A band of volunteer foresters working from a base tucked away in a steep West Country valley is pioneering a “log bank” scheme designed to help struggling families and individuals out of fuel poverty.

Inspired by the food bank system that has become a feature of austerity Britain, the idea is that people in Devon who are unable to afford to heat their homes will be supplied with free logs for open fires and burners.

For the last eight years members of the Axewoods Co-operative – the name is a play on the River Axe as well as the cutting tool – have managed woodland in east Devon without pay in exchange for the firewood produced as they work.

The scheme has been so successful that they found they were getting more wood than they were able to use themselves and decided to launch the log bank. East Devon district council has provided the group with a plot of land at its Knapp Copse nature reserve to season the wood and store equipment.

Axewoods is now forging links with food banks, charities and advice centres to find people who would benefit from a supply of logs.

Its chairman, Alan Dyer, said members hoped their scheme, which they believe to be the first of its kind, could help hundreds of people heat and power their homes.

“It’s not aimed at people who might turn up in their Range Rover, load up and say: ‘Thanks very much for the free logs,’” Dyer said. “Fuel poverty is a real problem in rural areas. In the south-west where wages are low and costs are high ordinary people are struggling to keep themselves warm. If they have access to a log burner or open fire, the wood we provide could make all the difference.”

Read more at The Guardian