Welsh timber has been highly sought after by the construction, manufacturing and fencing sectors for decades, but that’s not the whole story.
While most of the timber which left Natural Resources Wales’ managed forests last year was destined for these traditional markets, Welsh businesses are continually finding new and innovative uses for Welsh timber.
Jerry Pritchard, head of NRW’s Timber marketing team, said:
"The team have had a very successful year, completing the full programme of felling and thinning and with an income on sales 15% higher than expected at the beginning of the year.
"We have seen a high demand for our timber and its products, driven by growth in the house building market, good manufacturing demand, an exceptionally busy period in the fencing sector and continued growth in the use of wood biomass.
“In addition we have also seen an upturn in our niche markets supplying a number of small businesses with timber for a whole range of uses.”
G & T Evans of Newtown, a company who has been a customer of NRW and its predecessor Forestry Commission Wales for 30 years, uses its timber for everything from packaging to taxidermy!
A spokesperson for G & T Evans said:
“One of the products we manufacture with NRW supplied timber is woodwool. Larch woodwool is used during the filtration process for Sarson's vinegar and, along with Douglas fir and spruce woodwool, it can be used to pack everything from engineering parts to ceramics, fill teddy bears and, by taxidermists, to stuff animals.
“And if you receive a Christmas hamper this year, you might find the woodwool used to protect its contents came from our mill.”
On a more artistic note, Yorkshire-based artist Kim Neith -Thompson has used sequoia from the Dyfi Valley to create a series of stunning sculptures as part of a walking trail at Ty Mawr Country Park, Wrexham.
Among Kim’s subjects are birds, fish and animals and an incredible bench representing the Pontcysyllte aqueduct.
And that’s not all, as Jerry explained:
“We have supplied red cedar to a small enterprise which makes bee hives and another which builds glamping pods and supplies high quality cladding for bespoke houses – both orders which demand high specifications.
“Whatever the request we’ll try and meet it but we had to admit defeat earlier this year when we were asked to provide poles to a company promoting medieval jousting events around the country.
“Our niche sales account for around £300,000 a year and we have members of our timber sales team who concentrate on looking for new opportunities to supply specialist users.
“We are looking at supplying good quality broadleaf timber, such as cherry and yew, to specialist users.”
And while niche sales are proving to be an important addition to NRW’s timber revenue, the real economic value of the public forest estate to the Welsh economy is shown in the numbers that the market generates.
“More than 660,000 tonnes of timber left the public forest estate last year – that’s an incredible 26,400 lorry loads coming from nearly 250 different sites and using more than 1000km of forest road.
“These logs supply over 50 businesses with everything from single loads of logs to the aforementioned niche markets, right through to 10,000 tonnes of timber which feed the major processors in Wales.
“And the improved demand and competition for our timber meant that the NRW Timber Sales team were able to realise a total income of over £16 million which is £2.5million above budget.”