Wiston Estate woodland

The Wiston Estate is made up of 6,200 acres, of which woodland comprises around 1,200 acres. The woodland can be split into three different areas:

  • The downland woods situated on the southernmost part of the estate, from Findon village to ‘hillside’.
  • The ‘hillside’ runs along scarp slope of the South Downs from the town of Steyning to Washington village.
  • The Weald from Wiston to the villages of Ashington and Ashurst.

The woodland is made up of about 65% hardwood and around 45% softwood with the softwood trimmings making up the bulk of the material used for the biomass boiler at Wiston House. There is about 150 acres of sweet chestnut wood, of which the poorer quality produced makes up the rest of the material used for the biomass boiler. In the region of 400 tons of material is required for the Biomass boiler each year.

The management and cutting of the wood material for the biomass boiler is done by permanently employed staff, of which there are three, and occasionally supplemented by outside forestry contractors.

The other products that are extracted and sold from the Wiston Estate woodlands include firewood, softwood timber, oak timber, some chestnut wood fencing and hazel wood coppice.

The procedure for the biomass boiler is as follows:

  • The trees are felled and cut into four metre lengths then extracted and hauled to the stacking area, where the wood is seasoned (dried out) for 8-10 months depending on the species of wood and the time of year the wood is cut.
  • When the wood reaches a moisture content of ideally 20-40%, it is hauled to Wiston House, where it is loaded into the chipper using a forestry crane. The wood is chipped, uniformly sized for ease of feeding in to the biomass boiler, and then blown directly into the bins of the biomass boiler using a Heizohack 8/400 wood chipper.

Knowing that it has to produce around 400 tons of wood for wood chip each year, good forestry management can be employed by the Wiston Estate. This means that the poorer quality trees can be felled and used for wood chipping, thus promoting the better trees to prosper and gain better growing conditions, which in turn gives a better financial return.

Not having a market place for the poorer quality trees has led to some foresters in the UK deciding to not cut these trees down, which leads to having woodlands that are overstocked, dark with poor fauna and flora. Through proactive management the woodlands thrive and their biodiversity flourishes.

Finally the trees that are properly managed for ‘silviculture’ will provide an infinite supply of produce for timber, fuel, etc which cannot be said for other fuels, like natural gas and mineral oils. Though biomass boilers may not be the right heat solution for every situation, where the timber can be sourced locally from well managed woods, it is a good one.