COUNTRYSIDE NOTES TREES
Until 200 years ago wood played a vital part in our survival. It provided housing, heating, tools and utensils. Different species of trees possess specific qualities which, and still are, valued for particular purposes.
ASH - makes excellent firewood and being strong and flexible is ideal for turnery, making handles for axes and hammers and also spokes for wagon wheels. It is also used for making veneer, furniture and planking as well as hockey sticks, skis and cricket stumps.
BEECH - has a multitude of uses including turnery, joinery, furniture making, flooring,
the manufacture of plywood and in buildings.
BIRCH - although generally considered to be the ‘weed’ of woodland, birch has its uses. Most brooms and besoms were once made from it and many of the jumps used in National Hunt racing and Point to Points are constructed from birch.
ELM - before its demise elm was once valued for making wheel hubs, coffins and longbows.
HAZEL - of all the trees and bushes that grow no species is more useful to country folk. Gardeners use it for pea sticks, bean poles, plant supports and short angled pieces to peg down wire netting. Hazel is used for the shafts of fancy carved walking sticks and thatchers make short ‘spars’ to hold in place the reed or straw. It is used to make barrel hoops, wattle fencing and hurdles; untrimmed lengths are tied into ‘faggots’ for use as sea and river defences.
HOLLY - is a popular choice for turnery and carving and also makes a strong walking stick. HORNBEAM - is used for flooring, turnery, carving, mallet heads and making the action in keyboard instruments such as pianos.
OAK - is very slow growing and over a hundred years old before it’s mature. Its great strength means that ships were once built from it. Now it’s used for such things as seats, beams, fencing, gate posts and sea defences as well as veneers and furniture.
POPLAR -is often grown as wind breaks in exposed areas but wood from this tree is put to very lowly purposes. It was used for making matches and, before the advent of cheap plastic, was cut wafer thin to make ‘chip’ baskets and punnets in which soft fruit was sold. Now it is used for vegetable crates, wood wool and plywood.
SWEET CHESTNUT - is commercially grown in some areas to be cut after about 20 years. Plots are harvested in rotation and made into pale fencing and fencing posts although this practice is becoming increasingly less because of French imports. Sweet Chestnut can also be cut after only 2 or 3 years to make walking sticks.
SYCAMORE - is used for flooring, furniture, turnery and veneer.
WALNUT AND WILD CHERRY - are some of the most valued timber in Britain both
being used for high quality veneers and decorative purposes. They make beautiful furniture and the wooden stocks (butts) of the best quality rifles and shotguns are carved out of walnut.
WILLOW - is famous for making cricket bats, about 12,000 mature trees are felled
each year for this purpose. It is also used for basket making and in the past willow was used to make artificial limbs.