As alluded to in the ‘Forest Management’ section, a woodland crofter has the opportunity to manage his woodland very intensively (in terms of management input). This means that operations such as thinning and pruning which are critical to the development of quality timber can readily be undertaken with the goal of developing the very best products from the woodland. The focus on quality not quantity also lends itself to smaller-scale working methods as might be found on a woodland croft.
It is not always appreciated how significantly values can vary between different grades of logs and different species. A poor quality tree destined for the firewood market will only be worth a few pounds. At the other end of the scale, a veneer quality hardwood log can be worth several hundred pounds. Clearly these are extremes, but it is certainly worth the woodland crofter focusing on higher quality products than trying to compete with the industrial sector to produce bulk fibre.
On a theme of ‘adding value’, technology now exists in the form of mobile milling and other processing equipment to allow woodland crofters, either individually or on a co-operative basis, to convert their own timber into a range of products ‘on croft’ and retail these directly.
Another opportunity will be to identify and nurture trees which may have ‘defects’ in conventional terms, but have a ready market for specialist uses. Examples of this could include curved limbs used for ribs in boat-building, ‘pippy’wood for character flooring, or other unusual timber which may appeal to furniture makers and woodturners. Again, an intimate knowledge of the woodland will pay dividends.
Finally, there are the numerous non-timber products available: venison from deer control; fruits, berries, mushrooms and other foodstuffs; Christmas trees and other seasonal foliage; materials for craft use and so on. We have lost many of our traditions in this area but can often rediscover them from abroad and through the work of such projects as ForestHarvest.