ELWY WORKING WOODS: A COOPERATIVE AND SOCIAL ENTERPRISE IN WALES
Elwy Working Woods is a co-operative and social enterprise set up in 2010 with the support of the Wales Co-operative Centre to promote sustainable employment, managing local woodland resource, and producing and using good quality timber (softwoods and hardwoods) for construction and joinery. Adrian Farey is a director of Elwy Working Woods and explains here the background to, and objectives of, the enterprise.
“As with many other rural, wooded areas of the UK, North Wales has seen the demise of several small sawmills in recent decades. Adding value locally to timber, incentivising high quality woodland management, and providing high quality, well paid local employment is becoming increasingly difficult. Many small sawmill enterprises are often directed, managed and run by single owners who own a significant amount of capital. Further, they often do not have any younger business partners / family members that want to or can afford to take over their business, meaning that many small sawmills may be unsustainable over the long term. Given the imperative for sustainable woodland management, finding a way to structure small sawmills and related operations in a more sustainable manner is vital. Elwy Working Woods is attempting to do just that.
“Our core members and directors have been established in the timber industry for over 20 years in sawmilling, timber-framing, forestry training and forestry contracting. Much of our membership is under 30 years old, mostly self-employed joiners, tree surgeons and timber framers, all committed to working in timber and to living in and around the Elwy valley.
“We manage about 150 acres of woodland, some of it belonging to members and the rest to local farmers and landowners. Our own plantations are now about 26 years old and are being managed with timber production in mind. They are an example of well-managed young mixed woodland, subject to thinning, brashing and high pruning where necessary.
“Our eventual aim is to provide a one-stop shop for all timber requirements from complete house frame to kitchen table, from beam to batten, green, air or kiln-dried. To this end, we’ve built a new traditional timber frame workshop using locally-grown timber and constructed with volunteer and apprentice labour. We’ve installed a number of three-phase machines, some of which have been obtained through other local sawmill operations that have recently closed.
“Our aspirations are to carefully grow fine trees, produce high quality timber for a wide range of valuable end uses and to ensure our woodlands are well managed into the future.”
Elwy Working Woods is leading the way by showing how timber can be at the heart of woodland social enterprise. They’re a fantastic addition to the Making Local Woods Work cohort.