Woodland creation is a viable economic option for some areas of the estate’s farmlands
Grosvenor Eaton Estate’s Head Forester Greg Vickers hosted a visit to the estate’s state-of-the-art sawmilling operation, Grosvenor TimberWorks, and woodlands for Woodknowledge Wales on 25th November 2023.
Participants enjoyed a two-hour morning tour of the sawmill located in Hatton Heath, near Chester, followed by an afternoon walk through just some of the extensive woodlands managed by Greg.
Since 2015, Greg has been Head Forester for more than 2,000 hectares of woodlands across Grosvenor’s Eaton Estate in Cheshire, the Abbeystead Estate in Lancashire, the Halkyn and Nant Estates in Wales, and the Reay Forest Estate in Scotland.
The woodlands create local employment and supply materials to building and property maintenance activities across various estate holdings. The Eaton Estate alone has over 450 properties requiring routine maintenance and upgrades.
The Hatton Heath sawmill
Hatton Heath Mill took five years to build and became operational in 2021. To construct the sawmill, the project team had softwood grown on Grosvenor’s Reay Forest Estate in the North West Highlands shipped to BSW Fort William sawmill for processing, then transported to the Makar Workshop near Inverness. Here the workshop constructed frames and panels and had them transported down to the Eaton Estate for assembly. To fit in with the estate’s vernacular, the sawmill has a red-brick façade, and details such as red rainwater fittings. All the timber fittings within the building use estate-grown and processed hardwoods.
The site is on the southern edge of estate lands and was formerly a dairy farm. Three full time staff are employed in the mill, working five days a week. At present the sawmill aims to produce 2500m3 timber products per annum. The estate uses 20% of production internally across its various sites. The rest it sells to third parties. A small workshop facilitates on-site secondary processing of stock for the buildings team.
The mill works five days per week, usually milling hardwoods on two days and softwood for the other three days. The mill’s daily output can vary between 5m3 and 7m3 when processing hardwood, where special orders will often make up part of the production. When milling softwood, the outputs can rise to 15m3 per day.
The team stack timber outdoors for air drying prior to kilning. They fell and mill hardwoods in winter to avoid rapid drying during summer months.
As well as processing timber from its English and Welsh estates, timber is transported by ship from the Reay Estate via Kinlochbervie in Sutherland to Mostyn Docks. The short distance between the port and the estate helps minimise distance travelled by road, reducing its carbon footprint
The Eaton Estate woodlands
The Eaton Estate woodlands occupy over 400 hectares on the Cheshire plain. Planted for landscape and amenity use in the 1840’s on what had been agricultural land, the woodlands occupy sites along the five approaches (formal drives) to the main hall. The medieval ridge and furrow system are clearly visible within the woodland.
The heavy clay soils primarily hosts oak alongside a mix of broadleaf and conifers. Ash, alder, sycamore, lime, beech, hornbeam, and birch grow among Douglas fir, yew, larch, western red cedar, and Norway spruce. More recent plantings of hybrid lime and cherry have achieved yield class 8 to 10 with Douglas fir achieving yield classes in the high teens. Hornbeam is growing well but attempts to grow sweet chestnut have not been so successful.
Woodland creation is a viable economic option over traditional agricultural practices for some areas of the estate. In particular, the lower ground near the Dee flood plain.
The tour ended back at the sawmill and a donation was made to the Estate’s chosen charity in thanks for their hospitality.
For further information about our Community of Practice for Sawmillers and future site visits, please contact email@example.com