Since Neolithic man improved the stone axe Britain’s woodlands have been the source of pretty much everything required to get by in life. Iron Age Celts had woodland craft down to a fine art, able to fashion spoons, wheels, homes, transport and fuel.
By Domesday, most British woodland was managed in some way, either as pasture with trees or as coppice ( trees cut on a rotation and allowed to regrow). In 1086, only 15% of the country was woodland. By the Black Death in 1349, population increase had helped reduce the area to around 10%.
Agriculture swallowed much of our woodland over time, but industry helped sustain growing trees with its need for fuel. Plantation forestry – planned woodlands planted for timber – began in the seventeenth century, but by the twentieth more than 90% of the timber we needed was imported.
Modern woodlands are managed for a range of benefits – recreation, wildlife, timber, landscape and so on – and with increased technology and mechanisation. Low impact and low-tech woodland products are still in demand in a world turning back to natural products and sustainable materials.
Aside from spoons, I make oak swill baskets, ash sugan chairs (to a pattern developed by my Irish great-grandfather, a chair-maker), hedgerow baskets, turned bowls, greenwood carvings and lettering.