Lochbroom Woodfuels

sustainable woodfuels ~ creating opportunities

Lochbroom Woodfuels Ltd is a community-owned social enterprise based in Ullapool, in the Highlands of Scotland. We're committed to creating a reliable and sustainable firewood supply chain in our area and providing supported training and work placements for young people.


As we all know prices always go up and rarely down. All our operating costs have gone up, rent, wages, fuel, and not least the cost of buying in woodfuel to sell. Though we are maintaining our margins we do need to increase our costs in order to stay viable. The online buy section of the website identifies these costs.

We aim to obtain community woodland which would put at least the acqusition of softwood and hardwood within our control, and the quality of this woodfuel also. This will not be a quick fix but will bring prices down…………not many businesses can say that! Watch this space and be ready to give your support.

New Vehicle for LBWF Deliveries

Lochbroom Woodfuels needs a Pick Up
Old Lady Landy needs to retire and Lochbroom Woodfuels needs funding for a pick up truck to replace her. Ullapool Community Trust have kindly given us a loan but it needs to be repaid, the sooner the better so we are asking for help. All that we can offer is a warm feeling, a glow of satisfaction that you are helping secure the future of this local woodfuel business.

* If you value firewood deliveries to your door
* If you value locally sourced, sustainable woodfuel
* If you value our free stacking service for elderly and vulnerable customers
* If you value training and employment opportunities in your local community
 We urgently need to raise £4000 to replace our ancient Landrover - dear Lady Landy - and we can do it, if every one of Landy’s friends and supporters gives just £15.
Lady Landy has given her all - delivering over 200 tons of firewood to households in Lochbroom and Coigach last winter alone - but she is no longer up to the job. She’s tired and, like many of us of a certain age (myself included) a bit leaky. Her gusset is rotting. Her hips are wide, but they can no longer cope with the weight. It’s time to retire.
Ullapool Community Trust have given us a loan to buy a replacement delivery vehicle, but of course loans must be repaid which means additional financial pressure on a small social enterprise where margins are extremely tight. The more we can raise from our community - from our friends, supporters, customers - the less debt we will need to take on.
You may not have met Landy but if you visit our website or our Facebook page you can see her and the other members of the LBWF team.
If you believe in what LBWF is aiming to achieve for our community - affordable fuel, locally and sustainably sourced, caring for our customers and offering training and employment opportunities - please Look out for our Just Giving appeal we will shortly be launching. We are so grateful for your support to help LBWF continue to thrive. www.lochbroomwoodfuels.com

Carrie's First Month at Lochbroom Woodfuels

Carrie has been working at Lochbroom Woodfuels for a month now. Her favourite thing to do is go on deliveries as she is able to see lots of different places, checking the moisture content of the wood is also something she enjoys. Carrie is learning to drive a forklift and has learned to stack the logs and how to test our wood (the moisture content). 

Carrie hopes to gain confidence when talking to customers on deliveries and learn new skills. In the future Carrie see's herself learning to drive a lorry and of course have some sheep! 

Storing Firewood

With the weather being so wet and horrible lately it seems like a good time to talk about wood storage. Leaving wood in a higgledy-piggledy pile (while fun to say) is pretty wasteful and not very safe. Well stacked wood stays dry, making it burn more efficiently and release less carbon into the atmosphere. Here we are going to lay out the most straightforward ways to lay out your wood and explain the most important things you should consider when stacking your wood.

When stacking you need to consider the air flow around the wood, how well sheltered it is from rain and how stable the stack is. Air flow helps dry out the wood, keeping the rain out also keeps it dry, and a stack that’s stable will be safe for anyone around it.

Firstly, make sure you stack the wood on a platform, so the logs are off the ground. Keeping the wood off the ground keeps the wood clean and dry while allowing more air flow. Using a recycled pallet is a good option and some people use concrete blocks or bricks with some timber planks laid across or just two long, straight uncut logs side by side.

Lay out the wood in a neat, straight row on your platform side by side, with the ends of the logs are facing out. As you build your stack up fit together the wood as neatly as possible. The more neatly the pieces fit together the more stable the stack will be.  If you are stacking them up against a wall, you should leave a few inches or several centimetres between the wall and the stack to let air flow between them. To make sure your stack is stable the ends need to be sturdy.  If you have a wood shed or another storage structure, this will keep the wood contained safely. See our earlier blog about a store we made from recycled pallets. 


Our very own recycled pallet wood store. 

Our very own recycled pallet wood store. 

If your wood stack is free-standing a simple way to keep it stable is to build a column of logs at either end of your stack using any semi-circular logs that are flat on the bottom you have in your bag. Stack them up 2x2 alternating the direction the logs point (like Jenga!). Build up the columns along with the rest of the stack. Your stack shouldn’t be any higher than around four feet for safety. The video link demonstrates free-standing wood stacking well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FU_ipcbZUPI


Firewood getting stacked at the Alt Inn. 

