SINCE my article was published in Voices of Forestry some months ago questioning the sense of paying harvesting contractors by the tonne (‘Response: the angel’s share’, Forestry Journal 325), we have had some really good responses from contractors and forest owners, but where are the contributions to the debate from the forest management companies, Confor and the sawmills?

Until we get this debate of through-the-head payment vs tonnage sorted, things will never change. It is no good going on about getting young people into the industry if the system cannot afford to support them.

This support can happen if contractors are finally given a fairer share and the only way to make it fair is by payment through the head.

Neil Gray,
Treeworks Forestry

Dead editor, 

I was pleased to read Martin Charlton’s letter (Forestry Journal 332) about my articles on fencing and hazel in Forestry Journal 331 and to read his assessment of what’s going on (or not going on) with the government’s tree-planting plans. 

READ MORE: Wooden fence posts: Forestry Journal readers have their say

“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,” he said, and I couldn’t agree more. The UK government’s planting plans and targets have little to do with forestry and timber, even if that was the aim in the first place, which I doubt. I am not even sure they are really interested in wildlife and conservation. 

Tree planting has become a political tool for political posturers and being too polite on the subject continues to be our Achilles’ heel. And it is why our country’s landscape and natural heritage is being ruined by spivs, chancers and wide boys who reckon they are running the country when in fact they are running everything into the ground, apart from new trees. 

During the 2019 General Election campaign Boris Johnson made a manifesto pledge to plant more than 30,000 hectares of trees a year by 2024, in a bid to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

Forestry Journal: Boris JohnsonBoris Johnson

At the time he was seen driving a JCB through a polystyrene ‘Brexit’ wall, waving a codfish at Grimsby fish market and hiding in a refrigerator to escape a TV interviewer. There are pictures of him planting trees, including at least one taken at a school. He is seen struggling with a root-ball tree which looks awfully like common ash. Fraxinus excelsior is certainly a brave choice, but sadly moribund like his tree-planting pledge.

A downside of metal fencing I forgot to mention in my article is the increasing number of farmers reporting theft. The more avant-garde among us might see this as a modern form of recycling, but we are essentially talking about old-fashioned scrap metal. 

Hazel coppice takes some beating and is perhaps the simplest, most logical and underrated way of conducting continuous-cover forestry. Provided compartment rotation is organised and scheduled in the right way, hazel coppice will provide useful wood resources for all sorts of applications, year after year. Coppiced hazel is absolutely glorious for wildlife and biodiversity. 

Managing hazel coppice is highly skilled and labour-intensive work, with experienced hazel coppice workers becoming as rare as the coppice itself. This leaves volunteers to step in where appropriate, such as on local authority land, although from what I have seen in Hertfordshire managing hazel coppice is giving a lot of local people an awful lot of pleasure.

Dr Terry Mabbett