The Set Up
|Old faithful, she keeps us warm and dry|
All of this thermal energy is transferred to a surrounding water jacket which heats up counter-flowing water, which then flows to a nearby tank. The connected water tank is encased within a thick layer of insulating foam to minimise the heat loss. It is this store of heated water that us volunteers so heavily depend upon during the bone-chilling evenings.
From Felled Timber to Seasoned Firewood The videoIt all sounds complicated but it is essentially a very efficient water heater. Grand you may say and indeed it is. Although you wouldn't think so when you are getting up in the early hours and tending to a smoking fire in the bitter cold. Also, providing the fuel required to run the burner in the first place is no easy task. It can be physically straining and potentially dangerous , seeing as you are using axes, but all of the hard work certainly pays off.
It is not as straight forward as " Look, a prime tree , fell it". After all , if we did we would be left with a field of stumps. In fact, there is a lot of planning and safety orientated surveying before a single tree is cut.
|My pride and joy|
Once we have found our tree we would identify the best direction of fall depending on the lean of the tree, the crown’s distribution and neighbouring trees. Then we would clear the immediate area of shrubs and low-lying branches, anything that could get in the way of your escape route. Eventually when the ranger is happy with the situation, he will fell the tree whilst us volunteers stand very, very, very far way and ensure the public do not interfere.
If you want to know how we process our timber from start to finish, please follow this link to our blog video on YouTube: The video
The Reasoning Behind it All
|Seasoned firewood ready to burn|
Well there are certainly a few factors to consider.
Wood fuel that is derived from a sustainable source is virtually carbon neutral. This means that the volume of carbon dioxide that is released during the pyrolisation of the wood, is the same volume that was taken up during the gasses in the atmosphere.
|The face of tyranny|
Many of the trees that are taken out also contribute to the overall management plan of the reserve. A prime example being the felling and clearing of young Silver Birch ( Betulina pendula). These are a pioneering species, meaning that they will encroach upon a wide variety of terrain and colonise in large numbers. The seeds germinate relatively quickly and then shoots vigorously, in our native climate the grassland can be littered with healthy saplings within a few years.
This, from the perspective of species rich grassland, can spell disaster. Therefore in order to conserve the said grassland the birch trees are cut on a regular basis, within the cutting season of course. The wood itself also makes respectable fuel, burning fiercely but quickly. In summary, the management of tree species such as the birch is both a benefit for us volunteers and the continuing conservation efforts in Murlough.