Alex manages a private estate of 500 acres in nearby Surrey and is a highly qualified arborist. The estate encloses a huge number of fine trees including some unusual varieties and the stock is being replenished. A current planting of 90 saplings including oak, maple and sweet chestnut more than replaces recent storm losses.
Alex does not 'farm' trees at all, but given the vast area there is a good supply of old and wind-fallen specimens always available. So a few years ago, Alex created a saw mill and the output from the mill is now seasoned and ready. In the recent storms (early 2014) several fine old trees fell, and they are all being milled into boards for air-drying. They include ash, oak, holm oak, a monkey puzzle, hornbeam, yew.
Alex first found me a few years ago when I was looking for some London plane (whilst it doesn't grow on the estate, Alex had some which had grown within the grounds of The Tower of London). I got a few small boards of that and have since returned for oak and, more recently, hornbeam.
The quality of stock is excellent and air-drying is the best way if you have the patience (as a guide allow 1 year for every inch of board thickness). I've noticed this year that stock is steadily increasing - both quantity and variety. I recently got two boards of holm oak (an evergreen variety: Quercus Ilex) which is quite common on the estate, but hard to find as seasoned timber. He still has a good amount of London plane, lots of yew, oak, ash, spalted beech and much more. He also has an excellent assortment of burrs and highly figured smaller boards.
It is unusual these days to find a reliable source of properly milled air-dried woods. It is even more rare to be able to go to the estate and stand where the tree fell - that is exactly what I did when I collected the hornbeam.
One of the very best sources I know for good native hardwoods: very responsibly sourced, well processed and sensibly priced. I'll be back quite often I'm sure.
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