In 2018 a group of LTWO ltd. active broadleaves owners came together in Limerick, facilitated by local Teagasc Forestry advisor, to explore potential to add value to small-diameter hardwood logs.
Participants in the group found that following timely thinning, trees respond well with good growth rates. Many have utilised DAFM Woodland Improvement grant for their first thinning (see box below).
Firewood has been an initial ready market for most of the small diameter hardwoods. As the trees’ diameter and quality increases, there might be now an opportunity to access greater value markets for subsequent thinning’s. This is of particular importance for ash in the context of the threat from ash dieback. However these hardwood markets don’t seem to be available at present in the region.
HF members testing small hardwood logs potential with Jonathan Sykes’ new band-saw.
Following initial HF meetings in 2018 to explore and discuss possible intermediate hardwoods markets, two points became clear:
The need to connect with forest owners who are at a more advanced development stage and learn from existing hardwood producers and processors in Ireland and abroad.
The importance to share findings and co-ordinate with other Forest Owners Groups and organisations in Ireland and abroad to promote management and added-value to small diameter hardwoods.
With this in mind public funding was sought and secured under the newly launched DAFM Forestry Promotion Fund which did finance a range of HF group initiatives during 2019/2020.
The creation of this webpage is part of a programme which included a study tour to Wales, a number of publications,a videoand concluded with a liveHardwood Focus webinarin collaboration with Teagasc.
This new webpage will continue to present feedback and results from the HF initiative and aims to start a timely discussion on hardwoods production within the region.
Two examples of active hardwoods growers in the region and currently involved in the HF project are Jonathan Sykes and John O' Connell.
Jonathan Sykes and his wife Betty planted 7 hectares of broadleaves (beech, sycamore, oak and some cherry) on very heavy land in 1993. In 2000 they planted a further 17 hectares of mainly oak, ash and beech with some larch and Scots pine.
New mixed plantations.
The plantations have been well managed for the early years and first thinning was carried out through a Woodland Improvement scheme. It included the removal of much of the larch for fence posts, identification of PCT trees and selective thinning. The thinning’s were mostly converted to firewood and used to heat the house on site which is used as tourist accommodation for groups of up to 25 guests. The timber boiler has substituted oil burning and saves up to €20,000 per annum. The firewood is all dried in a polytunnel, known as the “solar kiln “.
Firewood thinning’s for local use.
Many mature trees up to 300 years old on the property have been retained, while some, particularly the windblown trees, were sawmilled on site and used in the restoration of the Medieval Tower house at Springfield castle.
Medieval Tower refurbishment using local oak.
In 2015 Jonathan won the best newcomer award in the RDS Forest Service forestry awards. As the hardwood logs size have developed , following thinning, Jonathan has invested by buying a Logosol band sawmill to try to add value to the best trees and many new ideas for potential products are being researched. A second thinning will be carried out, in the coming months, with the help of the Woodland Improvement grant, and an additional 10 hectare area has been identified for Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) management. An application to the Forest Service for a CCF Scheme Grant for this area has also been made. Jonathan has partnered with Bildungshaus Heideland HVHS in an Erasmus programme that periodically brings forestry students from Germany to do work- experience and learn about Irish forestry. They are qualified in tree felling and plan to work in the forestry industry after their training. Jonathan is particularly interested in using forestry to help ameliorate climate change and to preserve wildlife.
John planted 10 hectares of hardwood in 1995 on a brown earth /limestone site. The ground was ripped and species planted were ash, sycamore, beech interspersed with wild cherry, Spanish chestnut, field maple, Norway maple, birch and eucalyptus. John shaped and pruned the plantation in the early years. The first thinning was carried out through a Woodland Iimprovement scheme with a chainsaw and transported to roadside with a 20hp tractor and trailer with an electric winch.
Firewood thinning extraction.
Timber from first thinning was used as firewood for the home. The surplus was sold to neighbours. He has developed a 1.5 km pathway going through the plantation which is used to monitor progress and provides ease of access. John carries out all the work himself and was the winner of the RDS forestry and wood awards in 2002 and again in 2009.
Group visit to John O’Connell’s hardwood plantation.
In 2010 he was involved with University Limerick as part of a research project to investigate the viability of producing edible mushrooms (shiitake and oyster mushrooms) using hardwood logs, as well as growing truffles in a broadleaf plantation.
Shiitake edible mushroom cultivation on hardwoods logs.
As a consequence of recent active thinning, trees are now growing vigorously. Over the last few years John has harvested some Hurley butts and is currently exploring added-value markets for his small hardwood logs. Currently John is planning a second thinning and he has applied to the Forest Service for Woodland Improvement second thinning grant. The plantation is rich in wildlife including red squirrels, jays, buzzards,pheasant, woodcocks (and various other birds) as well as ground flora and wild fungi (wood blewits, dryads saddle).
Woodland Improvement Grant
DAFM -Woodland Improvement Scheme
The Department (DAFM) offers grant aid to support broadleaves owners with early thinning of broadleaves. Currently support for first and a second thinning intervention is available under the Woodland Improvement Scheme (WIS)
- The scheme funds two thinning interventions for all broadleaf and broadleaf mixed forests regardless of whether or not they are grant-aided. Both interventions are applied for separately using the Form 1 and Form 2 process (see web-link below)
- Grant rates are as follows
First Intervention grant of €750/ha
Second Intervention grant of €500/ha.
- The first intervention must be carried when the plantation reaches an approximate top height of 8m (and before they reach a top height of 15m). The second intervention must take place after four years of completion of works for the first intervention and before the crop reaches 15m top height. Height rules do not apply to Ash.
- Forests that have already received a thinning grant will only be eligible for a second intervention grant after a minimum of four years following completion of first thinning intervention works on the same area and once the top height has not exceeded 15m.
- Applications for a second intervention grant can be made using Form 1SI for the second intervention (see web-link below) Additionally DAFM has rolled out in 2019 a new Continuous Cover Forestry support. This is part of WIS and funds transformation of broadleaf and conifers forests to continuous cover management. Successful applicants are eligible for three WIS payments (€750) for three separate thinning interventions under the WIS scheme over a period of 12 years, once the work is in line with an
approved transformation plan.
More detailed information can be found on the Departments or Teagasc website at
This video was made by the Hardwood Focus group, who are members of the Limerick Tipperary Woodland Owners. The group, facilitated by Teagasc and in collaboration with GMIT Letterfrack , aims to foster active management of broadleaf woodlands and to explore new hardwood markets for intermediate thinnings. Funding was provided by the Forestry Division of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under the Forestry Promotion Fund.