I went to the 'Tree Coppicing' event in Larne, it wasn't quite what I expected, but it was a nice drive out I was the only person that turned up, and the guy that was running it, Simon, seemed suprised that anyone turned up. It seems that the council expects all the departments to run events, but there is very little budget and advertising for them. Anyway we spent more time talking than cutting willows.
I mentioned about the idea of setting up a coppice/woodland co-op, and mentioned that one of the problems was getting the land to work with not to mention the money and time involved. He suggested that if we were interested we should talk to Ballymena council about the coppice wood at the Ecos centre. The bio-diversity guy that covers that part of the country (can't remember his name just now) had been telling him that the coppice wood was not being used, and hadn't been used in years, possibly since the place was built years ago. He said the place was in a right state and had been infested with some sort of bug or aphid He then said that the council might be open to leasing the land out to a group and we should contact them to ask.
What do you think, would that be of any interest? As I remember from a visit years ago there is a lot of willow trees there and should provide lots of fuel for people with woodburners.
If there is any interest, I can, if you want, contact the bio-diversity guy and have a chat with him, i've met him a few times and he might remember me.
good idea jim. yes, please investigate. it's a fair distance away but it would be a good project to build a group around. with this sort of thing not needing weekly attention it could well be workable.
I had a chat with the bio-diversity officer that works in the Ballymena, Carrick and Larne areas, a guy called Ben Simon. I told him a little about what we are thinking and asked about the suitability of the land at the Ecos center. He's a nice guy and very knowledgeable about envitonmental and bio-diversity etc, and he says that he wants to encourage people to do things for the environment, but he did seem to encourage me with all the negatives involved with setting this up, his 'encouragement' would put a lesser person off The standout comment from the conversation was that we should order a lorry load of firewood and then do something else I didn't really know how to respond to that.
I don't think he was being negative and trying to put us off, he just wanted to make sure that we didn't get into something that 'seems like a good idea at the time' and turns out to be 'more trouble than its worth' kinda like the way the coppice at the Ecos was set up.
The Ecos thing sounds like it would be a big commitment, I think that really it was a major 'male chicken' up. They seem to have not really thought it through very well, planted the wrong type of willow, didn't cut it often enough, too labour intensive to cut, couldn't use it once cut as their burners use a hopper system that kept jamming with the logs, the Ecos is a bit of a flop anyway and since its only open a bit of the year they found they didn't need as much fuel as they thought. He kinda described the wood as a Willow forrest now, that you can't get into.
Simon did however give me a few ideas that are worth thinking about such as asking a council or landowner for permission to cut their wood for the right to use the cuttings, or perhaps buy a woodland (he says not that expensive). We may be able to volunteer with the likes of the Conservation volunteers or the Ulster Conservation and again arrange with them to use the cuttings.
I think if we are going to pursue this that we will need to make a few decisions about things such as the setup we have, the purpose of it all ie saving money, environmental etc, Finances, Prefered course, helth and safety, insurance, division of labour and probably a 1001 other things.
if you have any ideas involving a site closer to home we could investigate further. there are a few of us interested, including someone from the local permaculture site, who in turns knows a few people with experience of coppicing.
Although the Ecos site may be not really suitable, it does seem a shame that it is going to waste, as far as I know it is a pretty big plantation that has been growing for at least 12 years now, so a lot of fuel tied up in it.
I think if we were really interested in pursuing this we need to decide on a few things first of all, for the sake of discussion I think we need to define
How will we be organised, as a business, a co-op, a charity, do we want a formal set up even
What is our aim, to save money, improve the environment, education, exercise and fresh air
Do we want to own/control the land we are working on, or would we be happy working on someone elses land as volunteers or whatever
I do have a few ideas for other woodlands that might be of use, the one that springs to mind is the hazelwood that is up at the zoo somewhere, I think it used to be a coppice wood many years ago but has fallen into disuse. I think the land is owned by Belfast City Council and I'm assuming they have no plans/budget to maintain it so they be waiting for someone to come along and offer to look after it. However going to the council will have a lot of drawbacks, not least the fact that we would have to comply with every little thing that they wanted to impose on us, not to mention meetings about everything On the plus side there would be no waiting around for plants to grow, and probably little up front costs.
