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Thread: Most usefull trees in UK

  1. #1

    Default Most usefull trees in UK

    Hi all,

    As part of our scouts programme for the year we have included an evening on tree identification and their practical uses. We want to use this to give the scouts a start in understanding a bit more about trees that will be useful in later learning on firecraft, carving, campcraft etc.

    One of the things I want to do is pull togther an A5 laminated handout that they can keep. On the handout I wanted to show 10-12 of the most useful (common) trees in the UK with ID pictures and notes on common bushcraft uses.

    So I was wondering if you knowledgable bunch on here might help me in my task by sharing your opinions on what the most useful trees are that we find here in the UK and stating some of the uses that those trees can have. For example:

    BIRCH
    Bark makes good tinder that will light from a spark
    Good for bowdrill
    Wood good for carving and tool handles
    Sap can be tapped in spring
    Birch polypore used as strop or plaster

    Thanks in advance for your help. I will happily share the end product on here if anyone else wants to make use of it.

    All the best.

    Barry

  2. #2
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    Apple tree.... MMMMM Apple crumble!
    There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can extrapolate from incomplete data

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  3. #3
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    and also gives a lovely timber for carving....I have a 300+ year old distaff made from it.... gives off a scented smoke when burned and it burns well, even faggots bundles made of twigs, and both leaves and bark give good dye.

    cheers,
    Toddy
    Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain.

  4. #4
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    Those are all totally secondary to its primary use of making crumble though... it's the law.
    There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can extrapolate from incomplete data

    http://josephburge.tumblr.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squidders View Post
    Those are all totally secondary to its primary use of making crumble though... it's the law.
    NO,NO,NO,NO!!!! Get it right Squidders. We have to educate these scouts properly.

    Apple trees primary use is NOT in the making of crumble... It's primary use is the making of CIDER... Then crumble
    Man of Tanith...
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    I would say it's the birch. It is for me.

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    Whilst the diversions are interesting this is a potentially very useful thread.

    I would suggest reading Herb Edlins Woodland Crafts in Britain as a great introduction.

    Ash

    Tough springy wood that can be very easily split along the grain of knot free sections. Ideal for making tool handles or anywhere else that toughness and springiness is requires.
    One of the best firewoods when dry but also the lowest moisture content of any UK wood whilst living so takes less time to dry and will even burn green.
    Reasonable rot resistance though not as good as oak or sweet chestnut. Keys can allegedly make a nice pickle though I never tried it.

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    il back birch,
    then nettles (even if there not a tree)
    Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.
    Failure is success if we learn from it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squidders View Post
    Those are all totally secondary to its primary use of making crumble though... it's the law.
    Well, yes, but a raisin and butter, cinnamon and brown sugar stuffed, cored apple, baked in a fire is hard to beat
    ***********

    Do you want images to go with your handouts for the Scouts ?
    I've got the apple bark and dyed wool colours somewhere. I've got them for Birch too.

    My most useful trees ?....Oak, Ash, Willow, Elm, Birch, Beech, Sycamore, Hazel, Pine, Elder.......but all trees are useful for something or other, quite apart from being beautiful and rich in wildlife....Yew, Rowan, Cherry, Chestnut, Hornbeam.

    cheers,
    Toddy
    Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain.

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    i don't really have much to offer this thread as there are many much more knowledgeable people on this subject than me on here. just wanted to say, great thread, great idea, and i for one would be very interested in seeing the end result.

    cheers

    stuart
    Let not a man guard his dignity, but let his dignity guard him - Emerson

    my blog - getting there slowly

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Toddy View Post
    Well, yes, but a raisin and butter, cinnamon and brown sugar stuffed, cored apple, baked in a fire is hard to beat
    ***********

    Do you want images to go with your handouts for the Scouts ?
    I've got the apple bark and dyed wool colours somewhere. I've got them for Birch too.

    My most useful trees ?....Oak, Ash, Willow, Elm, Birch, Beech, Sycamore, Hazel, Pine, Elder.......but all trees are useful for something or other, quite apart from being beautiful and rich in wildlife....Yew, Rowan, Cherry, Chestnut, Hornbeam.

    cheers,
    Toddy

    Toddy, thanks for your response. I was going to include some graphics to show the tree, its bark and leaves. anything you could offer to help will be gratefully received.

    Your list of trees is interesting - Do you fancy adding a couple of notes on what uses each may have? :-)

    Cheers

    Barry

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    One tree left out of the list is Holly its a very hard wood great for making wedges for splitting logs or tree trunks or small wedges for fixing handles to tools is also good for making shafts when making a shave horse and fixing the legs. Tools made from holly should be made from green wood as dry wood is very hard and difficult to work.
    Alan.

