Oak sells for mighty prices at auction

it really is an outrage all these under-managed woodlands where 120 year old oaks are just being left alone. how dare they? i don’t know what the world is coming to. meanwhile timber is urgently needed for important human projects like faux shakespearean theatres!

The Times, February 2 2019.

Lone Oak Tree in Keswick. The cost per cubic foot of oak has doubled in less than four years

Lone Oak Tree in Keswick. The cost per cubic foot of oak has doubled in less than four yearsJW/MASTERFILE/CORBIS

Lord Nelson’s fleet was carved from them, druids worshipped beneath their spreading branches and King Charles II hid in one to escape the Roundheads.

The mighty English oak, the UK’s most common deciduous tree, is embedded in our history and has been valued for thousands of years for the durability and hardness of its timber.

It is now fetching record prices in auctions, with the cost per cubic foot of high-quality oak doubling to £10 in less than four years. The largest trees are worth more than £2,000 and woodland owners are being encouraged to cash in to reduce Britain’s reliance on imports for 95 per cent of its hardwood.

Grown in Britain, a not-for-profit body which promotes British timber, is urging owners to feed increased demand for oak flooring, furniture and timber-framed buildings.

More than 250 oaks will be needed this year for the new Shakespeare North playhouse in Knowsley, near Liverpool, constructed by the same company that built Shakespeare’s Globe in London.

In December the Confederation of Forest Industries reported that prices were rising worldwide due to the insatiable appetite for the wood. Oliver Combe, a timber seller and the report’s author, said: “We used to sell beech, ash, sycamore and chestnut. The last five years all the market has wanted is oak — for furniture, flooring and houses.”

Supply of British oak was also being constrained in part by the rise in “hobby owners” of woodland, he added. “Some won’t want to cut anything down and have bought it because they want to look at wildlife or camp in it and want the peace and quiet. It makes it virtually impossible to have co-ordinated management.”

A report in 2015 said that these enthusiasts accounted for 16 per cent of woodland owners. They owned 3 per cent of all woodland but were growing in number, the report said.

Dougal Driver, of Grown in Britain, said that most woodland was under-managed. “If you choose not to thin oak when it’s 120 years old then those trees will have to come from abroad,” he said. “The sound of a chainsaw is a good thing for wildlife. When you open up woodland you get more wildlife and light.”

Stuart Somerscales, 80, who has run a sawmill in Lincolnshire for more than 40 years, said that prices for oak were the highest he had known. He said that some large trees with few knots, straight grain and no brown stain were worth more than £2,000.