Alternative - Improved biodiversity: 2003 Hatfield House Oak, Hertfordshire

Hatfield House Oak (HHO) was a venture by this private estate. The estate, which is owned by the Marquis and Marchioness of Salisbury, has a diverse range of business and land use interests, that includes Hatfield House with over 180,000 visitors each year.

The estate invested in a complete commercial timber production facility comprising a saw-mill, kiln and joinery workshop. This new unit produces oak beams, flooring, architrave and ledge and brace doors and skirting. It processes its own Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) registered English Oak, plus some wood sourced from an adjacent Woodland Trust site and small quantities of French oak.

Fact File
Established: Hatfield House Oak was incorporated in 2001 as part of the Hatfield House Estate
This is a 10,000-acre site of which 2300 acres is FSC registered woodland.Location: Hatfield House, Hatfield, Hertfordshire

Achievements to date:
Economic: This is a long-term project and, despite the recent glut of windblown oak and the on-going tendency for the UK market to rely on imported material, HHO’s balance sheet is looking increasingly healthy.

In spite of the business plan having to assume a prolonged period of shrinking markets and low timber values, the operation is on target to be financially self-supporting by the end of this financial year. Though profit margins remain tight, this is a very healthy result that reverses the present UK trend.

Four staff positions were created with the development of HHO and all have received training.

Environment: The operation contributes to regional environmental sustainability in a number of ways:
By specialising in growing and harvesting English Oak, which is acknowledged to be a superb species for increasing biodiversity, the operation is adding to the area’s flora and fauna.

As a regular buyer of quality round timber local woodland manager suppliers are being encouraged to practise sustainable woodland management techniques.

All of the operation’s output is used. The timber that is processed is utilised in sustainable housing projects and maximum use is made of the processing system to tailor output to specific orders. Quantities of sawn material are regularly used on projects by the Woodland Trust, County and local council partners. Quality slabwood is converted into tree shelter stakes, or firewood. Oak shavings go for small animal bedding. Sawdust is used for smoking Hatfield House’s meats. While off-cuts are donated to local schools for projects.

The Estate Office on 01707 287004;
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