Enthusiastic volunteers have been down to the forest – to learn about using wood as a fuel.

The event was run by the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty group in Prime Coppice – 52 acres of woodland and woodland pasture in the Marshwood Vale.

Course participants travelled from as far afield as north Wiltshire and south Devon.

They spent part of the day in Prime Coppice and the rest of the day with Ross Dickinson, who runs a firewood business in the Marshwood area.

Also contributing to the day were Pete Harmer, an expert wood fuel tutor from Herefordshire, Kit Vaughan, Prime Coppice woodland owner and social entrepreneur, Mike Thorne of Eco Green Energy and Jon Butterworth of Arada Stoves.

The focus of the event was to look at what types to use, what moisture it should be, how you should store wood for fuel, how to burn it and what to ask when buying it. Ian Rees from the Dorset AONB said: “We saw a huge demand for people wanting to join, and promote local quality wood fuel in West Dorset and further afield. “They all found it stimulating and interesting, taking away lessons that can be applied in their individual circumstance; from self-supply to establishing community woodlands.”

He said wood fuel can play an important part in home heating, with logs potentially being more than three times cheaper than heating with electric and at times up to 25 per cent cheaper than heating with oil.

Mr Rees added: “If you can source, season and process your own wood then logs are even more economical and can have added health benefits from being outside in the fresh air and working in the woods.

“Buying wood from sustainably-managed woodlands also benefits wildlife, the local economy and helps tackle climate change.

“However, an essential part of heating with wood is to use and burn quality wood with a low moisture content and that’s fit for burning as this can massively increase efficiency and if you don’t have the right logs or don’t get the fire burning properly you can end up frustrated and chilly.”

Mr Vaughan said: “Producing quality wood fuel locally, burning it well and getting it out to our local community is a real win-win: stimulating the rural economy, revitalising our woodlands and tackling climate change.”

Prime Coppice is a semi-natural ancient woodland, consisting primarily of hazel coppice, ash and mature oak trees with other species including willow, silver birch, alder, hawthorn, blackthorn, aspen, spindle and Norway spruce.

The wood has a long history as a working wood but in recent years there has been a lack of active management, a trend which Kit and Ruth, the current owners, are looking to reverse.