Our forestry heritage can be traced back to the forestry companies that emerged in post WWII, 1950’s Britain, as national forest industries were booming.
Oakover and Wealden Woodlands were two companies providing management services across Kent and Sussex in the late 1940’s early 1950’s, and 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 created to meet the surge in supply and demand.
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.
Cocking Sawmill aerial view in the early 1940’s
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.
Cocking Sawmill’s timber yard, bursting with local Beech in the early 1940’s
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 the timber company we know and love today.
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 timber into the already at capacity sawmills. The timber needed processing and English Woodlands Timber focussed solely on milling and supplying other sawmills with stocks of round timber well into the late 1990’s.
Once volumes of recovered storm logs were cleared the company diversified into providing more management services alongside the now well established milling business. It was at this point our Managing Director, Tom Compton, was appointed to bring forest management back into the heart of the business, which he has certainly done!
Some 16 years later and the company is steadily building on it’s excellent reputation for professional forest management services.
As Tom’s partner, Ian McNally, takes the timber business forward, Tom is freed from his desk to do what we all know he loves best, professional forestry. Whilst sharing the business Ian & Tom have realised a long time goal of launching a stand alone forestry business in English Woodlands Forestry which they can both be proud of.
We look forward to taking forestry forward and to seeing more woodlands created, well managed and productive, for future generations of English Woodlands Forestry & Timber.