1 October 1999

Timber trends give new lease of life to

Welsh oak…

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FIRST there was the desire to thin some sadly neglected small woodlands. Then there was the suggestion that a use be found for the wood taken out and finally came the start of Coed Epynt, a company run by three young farmers which produces oak flooring, lintels and beams from sustainable Welsh woodland.

There are a lot of neglected small woodlands on farms in Wales, explains John Davies, and the woods on his farm at Pentre Merthyr Cynog, Brecon were among them. About five years ago John, who will be familiar to readers as one of our Focus Farmers, decided it was time to take some action towards managing his woodland that had last been felled during the war years and had largely grown back through self-regeneration. Little did he realise what he had started.

&#42 Not interested

Large timber firms are not interested in buying small amounts of felled oak and Johns timber was only saved from the bonfire by the suggestion of Glyn Powell, father of his friend Rob, that he should slab it. Glyn, of Blaenbwch, Builth Wells, is a keen environmentalist, as is John and his business partners. The prospect of using the wood opened up other possibilities – local employment, a little extra income for farmers who could supply oak and the enhancement to wildlife and landscape that managed woodlands can bring. In partnership with Rob Powell, who farms with his father, and Johns neighbour Gari Powell (no relation) of Rhydberry Farm, Coed Epynt was formed with the help of EU and Rural Development grants.

Now oak from their own farms and others, is felled, stored and milled and then air dried for 6 months before being slowly and carefully kiln-drying for 6 weeks. They can supply oak flooring from as little as £25 sq m, lintels from £50-£100 and beams, priced according to size.

"We are totally committed to using Welsh wood," says John, "and we are buying from other farmers."

In his own home, oak flooring is standing up well to the Sioned – test. Sioned is his 16-month-old daughter who has tried her best with toys, drinks and food to find a flaw in the finish but has failed to make any impact. Thats the beauty of oak. It is hard wearing and gets better with age, unlike most flooring alternatives.

In the living room a heavy oak lintel gives the finishing touch to the fireplace. Like the kitchen flooring, the lintel was finished with varnish but for a more rustic look the lintel could just have been sand blasted and left with a natural finish.

"We would like to see more local products used in local businesses, says John, who has found most of their customers have come through word of mouth.

&#42 Serious marketing

However, with the current vogue for wood flooring in homes the time has come for the company to get down to some serious marketing and that means employing someone with a flair for it. "We need someone with a good brain," say Rob, "with management and marketing experience – they dont need to be hands-on. Or it could be the other way, a workshop foreman who combines practical work with a flair for marketing." Either way, they now need someone who can handle customers and take telephone calls.

"As with all diversifications we have to make sure our core businesses – our farms – are not neglected," adds John.

Inquiries: 01874 690293.

Rob Powell (in navy) and John Davies, two of the three farmers who formed Coed Epynt at the suggestion of Glyn Powell (inset). They turn oak from previously neglected woodlands into flooring, beams and lintels. The products have been used in Johns own home and the floor remains unscathed despite a daily testing by his daughter Sioned.

Fashionable flooring could prove a

fillip for a Welsh farm

diversification that could bring new

life to neglected woodlands as

well as new style to home

interiors. Tessa Gates reports