On the 23rd and 24th of June, Graythwaite Sawmill, near Hawkshead in the Lake District, was hosting demonstration days for Wood Mizer and Jas P Wilson. Wood Mizer were demonstrating the LT20, LX450 and the Titan WB200, and Jas P Wilson had brought some of their range of Posch firewood processors, Lasco Splitters and Igland Winches. Jack Bithell of Bithell Asset Finance Solutions was available for help and advice on different purchase options.
We called down on the Saturday, and there were quite a few people there when we arrived. One of the people I got talking to was Ed Sandys who manages the sawmill, and he explained a bit more about the history of the sawmill and the estate.
Graythwaite is a 5,000 acre family-run estate which has been home to the Sandys family for 500 years; it is nestled in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, with some of the estate lying on the western shore of Lake Windermere.
Over 2,500 acres of the estate are covered in woodlands, and half of the forest is native ‘ancient woodland’ consisting of oak, ash, birch and alder, with the remainder being made up of commercial conifers. Sitka spruce, European larch and Douglas fir grow well in the Lakes, and these are the main coniferous crop on the estate, but you will also find some Norway spruce and Scots pine.
As the conifers reach maturity and are clearfelled, many compartments are being replanted with naturally occurring hardwoods, in order to restore them to ancient woodland. All the wood used in the sawmill comes from the well-managed woodlands: it is certified by the UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS), and is both FSC and PEFC approved.
Ed explained that there has been a sawmill on the estate since the 1800s: it had been driven by a water wheel on the Cunsey River, installed by his great-grandfather. The sawmill was used until the late 1990s by the estate joiner, who sawed home-grown hardwood and softwood which was used for making beams and windows on the estate. Ed’s father restored a cruck barn at Esthwaite using their own specific oak trees that had a natural curve in them; the barn is now used by the Hawkshead Relish Company.
In 2001 the sawmill was moved to its new home at Bark Barn on the estate: it employs three people, with all the timber used coming from the estate. The harvesting of the timber is carried out by professional forestry contractors who use state-of-the-art mechanical harvesting equipment, as well as traditional methods like horse logging for more sensitive areas.
Ed realises that there will always be a market for timber and ‘green’ products: the sawmill was created in an attempt not only to supply the estate with building materials, windows and doors (there are over 50 holiday cottages, as well as Graythwaite Hall and Silverholme Manor), but also to provide the local market with niche products. They can cut 30-foot oak beams, oak lintels and curved fireplace lintels, and are investing in a machine for cutting feather-edged boards. A new Woodmizer LX450 sawmill is replacing their old Stenner, which will increase both the quality of sawn products and the volume.
Their main customers are local farmers and businesses such as builders and joiners, as well as individuals. They supply a lot of larch cladding to well-known garden centres; they have also supplied oak beams to Barrow shipyard to help in the building of submarines.
They use the traditional method of preserving wood by dipping it in creosote: this is mainly used for square posts up to 9 ft long, strainers, fencing rails, posts for tree-guards, larch cladding, lintels, beams, etc.
There is literally no waste at the sawmill, as pretty much everything is used and sold: they have good markets for the slab wood and sawdust. The sawmill has a Posch firewood processor and log deck, which supplies not only the estate houses and holiday cottages, but also a lot of the pubs and people in the locality: there are bags available from 1 cubic metre to trailer-loads of up to 6 cubic metres.
This is the most enjoyable part of producing the magazine for me. I turned up to see a bandsaw demonstration, and then found a captivating story about the Graythwaite Sawmill, which is steeped in history; I would highly recommend visiting the mill’s website to find out more about its past.
It was great to meet Ed Sandys: it is fantastic that there are people in the industry who are able to run a profitable business on the one hand, while at the same time taking great care of the forests for generations to come.
Forest Machine Magazine is written and edited by a forest professional with over 40 years hands on experience. We are dedicated to keeping you informed with all the latest news, views and reviews from our industry.
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