Roddam Hall is part of the 1,000 acre Roddam Estate, lying just to the east of Cheviot Hills.  Now owned by Robert Scott, Managing Director of the nearby A&J Scott sawmill at Wooperton, the forests, woodlands and shelterbelts of the estate provide a range of income streams and other benefits to the estate.

The estate woodlands are extremely diverse and include an unbroken 3.5km long mixed riparian woodland which follows the route of Roddam Burn as it leaves hill ground in the Cheviots, alongside blocks of conifer planted for productive timber and game cover. Although devastated by Storm Arwen at the end of 2021, the mature mixed woodland planted along Admiral Avenue by Admiral Robert Roddam in the late1700’s are still an impressive feature in the landscape.

For the last decade, the core of the estate – Roddam Hall and a handful smaller houses and cottages – have benefited from low cost and low carbon heat provided by the 200kW woodchip boiler and the district heating scheme that it feeds.  By investing in single large boiler and a heat distribution system, the estate opened up the opportunity to use timber from the estate woodlands as a source of heat.  This has created an internal market for low grade wood which might otherwise go to waste, improving the overall economics of woodland management.

The importance of this isn’t lost on Robert Scott, who pointed out that “woods work best when there are outlets for all of the timber that they can produce, and a local woodchip market often improves the overall financial case for managing parcels of woodland.  This means that woods which are uneconomic to manage for sawlogs alone now make sense to bring into management, due to the extra value that can be found for the woodchip.”

The benefits from operating the woodchip boiler will also improve the quality of timber on the estate over the long term.  Creating an incentive to actively manage the younger woodlands with pre-commercial thinning and formative pruning – the wood from which is perfect for woodchip, the remaining trees benefit from better form and more room to grow.  Roddam, by means of new woodland creation and adopting agroforestry on certain areas of permanent pasture, is helping the sawmill business accelerate its net zero target.

Robert noted “it will probably be my children who see the benefits of the management activity we’re doing now, and as a family sawmilling firm with our roots in Northumberland, it’s really satisfying to know that our efforts here today will pay dividends in the future”.

Since it’s installation in 2013, the woodchip district heating system has by now avoided the use of around 800,000 litres of heating oil by substituting it with 200 tonnes of low-grade wood each year.  Not only has this avoided 2,000 tonnes of fossil carbon dioxide emissions in the decade it’s been running, it has also kept over£500,000 in the north Northumberland economy.

Robert stated, “as a significant employer in north Northumberland, it’s great to see that the benefits of using low grade wood instead of oil keeps real value in the local economy, rather than seeing it leach out to other parts of the UK and even overseas.  The signal that this sends to farmers and other estate owners is also really important for our sawmilling business, as if they can see that higher and more diverse incomes can be derived from trees and woodlands, then they’ll plant more of them! Landowners have a choice about what to do with their land, and if we’re to increase woodland cover to realise all the benefits that trees bring for the economy and the climate, then sending them a clear message that it makes financial sense to plant trees is really important”.