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Sir Harry Studholme – From the magic of woods to the magic of wood

You can hold a 100 in your pockets, but drop 1 and leave it for 100 years, then 100 men can not lift it. 

Acorns, they contain the mystery of life itself – earth, air, sunlight and water turning the tiny into the vast.

It’s no easy change but a slow journey fraught with peril with competition from other plants and from insects and grazing animals looking for a meal, survival is not easy.

The friends of fine days and symbiotic fungi are pitted against the enemies of droughts and freezing winters and mildews. Nonetheless the magic of time is that survival creates the opportunity to grow.

Sir Harry Studholme at Vastern Timber for Grown in Britain Week 2014


I spent the last day of Grown in Britain week this year with Vastern Timber, at Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire. 

We walked in through stacks of sawn British hardwoods that have taken decades to become beautiful timber.

The architects and furniture makers attending the day attested to what can be done with this remarkable raw material. It is impossible not to be amazed by the wonderful things that can be built and made from our timber.

However, at the same time we talked of the great challenges that home-grown hardwoods face: fragmented ownership, a history of under-management, a current lack of management, pests, disease and very little public understanding of the challenges of growing timber.

Sir Harry Studholme listens to Tom Barnes at at Vastern Timber for Grown in Britain Week 2014


Publicly there is a deeply held sense of the magic of woods and forests but little awareness of the reality of how and why we extract timber – no real understanding that by using this living resource we can make our environment better in so many ways.

Not much more that a year ago Grown in Britain was launched. It is a great testament to the energy and focus of the tiny team that a year on so much has happened. The vision of connecting users of our timber to the forests in which it is grown is important.

At a visceral level people want to connect to nature and want the story of what they use.Trees and wood have stories that resonate with a sense of identity and of place.

This gives an energy that must not be lost.

It is easy to have great visions but it is a slow and challenging road to deliver them. We need to remove the many small barriers that exist at every level – from within the woods, to inside the supply chain and beyond into public perception.

It will take time, but then time is a dimension foresters understand.

Sir Harry Studholme is a woodland owner, Chairman of the Forestry Commission and was Deputy Chairman of the Independent Panel on Forestry in 2012. Read more 

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