Our company history runs parallel
with British forestry heritage.
It can be traced back to the forestry companies
that emerged in post WWII, 1950’s Britain
as national forest industries were booming…
The story begins with Oakover and Wealden Woodlands, two companies providing forest management services across Kent and Sussex in the late 1940’s early 1950’s. At that time our very own Keith Seymour worked for Oakover, a company that still operates a tree nursery in Maidstone, Kent today.
Across the UK thousands of men were engaged in the clearance of “redundant” broadleaves and the establishment of new conifer plantations ( not the subject of PAWS restoration) were created to endeavour to meet the surge in supply and demand of softwood timbers for manufacturing.
The timber yard at Cocking Sawmill in the early 1940’s bursting with local Beech used mainly as stock making for the Enfield Rifle CO in the early 1940’s
All felling was done by hand up until then, with axes and cross cut saws but into the 60’s and 70’s forest machinery crept into use. Chainsaws were used instead of handsaws. Small tractors came into use instead of horse teams for getting logs to roadside and forestry moved towards mechanisation.
In those days, when trees were felled and logs brought out of the forest, timber lorries had to be loaded by gangs of men with winches, a far cry from the state of the art machinery available built into RT lorries now.
During this period in time there were scores of local sawmills processing enormous volumes of locally available wood. In the mid 1960’s the two companies, Oakover and Wealden Woodlands, merged to become English Woodlands Ltd.
At the same time there was a beneficial tax regime in place which allowed woodland owners to manage their woodlands at little more than net cost. This provided a big boost in employment for foresters everywhere. As a company, English Woodlands employed dozens of Foresters across southern England to fulfil the new demand for woodland management services.
As post war Britain settled down in the late 1960’s Oakover and Wealden woodlands merged becoming English Woodlands Ltd.
In 1983 this company acquired one of the many active sawmills in the area then named The Sussex Resaw Company at Cocking Sawmills. A little later down the line in 1986, the two operating Directors, Hugh Gent and George Marchand, bought out the sawmiil business incorporating as English Woodlands Timber Ltd, creating our sister timber company we know and love today.
An aerial view of Cocking Sawmill taken by surveillance planes when the business was first established in the early 1940’s
No sooner had they got their partnership underway than the following year saw the great storm of 1987 which set the country in chaos and delivered huge volumes of windblown trees into the already at capacity sawmills.
The imber yard, bursting with logs from windblow trees after the Great Storm of 1987
The trees needed converting to timber and English Woodlands Timber was bound to focus solely on milling and supplying other sawmills with stocks of round timber well into the late 1990’s.
Once the huge volumes of recovered storm logs were cleared from the forests the business diversified into providing a wider range of professional management services alongside the now well established sawmilling business.
It was at this point our Managing Director Tom Compton entered the business as a chartered forest manager, appointed to bring professional forest management back into the heart of the business. It worked!
In 2011 Ian McNally joined us as Tom’s partner and has helped Tom build our excellent reputation for professional forest and land management services.
In sharing and developing the business Ian & Tom have realised a long time goal of launching a stand alone forestry business in English Woodlands Forestry which is where we are today.
The aim is that the two sister companies, English Woodlands Forestry Ltd & English Woodlands Timber Ltd will develop to be resilient responsible and sustainable and that they continue to work for British wood culture into the 21st century.