The Uses of Woodland and their products

Reflections from Chris

“Due to its wealth of woodland and forest and the usefulness of wood as a resource, wood was used for a huge variety of products and purposes in Romania including:

  • Construction of buidlings, cladding, shingles
  • Fences
  • Furniture
  • Baskets
  • Utensils – spoons, bowls, plates, buckets etc.
  • Crafts
  • Musical Instruments
  • Heating – house and water (probably over half of the timber in the country was used for heating)
  • Cooking – bread ovens, stoves, bbq (charcoal), use of faggots
  • Distilling
  • Wood tar 

Meanwhile woodlands also provide:

  • Food – mushrooms, nuts (walnuts, hazels etc.), fruit (plums, pears, apples, cherries)
  • Leaf hay for domestic animals, especially when it was a poor year for hay
  • Wood pasture
  • Winter shelter for wild animals which were a resource for the hunting industry

Woodlands and timber appear to be a crucial resource in the rural areas of the Apuseni. Over generations the properties of timber and uses for it have been discovered and it has been exploited as a versatile and renewable resource making it an intrinsic part of traditional rural life. It is hard to see how the people of the Apuseni could continue their present way of life if they lost this resource – not just because of the economic revenue it generates, but more importantly how they could carry out any of their day-to-day chores and work without it.

Having observed how heavily people depend on and utilise timber in Romania it becomes apparent how poor Scotland’s forest resource is in many areas, how much knowledge about the uses of timber and woodlands has been lost and how heavily dependent we are on importing timber and other woodland produce because we either can’t source this locally or don’t know how to. More worryingly, it has been so many generations since woodlands in Scotland were utilised in the same way, their value to us has been forgotten and their importance not realised.

Romania provides an example of how rural areas of Scotland could potentially diversify and become more sustainable by increasing woodland cover and improving the awareness and knowledge of woodlands as a well-managed resource. Promotion of all the different uses of wood and woodland could help increase the value that people put on woodlands and help encourage a more positive attitude towards woodland expansion and sustainable management. This could be achieved through promoting some or all of the following:

Wood burning stoves – stoves in Romania are designed not just to heat the air space around them but also to cook on (with different sized cooking rings on top that can be removed), baking in (with compartments to use as an oven) and for heating water (designed with a water tank that sits on top of the stove with the flu running up the middle). Although these designs are not revolutionary they are not often seen in Scotland and many people may not be aware of them and how they could be making more efficient use of their wood stoves and reducing their reliance on electricity and fossil fuels. Encouraging more people to use wood to heat their homes and raising awareness of how much woodland we would need to meet local firewood demand would also be a useful exercise.

Bread Ovens – these take a lot of time to fire up and run and are unlikely to be adopted by many households but could be a useful community resource for events and courses.

Crafts, furniture, musical instruments, utensils, baskets, fencing etc. made from wood – running more training courses for people to have a go at making day-to-day items from wood will also help underpin just how useful and versatile wood is (and how you can use all different sizes of, and parts of, a tree) as a resource and how important it is to us. These courses will also help up-skill local people and contribute to the local craft scene and self-sufficiency of the local community. A green wood-working group could be established with regular workshops, courses and demonstrations. This could also involve the establishment of coppice woodlands to supply materials for these crafts which would also benefit wildlife.

Food from the forest – woodlands are not just useful for timber but can also provide an enormous quantity of different foods which, again, are probably undervalued and not realised. The establishment of orchards would benefit a variety of wildlife whilst providing a crop of local fruits to be sold and eaten either fresh, as preserves or even made into wine, all of which can be promoted through training courses and demonstrations and sold in local markets/shops. Wild foods such as mushrooms, nuts and berries could also be used and could add value to local restaurants and markets”. 

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