I don't mind talking to the council but unless we have a business plan and are organised they will not take anything seriously.
I just found an entry in the Ballymena times website talking about the Friends of the Ecos nature park organising a winter tree party which was to include coppicing of the willows. It was published 4 years and 2 days ago so it might be totally irelevant now, but it does have a couple of phone numbers. I'll give them a call and see if anything is still active with it.
hi jim. i really like the idea of that hazel wood at the zoo.
well, we had the makings of a business plan with the CIC and tree allotment project, but that model was based on collective land ownership.
However, as there would be no land ownership with the zoo project, and I think at this stage we just want to get something started involving coppicing and building skills/community, the path of least resistance for anything to do with the council will be to use an existing model already accepted by the councils. To that end, Austin Herron 07734 733344 is the man. He is involved in several allotment projects including Eden in Carrick and is very familiar with the approach to be taken. Do you want to try him?
What is the CIC project? Is there any chance of getting a peek at the business plan, or at least what you have of it, it might help to make sure I'm on the same wavelength.
I can give Austin a call, but can you give me a bit of info about him first, is he a council employee if not what is his role in the various schemes he works with. I thought the Eden allotment was a community scheme run by a committe of its members, not that my info is accurate, I know a member and been to the allotments a few times so not an expert.
If I'm going to be talking to people I really need to know what I'm talking about as I'm not good making stuff up on the spot So I need a back story that I can use that sounds sort of sensible and isn't going to fall apart as soon as someone asks me a few questions. So how does this sound;
We are a loose co-operative group that is based around the concept of environmental responsibility and self sufficency. As part of this we investigate and work on various projects that fulfill these criteria, such as solar heating, Solar PV, Coppicing, etc. The co-op strives to educate and encourage others to understand and pursue their own energy self sufficence.
With the coppice project our principal aim is to create a 'Tree allotment' scheme both for ourselves and also to encourage other groups to create their own scheme. The ideal would be to have land ownership or some form of long term lease, but in the shorter term we are looking to work on any suitable woodland so that we can learn the skills involved and also to start building our 'coppicing community'
How does that all sound, anything that sounds like nonsense or that I have missed? Any thoughts?
austin herron is a convenor working for the federation of city farms and community gardens. he is or has been involved in the setting up of a number of allotment projects. he attended one of our solar workshops. He did not fall asleep, so he passes the test! On a more serious note though, i have spoken to him since a few times and i believe he would be a very good port of call.
the CIC woodlanders project is a rather different kettle of fish. The idea was to purchase unplanted land from Coilte via the legal entity of a CIC and for members to have legal title to their plots via the CIC. As I said, I have the makings of a business plan for this project, background research, figure work, some preliminary costings , but it was taken no further. Despite interest from the two neighbouring transition groups in the north west i had discussed it with, there just wasn't sufficient interest to get it going. Many of the ideas were discussed here on this forum with you about a year ago.
The zoo project would be a different beast and closer to tree allotments perhaps, hence why i suggest speak to austin. i have the M&A of a tree allotment co-op in GB somewhere which may be a useful. if you want it i will dig it out for you.
Jim, thanks for your interest and energy. These things are important but my energies are spread thinly at present, so your enthusiasm and drive are very much appreciated! I am convinced a critical mass for these things will be reached. If you get initial positive vibes I know a few other folks who may be able to help out.
I was just doing a bit of Googling about Hazelwood at Cavehill and it seems that the consrvation volunteers have been working on the site, although the last referance I could find so far was from March 2010. It may be worthwhile to have a chat to them to see if we could maybe take on a project like this under their auspices untill we can set up something ourselves. It might be worthwhile if they provide training, H&S advice, equipment, and insurance and paperwork.
If this was interesting do you think we could get enough interested people together to put on a work party?