab apple, which do not take well to being cut as a hedge. In another mix, dog rose featured as 20 per cent and elder as a further 20 per cent. I am not talking about a bit of garden hedge, but several thousands of plants at a time. The third party obviously did what they could with what they had available, but with little experience and detailed knowledge of use and location. 

Forestry Journal:

A bit of planning from the government instead of knee-jerk reactions would be beneficial.

Given two years of preparation, nurseries could produce the mix of plants needed. The third-party distributor could also understand applications rather than just ship quantities to meet targets. They could also adjust their operations, which are heavily inclined to their own planting projects at the moment.

This government should get the Forestry Commission back on track with its original purpose in mind of planning and planting woodland. It could also take on the mantle of third-party distributor. The laying down of stock by nurseries needs to be revised to satisfy application rather than quantity. 

There needs to be a better understanding of hedgerows and hedgerow trees and woodlands by the general public and by those promoting planting. I can suggest one popular programme that could educate rather than entertain. I would love to get face-to-face with Boris and show him what a day’s work really is about in woodland.

Hedgerows should be allowed to grow without being slashed out of existence. One year’s proper growth will provide leaf cover to replace every fallen oak almost immediately. I was always taught that it took 20,000 new trees to replace one mature oak. Think of the amount of leaf produced by a growing hedgerow.

READ MORE: Forestry Journal Buyer's Guide: Forestry fencing

Unless a hedge is flailed annually it should be protected and maintained manually.

Eventually it could be returned to flailing once it has recovered and been shaped. It’s not yardage that matters, but the environment. Proper maintenance will serve the environment better than government targets.

Last but not least, thank goodness for Dr. Terry Mabbett’s article on hazel (‘Heritage of two native trees: Act 1, Corylus avellana’, FJ 331). My secret hazel coppice has been taken over by the local ‘off-roaders’. I can’t compete with the price they have paid the farmer for use of the ground. His costs are going up, but his earnings are dropping thanks to inflation. Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer should recognise what he is doing to the costs of maintaining the environment – a subject supposed to be very close to this government’s heart. Unfortunately, that heart has no affection for artisan workers or their fuel bills.

Martin Charlton
Via email

Dear editor,

Taking up your comments about the public perception of forestry operations (‘Shake hands with danger’, FJ 331), I long-ago learned the importance of putting up a notice telling the public why tree works were being carried out. At the moment we are pollarding yew trees near the hall, with a clear notice explaining why, and where we are adding new ones.

@forestryjournal Oooft 😍 #rottne #forestry #forestrylife #forestrymachines #forestryequipment ♬ Big Time - Skrxlla

More drastically, work has started on felling more than 2,000 larch trees on instruction from the Forestry Commission. Their helicopter spotted the evidence of disease last spring. My notice at the public access point is not as big as I’d like, but is reinforced by our staff when they come across walkers.

John Blunt
Staunton Harold Estate, Leicestershire

Dear editor,

I stumbled across a website recently, which I am sure many of your readers would be interested in visiting: www.forestry-memories.org.uk.

If you ever worked for the FC from the 1940s to 1980s, you might find a photograph of yourself and your colleagues.

READ MORE: Voices of Forestry: Först Global's Kenny Brock on adapting to the Covid pandemic

Those were the days when forestry was forestry and we were all busy planting conifers and a few broadleaves for the benefit of the nation – and then look what happened!

Andy Chalmers
Melcourt Industries, Boldridge Brake, Long Newnton, Tetbury, Gloucestershire