Woodland Carbon Code at Zetland Estates

By keeping a close account of costs and revenues, remaining flexible and adopting new practices, an experienced forest manager has ensured that woodland cover on the estate is not only stable but increasing.

Zetland Estates, owned by The Earl of Ronaldshay, managed by Mr Shaun Purkiss

Gold Award: Excellence in Forestry 2016

Woodfuel as Income

At the heart of Zetland’s forestry system are four large woodchip boilers which provide heating and hot water for the estate house and outbuildings, as well as the new complex of office buildings nearby. These boilers are auger-fed with woodchip produced on-site and blown into large storage bays.

Shaun also supplies several local homes and businesses with woodchip for boilers installed under the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

RHI subsidised the cost of boiler installation and has generated demand for woodchip suppliers like Shaun. At the moment, demand outstrips supply and wood is bought in to be dried and chipped. This gap provides a clear justification for producing more wood on the estate.

The income from woodchip sales is supplemented by sales of firewood. This is processed on the estate and delivered locally.

The processing means that Shaun’s contractors can be provided with work even during inclement weather when conditions are too poor to work outside. This helps to sustain good working relationships with contractors, and their efforts provide another steady income stream to the forestry department.

Woodland Carbon Code

One of the newest ways of generating revenue on the estate is through the recent accreditation of 28ha of new, mixed woodland to the Woodland Carbon Code (WCC).

This scheme measures and commodifies a woodland’s ability to sequester atmospheric CO2. The captured carbon can be sold as ‘credits’ on the open market to businesses who wish to offset their own emissions.

The 28ha are expected to capture around 12,000 tonnes of carbon, which can be sold for between £3-10 per tonne. Up to 70% can be sold immediately, which allows quick recovery of the initial investment.

Woodland for the scheme must conform to the UK Forestry Standard and is periodically audited to ensure it is being well managed.

From Shaun’s point of view, this management is beneficial even without the demands of the WCC; it provides thinnings for chipping and firewood and means that the compartments will ultimately produce better, more valuable timber. Management jobs like beating-up and brashing can be planned to fill gaps in other work.

New Woodland Creation

Older compartments of Sitka spruce and larch are now mature and are being felled for timber, chipping and the firewood markets. These clear-felled areas are being replaced with new woodland, some for the WCC, some for the Forestry and Flooding Initiative. The latter plantings seek to reduce sediment run-off into rivers and to slow water flowing off high pasture.

The new woodland will be managed on a Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) basis, which increases flood protection as well as being more amenable to wildlife. It is protected by stock fencing (with rabbit and vole guards) topped with a high plastic deer fence. Once the trees are tall enough, the stock fencing will remain, but the deer fence can be re-used on newer compartments.

Money is available through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for both creation and maintenance of woodland, which offsets the relatively high cost of fencing. Newer compartments provide good cover for game birds, and the idea of reintroducing shooting on the estate has been mooted as a future revenue source.

Weed control takes place by using weed wipers, which reduce damage from wind drift and reduces the physical burden on staff.

What the judges said:

This entry comprised young Woodland Carbon Code plantings, but despite the early stage it was evident that the silviculture was of the highest quality. Reusable netting makes for cost effective deer fencing, and when combined with rabbit netting and vole guards has made for excellent protection from mammal damage. Chemical usage has been kept to minimum by using weed wipers.

The judges were impressed by the relatively high stocking density of broadleaves, equal to that of conifers, and the consistently high establishment rates. Species are varied, well suited to the different sites around the estate and to the objectives of management, and several of the plantings have made a significant improvement to the landscape.


Shaun’s increasingly predictable income streams have allowed him the freedom to plan for the long-term and make larger capital investments. By embracing new technology early and remaining aware of, and amenable to, the various schemes and initiatives within UK forestry, the estate is looking ahead to sustainable, productive forestry.

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Author: Mike Page