Firewood getting stacked at the Alt Inn. 

If you have a lot of wood you might need to build more rows in front of the one you just stacked. Make sure to leave a few inches or several centimetres between rows of stacks to let air flow between them. Also, you may come across some oddly shaped or gnarly bits of wood. Stack these last, on the top, as they can be hard to arrange neatly with the rest of your wood.

The best way to keep rain off the wood stack in the wet Highland climate is to stack them in a wood store, shed or covered car port. An open sided structure is best for (you’ve probably guessed it) air flow. If you have a free-standing stack putting a tarpaulin over the top of the pile will do the trick, but make sure it is well secured and that the sides of the stack are open to the air. If your wood is completely enclosed the moisture will be trapped and your logs can go mouldy.

Stacking is straightforward and mainly just takes practice. Just remember:

1.       Let as much air flow through the stack as you can;

2.       Cover it from the rain;

3.       Make sure it’s not going to unexpectedly topple on top of anyone!

By Cameron Clow, Workin' Wood Intern


Social Enterprise Day

On September 14th I went along to Eden Court in Inverness for the Social Enterprise Academy Awards. I met some lovely people and gained a good few contacts. I was very impressed at the other social enterprises and their ideas. The children were great and had a good knowledge of their products. 

Bug Bombers Midge and Tick repellent soap was one of the social enterprises there from Altnaharra Primary School, brilliant idea right! And Everything Baby who are there to help families in the early years. You can buy all of your essentials at a fraction of the cost you would pay for new. There were also many more great ideas. 

The time soon passed and it was time for lunch and to get our stalls packed away. I had a lovely morning, thank you for the invite!

The Wood Life

I am about halfway through my internship at Lochbroom Woodfuels and I have been having good time so far. This is the second job I’ve had after graduating from university and it couldn’t be more different. My previous job involved working at a desk analysing data for offshore windfarm safety, whereas now I’m taking groups of young people outdoors into the wilderness. Well, nature reserves, so it’s very well managed and maintained wilderness, but it’s still a contrast.

This is a lot of “first times” for me: it’s my first time working with young people; my first time working at a social enterprise and my first time in Ullapool. I’ve had to do a lot of networking, which is also new to me. I’ve been getting in touch with school teachers, local rangers and other youth workers. I found it difficult the first few times, just approaching or contacting complete strangers, but I feel much more comfortable with it now. It was just about building confidence.

I like exploring the highlands. It even manages to look good in bad weather. There’s still something really impressive about the landscape in the mist. So far my favourite thing to do is to scout out potential locations to take groups of young people for outdoor education. Not many people get to go to local beauty spots as part of their job.

By Cameron Clow

Euan's First Six Months At The Yard

Euan started working for Lochbroom Woodfuels January 30th. He has achieved a lot in the last six months including how to drive a forklift and gained his certificate, how to operate a chainsaw which he also gained a certificate for and how to work safely and as part of a team.

The highlights of the job so far for Euan have been getting his qualifications which he might not of got the chance to otherwise along with getting the chance to go/see places he has not been before. The part Euan enjoys most is going out on deliveries as he loves driving (especially the pick up) and going to places he doesn't go often. Making up small nets of wood has to be his least favourite bit as it gets very repetitive very quickly!

Euans goals are to stay working at the yard for a few years to gain all the experience he can and think about his future career. The team have also learnt something from Euan......

Everything will be fine in the end! 

Investors In Young People Event

Lochbroom Woodfuels proudly received their award from Investors in Young people on Monday 22nd June, the plaque was presented to the group as they have been recognised for attracting and recruiting young people. To achieve this award the Lochbroom Woodfuels team have worked very hard to meet the framework guidelines of Supporting, guiding, developing and retaining young people. This is a great achievement and is also great for the community with plenty of young people looking for work/work experience, we would like to think this has encouraged other local companies and businesses to employ young people.

The event started with a welcome talk from Helen then it was passed on to IIYP to explain what they do and their aims. Euan and Lindsey were then presented with the plaque for the team and Helen did a final talk. After this everyone helped themselves to lovely sandwiches made by West Coast Deli, home-made baking and drinks. The team all enjoyed the afternoon and hope everyone who joined them did too! 

Inspiration at the Social Enterprise Summit

Last week Laura and I spent two days at the Social Enterprise Summit in Inverness.  We had no idea what to expect or if we should really have taken two days away from the yard.  We lucked out – it was definitely worth it. 