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    A very good tv series a while back covered the practical applications of a lot of our native trees, it was called "The trees that made Britain" http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/tv_an...es_index.shtml

    It was shown on the beeb so is pretty easy to find.
    There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can extrapolate from incomplete data

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    Pear - all the advantages of apple: fruit, blossom, burns well, nice to carve but in addition the wood make very good plough shears.

    In the days when plough where iron pear would was the favoured material for ploughs in the heavy clay soils around Somerset - perry pear tree wood ideal. There reason, the abrasive nature of the clay and acid nature of the land rapidly pitted & dulled the plough making it hard work as the clay stuck to the shear. On the other hand the clay gave a nicely fine sanded effect to the pear wood and it was not effected by the acid moisture so it continued to keep cuttingand not stick. And it was cheap and to hand.

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    This is difficult because each tree has different properties for its wood, so 'useful' depends on what it is that you want to do. Perhaps the most useful of all is to have a mixed woodland with lots of species. I agree that birch is probably more versatile than most, but I suspect that the commonest uses for wood are (or were) building and making things, and as firewood. Therefore willow (for withies, basketry and so forth), hazel (for charcoal, fences, hedges), oak (furniture, buildings, ships etc), ash (firewood and tool handles), beech (furniture and tools) are historically the most useful, although I'd also include hornbeam because of its extensive use as industrial firewood, and because it is the only native wood hard enough to make the shafts that drove millwheels (and you have to say that flour is pretty handy stuff to have).

    The thing is, resourceful people will find a use for whatever is handy to them. There are a lot of regional differences. For modern day, softwoods like spruce are probably the most useful, for cheap timber and for making paper and cardboard.

    It's a great question that you have posed. I'd be interested in seeing what you come up with eventually, as I do quite a bit of educational work with kids myself.
    Stupidity got us into this mess. Why can't it get us out?


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    Hi
    the following link has some stuff that may be of interest

    http://www.naturedetectives.org.uk/download/trees.htm

    the link below although it states collecting seeds has usefull info on traditional uses

    http://www.naturedetectives.org.uk/d...ollectingseeds
    Chas Brookes

    Always go out on a limb, because that is where the fruit is






  17. #17
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    Ash – tool handles, the best burning wood green or dried, paddles, bows
    Holly – carving, kitchen utensils (no you won’t be poisoned)
    Sycamore – not indigenous but prolific – carving, kitchen utensils
    Oak – left standing for all the wildlife species it supports (in excess of 200)
    Birch – fire starting, tool handles, broom making, sap
    Hazel – coppicing, walking sticks, poles etc. plus nuts
    Rowan – rowan jelly, bird food, tool handles
    Willow – charcoal, basket making
    Beech – wood turning, beech nuts
    Cherry – decorative work, turning, bird food

    Of course, unless it needs to be cut, the best use of any of our trees is to leave them standing for the wildlife they support, their pure beauty, and for future generations.

    Cheers,

    Broch

  18. #18

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    Lavver tree
    Gary Mills

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    Quote Originally Posted by Broch View Post
    Of course, unless it needs to be cut, the best use of any of our trees is to leave them standing for the wildlife they support, their pure beauty, and for future generations.
    Sorry for going off topic but I would like to say this is a common public misconception. The vast majority of UK woodlands would support more species if they were cut more regularly. Dense thicket stage regrowth supports far more species of flora and fauna than high forest with closed canopy and little light getting to the ground so reduced ground flora and shrub layer. Of course a percentage of old trees left to get very old and rot increases diversity but the average UK woodland with its average trees of 50-150 years old is not necessarily best left. This policy over 100 years led to drastic reduction in diversity in Epping Forest. Each woodland needs analysing, what is special and of value in this place? what do we want to get out of it in the long term?

    So back on topic

    Oak high tanin content of the heartwood makes it durable and also good strength. Ideal for timber frame buildings, coopered barrels, ships timbers.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by EdS View Post
    Pear - all the advantages of apple: fruit, blossom, burns well, nice to carve but in addition the wood make very good plough shears.

    In the days when plough where iron pear would was the favoured material for ploughs in the heavy clay soils around Somerset - perry pear tree wood ideal. There reason, the abrasive nature of the clay and acid nature of the land rapidly pitted & dulled the plough making it hard work as the clay stuck to the shear. On the other hand the clay gave a nicely fine sanded effect to the pear wood and it was not effected by the acid moisture so it continued to keep cuttingand not stick. And it was cheap and to hand.
    really interesting, thanks for that.

    stuart
    Let not a man guard his dignity, but let his dignity guard him - Emerson

    my blog - getting there slowly

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by robin wood View Post
    Sorry for going off topic but I would like to say this is a common public misconception. The vast majority of UK woodlands would support more species if they were cut more regularly. Dense thicket stage regrowth supports far more species of flora and fauna than high forest with closed canopy and little light getting to the ground so reduced ground flora and shrub layer. Of course a percentage of old trees left to get very old and rot increases diversity but the average UK woodland with its average trees of 50-150 years old is not necessarily best left. This policy over 100 years led to drastic reduction in diversity in Epping Forest. Each woodland needs analysing, what is special and of value in this place? what do we want to get out of it in the long term?

