Friday, 25 July 2008
MONSTER MACHINES BEHIND THE SCENES AT HAMSTERLEY FOREST
I managed to get the last ticket for the minibus ride into Hamsterley Forest yesterday for a look at the timber harvesting machines.
Mark, the Head Forester, on the right, gave us a talk on the history of the 2000 hectares of Forestry Commission land. Originally planted to Sitka Spruce in the 1920s to replace vast areas of timber cleared for WW1, the area now contains a great variety of species.
It is harvested and replanted in patches called coupes which form a mosaic pattern in the forested landscape. Different species show up as variations in the green.
The logs are carried to the edge of the forestry track by a forwarder and piled in groups by size. Logging trucks collect them and take them to a saw mill just outside Durham.
The harvester grabs the base of the tree and slices through it like a knife through butter.
It retains a hold of the tree and moves it sideways through the cutter, removing branches and bark and chops it into the right size logs.
Then it heads off and does it to another tree.
Such a cutting head is worth the same as half a dozen cars.
It can fell, strip and cut into logs, a whole tree every minute and a half. Teams of foresters with chain saws are no longer needed although individuals will still remove unusually shaped trees and lone species.
My bat locator arrived early in the week and we sat out in the garden on Monday night and tracked quite a few which seemed to have appeared from the house roof. They spent a happy hour performing a bat ballet over the lawned area where we were lying back on the loungers. Tiny and so agile, they swept around close to one another and ducking and weaving with great skill. I prefer this to TV and shall sit out often with the bats.