Barnsley firm will be a cut above the rest

Russ Ackroyd in Green Spring Wood, near Wortley, South Yorkshire, with his new timber harvester.
Russ Ackroyd in Green Spring Wood, near Wortley, South Yorkshire, with his new timber harvester.
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A TRIP to the Alps has left Barnsley-based Russ Ackroyd with the desire to scale new heights.

Russ was part of a 10-strong South Yorkshire delegation that travelled to Austria to find out about how they have built an industry based on harvesting wood for use as a fuel to heat schools, factories, offices and homes.

The fact-finding mission was backed by the UK’s Forestry Commission and funded by the European Union through a pioneering scheme called Activating Forest Owners.

Russ was so impressed with what he saw that he came back to Britain and invested in state of the art, computer controlled harvester that can process 100 trees a day.

Russ, aged 28, who runs R A Forestry and Fencing, also acquired a “timber forwarder,” which moves logs the harvester produces and stacks them according to size, so that they can be loaded onto a lorry.

“The trip opened my eyes and confirmed for me that it’s time to invest in our woods here at home,” said Russ, whose business had previously used nothing more complex than a chain saw and tractor.

“I’ve been involved in forestry work since leaving school, but now I’ve pushed the boat out. These machines can cut and process up to 100 trees each day, making harvesting more economical for owners. It’s an amazing bit of kit. With timber prices strengthening we have a good order book for our services from across South Yorkshire.”

The Forestry Commission’s Rudie Humphrey said: “Having local contractors on hand with harvesting equipment means landowners don’t need to look far to buy in the expertise to manage their woods.

“We are starting out down the woodfuel road, but countries like Austria, which has over 8,000 biomass boilers, are well ahead of us and operating on a much bigger scale. The potential in areas like South Yorkshire is enormous. That’s why the EU choose this area alone in the UK to invest €200,000 (£168,000) through the scheme.”

Almost a tenth of South Yorkshire is woodland, but much of it remains an untapped resource.