    So back on topic

    Oak high tanin content of the heartwood makes it durable and also good strength. Ideal for timber frame buildings, coopered barrels, ships timbers.
    Robin, I agree, that all comes under my heading of 'needs to be cut' but telling young kids how to make use of wood if they cut it down without telling them of the benefits of leaving it up is only part of the story. I manage a small wood so am well aware of how much cutting is needed to provide the diversity of habitat for our wild life as well as provide the timber for our use it's just that all the 'uses' were 'cut it and use it'. I have spent the last 16 years thinning and coppicing to get layers in my wood.

    And, I would argue, that a discussion on the 'management' of trees should go hand in hand with 'what you can do with it when you've cut it' so not entirely off-topic

    Cheers,

    Broch

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    Willow and chestnut for weaving (plus asprin from wiilow and nuts from chestnut).

    Oak for oyster mushrooms - easily identified and tasty.

    Alex

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    Oh, and pine - resin, cone for fuel, needles for a vitamin c tea.

    Alex

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    This is such an informative thread!
    Stupidity got us into this mess. Why can't it get us out?


  25. #25

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    ok heres my tuppence worth:

    Ash - good for axe handles, wood burns green, dead timber house cramp ball fungus
    Willow - weaving (baskets etc), pain relief from salycilic acid in bark, good bowdrill wood when dry, saplings excellent for making withies.
    Hazel - nuts obviosly! saplings again excellent withies, good bowdrill wood when dry, excellent for walking sticks, excellent for fence making, good wood for arrow making
    Alder - very slow rotting and good wood to use where wood needs to be used in wet boggy conditions, sticks can be chewed up and used as toothbrush aswell!
    Elder - elderflowers and elderberries excellent in drinks etc, wood excellent for handrill shafts and making blowpipes for the fire, dead tree house's the jelly ear fungus (edible)!
    Last edited by bushcraftbob; 06-02-2011 at 20:23.

  26. #26

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    Trees only exist for climbing, ain't not no point to em otherwise!

  27. #27
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    Have you seen the Woodland Trust British Tree Guide web site? Very good. Here is the link to the Sweet Chestnut entry. See the human uses section at the bottom. I'm a fan of this tree!

    I am just about to plant 450 trees in a 4 acre edible forest garden along the lines of Robert Hart and Martin Crawford and the real challenge in such a garden is carbohydrates. Sweet Chestnuts have big potential.
    The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. John Muir

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    jus thought id bring this to the discussion:
    www.pfaf.org
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    Hi Barry

    This is such a big subject that it is difficult to provide all the answers in one. My favourite has to be the Silver Birch - Betula Pendula which I think is a very attractive tree. The use of the birch is quite extensive but I have tried to list just some of it's uses below:

    BIRCH - This is often known as the "supermarket of the woods" as it has so many uses. It is one of the first trees to establish on new ground growing rampently to high altitudes. The leaves are edible in early spring. The rising sugary sap can be tapped in the spring to drink or make beer, wine and vinegar. The bark is very impermeable to water and is good for making all sorts of containers for both for solids and liquids. Also good for making a very durable waterproof match box. You can dry distil an empryreumatic oil from the bark for the prep of leather. Saponin in the bark makes a good natural soap. It has been known for shoes to be made from the bark and of course there is the birch bark canoe. Green wood is almost like a soft plastic and is good for carving utensils such as spoons and nogins. The very fine dead branches ideally gathered hanging from the tree rather than the ground were and still are gathered to make a fagot. Basically a large bundle of the fine branches. Historically there was a whole trade supplying fagot sticks from the country to the towns for fire starting the kilns of tradesmen i.e. bakers and the wealthy persons fire. This is a fantastic kindling and my first choice for fire lighting even in the rain. Of course there was also the "birch" for school discipline and tied to the waist of the chimney boy sweep. Seasoned wood is a good fast burning wood. Indeed the green wood will burn on a well established fire albeit a bit smokey. In nordic regions the newly cut fine branches can be used to provide insulation on the floor of your tent or for sleeping on. Finally the fine roots can be used either whole or split to make great bindings.

    Hope that is useful. Trog

  30. #30

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    Guys

    Some excellent responses there and plenty for me to get on with. Keep it coming if you have anything else to add. I will share my results when compiled into a decent format.

    Barry

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