Apprentice Blog

written by Grace Finnie

Grace and Tom in the midst of moving the charcoal kiln to a new spot in the woods.

As an organisation, Working Woodlands Cornwall has reinstated traditional management to ancient, semi-natural woodland. Through my apprenticeship and as the newest member of the Working Woodlands team, I have learnt first hand what regenerative forestry can entail and how important coppicing is for wildlife. The work that we do improves the biodiversity and habitat value of the woods, and makes it more resilient to tree diseases and climate change, whilst producing sustainable firewood and BBQ charcoal for the wider Cornish community.

On a daily basis at our woodyard, I assist with preparing and processing the coppiced cordwood into firewood, as well as loading logs into our poly tunnel to be stored and efficiently solar-seasoned to below 20% moisture. I often employ of a range of forestry tools, such as timber tongs, cant hooks and splitting mauls.

Grace and Emma with a trailer full of freshly processed firewood, ready for seasoning.

Regular burns also give me the opportunity to use this equipment, in the preparation of wood for charing; I help with the splitting and gathering of logs and filling the charcoal kiln, before firing it up. The transformative process of turning wood into carbon, feels like a magical metamorphosis and I really enjoy getting involved with this ancient practice.

The kiln firing up!

Passing my Chainsaw 201 & 203 tickets has opened up a greater variety of day-to-day tasks, including cross-cutting and processing logs, whilst also allowing me to practice maintaining different chainsaw machinery; increasing my confidence with the heavier equipment is satisfying and I’m very keen to add to my experience with additional training soon. I will be assisting in this year’s felling season, in the new coppice coupe at Devichoys Woods. This means I can get involved with the felling, snedding, dead hedging and extraction of wood during the upcoming winter months; a chance to properly develop my chainsawing skills out in the field.

It’s great to see where and how our products are being used too, as I often join in with charcoal and firewood deliveries to customers. Knowing that the charcoal we’ve made, is helping to feed the happy mouths at restaurants like Blower’s Place and Argoe or that the firewood we once felled and processed is sustainably heating many homes through winter, makes all our hard work that much more rewarding.

I’ve definitely developed a stronger appreciation for working outside and amongst the trees, along with a deeper knowledge of how good management can allow woodlands to thrive.