In the past, woodlands were a vital source of wood and wood
products, many of which were essential for peoples' survival. Woods would often be a focus
of industry, particularly in the times before easy transport became available to move raw
materials away from their point of production..
Wood had a multitude of uses. It was used as a fuel for cooking, for
the production of charcoal and for smelting local ores. Bark was removed from timber and
used as a source of the tannins necessary for tanning animal hides. Ash from burnt wood
was used to produce potash for the glass and soap-making industries. The wood itself
provided vital building material for houses and ships.
Much of the activity would take place within the woodland itself.
Charcoal was in great demand for activities such as iron smelting. Itinerant charcoal
burners would live on a woodland site for the few days which it took to complete the slow
carefully controlled burn. Furniture would often be produced in woodland clearings, close
to the source of the wood.
Wood is still a vital product even today. Every man, woman and child
in Britain uses 1 tonne of wood each year. However, with the removal of dependence on
local products and the development of new materials and technology, the old traditions
have increasingly faded away. Traditional wood crafts are kept alive today by a variety of
craftsmen with an interest in preserving old knowledge, tools and ways of life. Products
as varied as walking sticks, croquet sets and wheelbarrows are still produced for sale
using a variety of hand tools.