The Social Enterprise Summit was organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, CEIS, Social Enterprise Scotland and the Social Enterprise Exchange.  Day one was a conference with the focus on rural social enterprises and the overall future of social enterprise.  John Swinney pledged his support for the sector; we learned what HIE had achieved over the last 50 years; visiting speakers from Canada and Australia shared their experiences of social enterprise and a new Scottish strategy was unveiled.  The day was rounded off by a delicious and massive bbq catered by … with music by Fèisean nan Gàidheal – two amazing social enterprises.

Day two was the trade show.  Without wanting to get too cheesy, the room was genuinely full of energy and enthusiasm.  Laura set out to score as many freebies as possible and came back bursting with ideas.  And cupcakes.  There are people and social enterprises out there doing inspiring work.

There’s loads about social enterprise and the event online.  Read more at http://www.pioneerspost.com/news-views/20150611/social-enterprise-summit-provides-global-focus

Recycled pallet wood store

The sun was almost shining, the office internet had gone down and there was a pile of broken pallets to be sorted out.  It was perfect timing to try building a recycled pallet wood store.  Our website has a link to a video by Woodfuel Scotland about how to build a wood store.   We used what we could remember from this to create our own.

All we needed was a hammer, 25-30 x 4 inch nails, 5 broken pallets of roughly the same size and weight, some extra sheets of wood and a lot of determination.

First, we chose a suitable location for the wood store – a flat, sunny and windy site, as sheltered from rain as possible.  Then we hunted out 5 pallets - we found smaller, lightweight ones easier to fit together.  The most stable pallet became the base and we nailed on 2 sides and a roof.  The nails have to go through the pallet blocks at an angle as Euan demonstrates in the photo.


A sloping roof with a secure covering should help the rain to drain off.  We removed the front, bottom bar of a pallet and nailed it onto the top pallet.  We didn’t get this quite right, but it still works!   Then we used off-cuts of sheets of wood to cover it, but you could use an old tarpaulin or such like. 


We’ve stacked the wood fairly loosely to let the air circulate and dry the wood.  More about wood stacking to follow in future blogs though!  We’ve sometimes got spare pallets at the yard which we could let you take away if you’d like to build your own wood store - phone or pop in to find out.


A Day In The Life At Lochbroom Woodfuels

I find working at Lochbroom Woodfuels fun. I really enjoy working with everyone and they have a good sense of humour. My favourite parts are going out on deliveries - I like the journeys, being out and about and seeing new places. Also I enjoy being outdoors and having tasks to do, this keeps me busy and active. Everyone here has made me feel very welcome and I can be myself. I have gained confidence and certainly benefited from my work experience here. 



My First Month at Lochbroom Woodfuels

My first month has flown by! I feel I have settled in very well, learnt lots of new skills, met some lovely people and really enjoy working here. There is a big variety in the different tasks I am set from admin, being creative, organising markets/events and being outdoors. I am building my skills on the different types of wood, filling in the cash book and other admin tasks. I am now confident taking orders, answering the phone and sending emails. I hope to soon be starting an IT course to again gain skills and confidence and therefore put more into the business. I’m looking forward to my future at Lochbroom Woodfuels!


SEDA Catalyst Awards

Last year, Lochbroom Woodfuels was lucky enough to win a SEDA Catalyst Award which is funded by Santander and supported by UnLtd. Aimed at social enterprises, the award offers £5000 and a great support package to help grow the organisation. The support package includes tailored training, webinars with really good tutors, mentoring, and the opportunity to network with other social enterprises around the UK. It's a really valuable package that helped us refine our aims and objectives and grow the organisation.

The award programme is open now for 2015, deadline 10th April. I'd strongly advice other social entrepeneurs to apply!




Youth Celebration

Last Friday was our first Workin' Wood awards ceremony.  A great way to end the week!  

Workin' Wood is our new youth employability project to support young people to build up their experience, confidence and skills for work.  We have an amazing team of young people who have been involved in a lot of training over the last month.  They all deserve to be celebrated for their hard work and enthusiasm.  

Euan started with us as a yard assistant in January.  He spent most of his first week doing his lift truck training at New Start Highland and successfully passed.  Angus does a work placement with us two mornings a week.  He's passed his lift truck training too and has also completed 'Know your Wood' training.  Lindsey only started as our administrative assistant two weeks ago and has completed her induction training.  She's learned a variety of topics from website maintenance to burning briquettes!  Finally Callum completed his induction training for his new placement and Ewan gained his Lantra Award in Chainsaw Maintenance and Crosscutting.  Well done everyone!


Wintry weather

Welcome to the Lochbroom Woodfuels's blog! We'll post special offers here, tips for getting the most out of your firewood, and other things that catch our imagination. Like this...beautiful snow in Ullapool this morning.