Our readers have had their say on a wide range of topics. 


I believe the ongoing failure to meet planting targets is a result of muddled thinking, confused objectives and the absence of a land-use strategy. The massive expansion in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s was driven by the fact that involvement in forestry provided a means of converting highly taxed income into virtually untaxed capital. It made this long-term investment comparable to or even better than alternatives.

When carrying out NDR and IRR calculations, the cost of land at £100 per hectare, which sat like a dead weight, earning nothing but hopefully being inflation proof, was bearable, planting grants in effect subsidising the land cost. Planting approvals were relatively easy to obtain with the emphasis on efficient timber production.

The emphasis has now changed, and although apparently we should be concentrating on reducing reliance on imports of timber and mopping up carbon, the requirement for percentages of new planting projects being left bare – or planted with species which do not address the stated objective – is like asking Rolls Royce to devote part of its jet engine factory to making door knobs.

With a land price at £10–15,000 per hectare it is virtually impossible to make an investment case for the private sector and the planting objectives set are simply unachievable. Owning forests is currently financially attractive, but if IHT mitigation ceases, they could become white elephants and we would be dead in the water.

A radical and honest approach might help, following the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). A senior representative of the Nature Conservancy once said the best thing that could happen to Exmoor would be a single rotation of wall-to-wall Sitka. Instead of trying to get all plantations to do everything from day one, why not get the ball rolling by encouraging ‘wall-to-wall’ first-rotation commercial species by giving exemption from compliance with the ‘Standard’, leading to modification next time round as at Kielder and Eskdalemuir, etc? Anything less is akin to fiddling while Rome burns. This would certainly help – and think of the contribution to carbon sequestration! There is a real urgency to address these issues.

A land-use strategy identifying land where there is a presumption in favour of commercial afforestation would be simple to devise (remember the North Pennines Development Board?), avoiding the planting of land capable of food production, deep peat, high sporting or conservation value etc, and with a knock-on effect on prohibitive land price.

A. Dinosaur (Len Yull)


I read with interest of Danny Graham’s experience with a spirit level (FJ 350). In future he might find it easier to have a piece of string with a large nut on its end and use it as a plumb bob to ascertain a tree’s leaning or even, if he carries an axe for wedge-hitting, raises it up towards the tree and holds it gently between two hands, thus the axe with its handle will act as a plumb bob, telling him of the tree’s balance.

Although, should the ever-inquisitive walker or cyclist stop nearby (obviously when they have no right) and ask ‘watcha doing?’, rather than upsetting them with a guttural Anglo-Saxon reply, he could probably enlighten them as to the Druidic tradition of raising the axe to ask the tree’s spirit for permission to fell it – and no doubt, if he does a good job at it, he will find himself earning far more money on Countryfile as their resident druidic expert.

Going further, I was saddened to hear of the accident the Voice had recently with a cantankerous ash tree, much like myself under similar circumstances last summer. I was left seeing stars and with considerable ‘bruising’ and deep lacerations down my arm, side and groin from a heavily diseased ash tree.

I’m fortunate I didn’t have it as bad as the Voice, yet a question has been in my mind for some time.

How do you take down a dangerous ash tree with (due to the situation) no mechanical aid? To fell under normal practice, you would place yourself in a highly unsafe – if not totally foolhardy – situation. As they say, you get foolhardy cutters and you get wise, experienced cutters, but you never get foolhardy experienced cutters.

Forestry Journal: Our experienced writer believes he is lucky to be alive

I’ve come to a similar conclusion as the Voice, in that certain high-risk trees are safer blasted with explosives. This, it seems, is common in North America, yet here in the UK we’re moving away from blasting due to greater machinery use.

So earlier this year I contacted our local constabulary for guidance. Hopeless! Despite several calls, no reply! Other enquiries have brought me to expensive courses which don’t teach me what I need to know, i.e. the use of caps, det cord and explosives to cut wood and get certified. Does any reader know of any trainers?

I seem to remember a system put forward some years back to cut limbs to replicate storm damage for wildlife purposes. Any blasting trainees?

Arwyn Morgan


Every time I switch on the TV there is some minister or other telling me how the United Kingdom leads the world in just about every imaginable way – fighting the effects of climate change, arming Ukraine and AI. You name it, we are the best.

I listen intently to find out if this prowess extends into forestry and arb, but since these subjects are largely ignored I am forced to discover for myself those aspects of these industries in which Britain leads the world:

• Leading light in flashing mirrors and blowing smoke to hoodwink the public over new tree planting
• Past master at planting new woodland then leaving it unmanaged 
• Top spot in sacrificing commercial softwood production for broadleaves to benefit biodiversity including deer and grey squirrels
• Top dog in researching resistance of native mammals to E. coli bacterial infection by pumping raw human sewage into rivers then releasing Eurasian beavers to see if they survive
• Top gun by bagging the biggest haul of badgers on record with more than 210,000 culled between 2013 and 2023
• World record holder for the entry of alien pests and pathogens during the twenty years from 1998 to 2023
• Unrivalled in felling urban trees under the cover of darkness, with Plymouth Council recently excelling 
• World record for appointment of environment secretaries in the shortest period of time. Nine different ministers have held this position in the 13 years since 2010.

Dr Terry Mabbett