Visitors from across the UK will be flocking to Northumberland next weekend for the biggest ever event celebrating the North East’s £40m forestry sector.
An unprecedented surge in the popularity of wood fuel heating will bring together landowners, farmers and others at the Forestry and Firewood Fair at Meldon Park Estate, near Morpeth, on September 27.
The event will provide a one-stop-shop for everything to do with forestry, giving visitors the opportunity to learn about the latest developments and technology in the sector, which employs more than 1,500 people in the region.
Among the attractions set to draw in the crowds will be the demonstrations of low-impact horse logging, whereby horses are used to remove wood harvested in conservation areas, protecting the delicate ground conditions.
Businesses in the forestry sector will also be able to examine the latest equipment and hear presentations from industry experts on key topics from funding to land management.
Andrew Kitching, project manager at Northwoods, which is organising the event in conjunction with Northumberland County Council and Meldon Park, said: “The Forestry and Firewood Fair is the biggest event of its kind ever staged in the North East.
“This is a vibrant, expanding sector which is set to create even more jobs and income for the region’s economy. The event is a must-attend for anyone with an interest in our woodlands, be they farmers, landowners or consumers keen to find out more about the benefits of wood fuelled heating and the Government incentives available to make the switch.”
The upsurge in interest in biomass heating is one of the key drivers of the forestry sector’s current success.
Among the sponsors of the fair will be biomass heating specialist re:heat, whose director, Neil Harrison, believes it will benefit anyone interested in woodfuel heating, whether wood producers or consumers wanting to find out more.
“This is such an important event for the industry because currently there is unprecedented activity in the wood heat sector,” he said. “I am proud to have been involved in this sector in the North East for the last 12 years, and it is growing year-on-year.
“Because market conditions have improved, demand for firewood has increased significantly and there is now a major industry in providing locally sourced energy for people in both Northumberland and the wider area.
“This is an event for consumers who burn wood, either in open fires, in stoves, or in biomass boilers. It is also an essential event for landowners and farmers who want to hear from the experts about the grants and funding available to help them exploit woodlands on their land or learn about growing for the expanding biomass market.”
Throughout the day, the Woodlands at Meldon Park will host demonstrations, illustrating everything from mechanical timber extractions and harvesting to the horse logging teams of Dales ponies and cobs run by Charlie Parker from Roandale Stud in Barnard Castle.
Meldon Park owner James Cookson said: “With both timber prices and the interest in woodfuel on the increase, we are now beginning to look at the estate’s woodlands as being more of a commercially viable asset.
“Support from Northwoods has enabled us to look at our woodlands and bring them into a programme of work which means they will be more actively managed, resulting in an additional income for the estate whilst improving the timber quality for the future.”
Talks and presentations will also be taking place in the Forestry Information Centre, where members of the public will be able to meet with industry experts.
Equipment demonstrations, run by everyone from tree surgeons to woodfuel and boiler suppliers, will likewise be held in the trade stand area.
Kenny Dobson, a partner at Wark-based Forestry Machine Services, said: “We will be attending the fair to show customers the firewood machinery and harvesting equipment we sell, service and repair.
“We are seeing a growing demand for the machinery we work throughout the UK and primarily in the North East and Scottish Borders.
“This really is an expanding industry and we are pleased that this important event has come to fruition and will provide a platform for all elements within the industry.”
The fair comes at the end of a week of training events focused on providing the next generation of woodland workers for this growing sector.
The event, which has received support from Northumberland County Council’s Economic Regeneration department, is being run on a not-for-profit basis and will charge a £2 entry fee per car.
Forestry and the North East:
* Total woodland cover in the North East amounts to 155,660 hectares, of which 49,862 is owned by the Forestry Commission
* It is estimated that 79,183 hectares of woodland are currently under management
* Total Broadleaved Woodland Areas cover 25,000 hectares, with conifers covering 60,400 hectares
* Standing timber volume of conifers in the North East comprises of 13,789,000 m3
* Standing volume of broadleaved species in the North East comprise of 5,297,000 m3
* The North East’s forests attract 11.3m visits per year