Devon hedges are a source of renewable energy that can be cropped efficiently and economically. Many farms, probably the majority, could heat at least their farmhouse from just their hedges and save money in the process! Others will be able to generate an income through selling the wood, as logs or chips, to local communities. Better still, if done well, management to provide a fuel crop will help to secure a brighter future for the region’s hedges, alongside reducing greenhouse gas emissions, farm fuel costs and even rural fuel poverty.
In 2014, the Devon Hedge Group published a new guide, Woodfuel from Hedges, the first for Britain, on how to manage West Country hedges for fuel, including harvesting techniques and likely biomass yields. Both log and chip production are covered. Hard copies of the guide can be obtained from the Tamar Valley AONB, Tamar Valley Centre, Cemetery Road, Drakewalls, Gunnislake, Cornwall, PL18 9FE. 20pp, full colour. £5.00 + p&p.
Guidance notes, Recording form, Assessment tool.These three documents, to be used with the above guide, are designed to allow you to assess the biomass present in hedges on a farm, both individually and across the farm, in terms of weight, volume and energy content, for both woodchip and log production.
In 2015, the Organic Research Centre (ORC) published a complementary guide: Harvesting woodfuel from hedges. This contains further information on appropriate machinery, and on storing and drying woodchips. The ORC has also developed a straightforward protocol or method for assessing and reporting on the biodiversity and condition of hedges at a farm or network level .
Hedges For Heat is a two page fact sheet on how to manage and crop hedges for wood fuel. It was produced by the South Devon Wood Fuel Hub in April 2016.
A short 5 page guide to Harvesting fuel from hedges, written by Rob Wolton (Devon Hedge Group), Sally Westaway, Meg Chambers, Mary Crossland and Jo Smith (Organic Research Centre) has been published in Conservation Land Management Spring 2016, Volume 14, Number 1, pages 4-8.
Woodfuel from hedges: a toolkit for communities. There is much scope for local communities to work together with nearby farmers, so the community gets free logs (as well as the opportunity to meet up and keep fit) and the farmer their hedge properly managed. This toolkit gives practical information on how to set up local groups, on safety and insurance, on coming to an agreement with the farmer, and much more.