Fuel prices blamed for rise in theft of dead wood
The large-scale theft of timber from National Trust woodland in Gloucestershire may be due to high fuel prices, say countryside rangers.
Staff at the Haresfield Beacon estate near Stroud say people are driving away vehicles laden with logs.
An increase in the use of wood-burning stoves because of high gas prices has been blamed for the thefts.
The trust says dead wood left on the ground is an important part of the woodland habitat.
National Trust countryside ranger Tim Jenkins said at least 20% of trees cut down in managed woodland were left on the ground deliberately. The remaining trees are sold on.
Mr Jenkins said he had now started spraying the name of the company that has bought the timber on individual logs using fluorescent orange spray paint, in an attempt to prevent the timber being stolen.
He said logs had been taken from all parts of the 200-acres of woodland managed by the National Trust in the area, including Stock End Wood, Standish Wood and Randwick Woods.
"It's a huge problem. In one area of woodland near Whiteshilll there is nothing left.
"The scale is moving on towards people taking van loads of timber away.
"I've seen people going in with chain saws [to cut up tree trunks] and ferrying it off in wheelbarrows to parked cars.
"Everything within 400m of the road has disappeared. I can only put it down to an increase in gas prices."
Experts say decaying wood is important because it provides an ideal habitat for plants and animals and supports several endangered species.
Mr Jenkins said he had reported the problem to Gloucestershire Police and he would keep a record of incidents from now on.