Like many parts of the South West the Trelissick estate sustained considerable damage during the stormy weather over the winter. Heavy rain and flooding caused problems but the greatest damage was brought about by the strong, gusting winds.
We lost many trees around the estate including several veteran trees in the park and woodland. One of these was a very important lime tree in front of Trelissick house which was planted in the late eighteenth century and two large Scots pines from around the woodland walk and the banks of the river Fal. Scots pines appear to have been particularly vulnerable, especially after the ground became very saturated and whole root plates were lifted.
We’ve always used wood and timber from the estate and wind-blown trees of certain species can be utilised but there are a lot of considerations such as timber quality, accessibility and conservation value. We lost a number of oak trees but the species is important in usability. Turkey and Holm oak are large impressive trees but the timber quality is very poor and we tend to leave them within the woodlands where the greatest benefit can be gained by allowing them to rot and provide wildlife habitat for many species. Sessile oak, which predominates in the woodland at Trelissick, on the other hand, can produce fantastic timber for use in the boat building yards around the Fal. The natural grown bends are used for frames, stems and deck timbers, whilst the branch unions are used for breast hooks and knees. These timbers are ideal for restoration projects and invaluable for the upkeep of traditional boats and the estate has close links with the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth.
A large Scots pine, planted in 1840, was uprooted and fell over the path, it obviously had to be cleared, but it also gave us the opportunity to extract two high quality lengths of timber. The quality is determined by the soundness of the timber, large diameter and close growth rings. Its final use hasn’t been identified yet but there has been some interest from a local boat builder, alternatively it may be put to good use in a National Trust project. Our green woodworker, Dave Hart, already uses timber from the estate to build traditional skin-on-frame boats and following his Getting Outdoors and Closer to Nature bursary trip to Finnmark studying traditional boat building of the sea Sami people of northern Norway, he has his eye on the pine for planking for a new project.
Lime wood is a fabulous timber for carving – it is extremely light but takes a lot of carving detail. It was the main timber in ecclesiastical use for rood screens as seen in many medieval churches. We try to retain as much wood from parkland trees as possible on site as the conservation value is our top priority, but we are able to take out useable portions of the lime which is sold to local wood turners and carvers. They regularly offer demonstrations on the property which advertises the diversity of British timber and allows these majestic old trees to continue in some form for many years to come.
We use heavy horses on the Trelissick estate to extract much of our timber, as this is often the most efficient way to extract wood from the more inaccessible locations around the estate. This helps with supplying the twenty seven National Trust holiday cottages around Cornwall with high quality firewood and charcoal and finances a six-month woods person’s contract.