Northumberland Log Bank

In January we had a riveting talk by Kate Thick who has started a new charitable project providing wood for families that are suffering from fuel poverty. Why have a Log Bank? Simply put, there are families who cannot afford to heat their homes properly and just as a Food Bank provides food for the needy, a Log Bank provides wood to those who need it. Fuel poverty can have a detrimental impact on physical health as well as increasing the risk of mental health problems and negatively impacting children’s education.

logbankKate got the idea while drystone walling on estates and farms where she sees a lot of fallen wood. She talked to several agencies and to the Northumberland County Council, all of whom thought it was an excellent idea and filled a need across the county.

Fuel poverty is affected by three key factors - income, fuel costs and home energy consumption/energy efficiency – and relates to homes that have to spend a high proportion of their household income to keep their home at an adequate standard of warmth and is a particular challenge because of the Northumberland’s geography. Those most affected by fuel poverty tend to live in isolated rural communities in houses with poor insulation and a key issue for Northumberland is improving the energy efficiency of people's homes. They have found that a high percentage of the people they help already have a log burning stove or open fire but often cannot afford to run it. Most of their referrals come from Food Banks.

volunteersIn terms of emissions, wood is considered a better fuel than coal, oil or LPG (currently) particularly if it sourced locally and sustainably. The efficiency of it burning as a fuel depends on the stove/fire, the moisture content and the type of wood
The project is in its infancy at the moment and currently has two Log Banks, both on farms, one is just outside Wooler serving north Northumberland & the other near Haydon Bridge for west Northumberland and Tynedale. The idea is to open more Log Banks across north and west Northumberland in the areas of greatest deprivation. The Northumberland Log Bank is a non-registered charity with a Constitution under the auspices of Northumberland Community Voluntary Action.

workingThe Northumberland Fuel Bank sources seasoned hard wood from estates – for example, Ford & Etal, Northumberland Estates and Newcore – and farms or large lumbar companies, and more are signing up. Northumberland County Council helped by funding a trailer! From September to December, the Northumberland Log Bank delivered logs to 22 households, some only once, some up to six times. The deliveries stretched from Crookham to Riding Mill and Kielder to Craster ... but this is only a drop in the ocean, there are thousands more households in fuel poverty ….

WoolerThe Northumberland Log Bank wants to expand to cover about 2000 households but aims to keep its operation simple and plans to make it carbon neutral by the use of solar panels to power their equipment and transport. They will remain non-intrusive – all they ask is for log recipients to sign a letter to allow us to have their contact details and to agree the safety of the fire/log burner is their responsibility.

They are looking for volunteers to help with deliveries and also with sourcing, sorting and storing the logs. They would also welcome donations in cash or kind to help with their work.

Kate Thick can be contacted on katethick@hotmail.com