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The Dean Oak Cooperative - Further Progress

Since moving to our new site at Castlemain, we have settled in well and are learning how to use the luxury of space. We very quickly spread out and used every available corner without really thinking things through very well. We’re now planning and organising the site much more efficiently and putting into practice the air drying methods recommended by Peter Goodwin.

Our key workers have been put through chainsaw training, we have carried out a risk assessment and put up our first signs. People driving past actually know we are here now !

Our Trekka Saw in operation

Our Trekka Saw in operation

Our cycle of milling is now being planned in more detail. We are having the rails on our Trekka Saw extended so that we can cut timber up to 8 metres in length, as we often get requests for long timbers. Our main source of revenue is still green timber, but we don’t want this to become the sole focus of the mill. We are planning our milling time so that we are accumulating air drying stock that will be available to sell over the next three years. It is hard trying to maintain a balance between keeping our income level steady and accumulating future stock, but we are committed to supplying good quality timber for a wide range of uses.

We are also increasing the range of timbers we supply, which now stands at 16, all sourced locally. We’re still promoting the use of softwoods which can produce some stunning timber, but the legacy of the perception ‘pine furniture’ makes it hard to sell. Although when people see the timber, it’s great to see their enthusiasm being rekindled.

Our shop at The Dean Heritage Centre has been trading well and with support from the proceeds of timber sales, we have started to accumulate some financial reserves. Our forward plan at the time of moving to Castlemain was to establish a range of projects at the new site, in addition to the milling of timber. If the Dean Oak Cooperative is going to have a long term future, its ability to generate independent income will be fundamental to its survival.

Woodland Heritage have come up trumps again by offering to sponsor an annual award to a Dean Oak Cooperative member. In their true open hearted fashion, they have left the choice and reason for the award to us. The favourite suggestion to date has come from Chris Lewis, one of our founder members, as an award for the best use of waste material. Much of the timber we acquire is classed as waste by the Forestry Commission, or local land owners. This belies its true value and potential.

The plan for the award is to set aside some of this material in various forms for distribution among members, with an open brief to make something from their choice of timber. An exhibition would then be held of all the items made and the award made to the person demonstrating best use. We’ve yet to establish any criteria for judging and would like to involve a local school, or college, in the project, maybe with the young people setting the criteria and populating the judging panel. This could be an excellent venture for initiating some educational links, something we made an early commitment to as one of the key constitutional elements for the Cooperative.

We’ll keep you informed of the progress of this exciting opportunity and extend our thanks to Woodland Heritage for continuing to be so inspiring.

Tim Orson 
Tel: 01594 833454

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