The civil engineering, construction and landscape industries are busy scrambling to do their part to reduce carbon emissions and think ever smarter about design and curbing wastage.  And so, to mark the launch of Sustain Essex – a brand new magazine from Essex Wildlife Trust, LoCASE and BusinessTime in Essex – editor Peter Richardson caught up with Ashwells MD Janine Davies-Tutt to examine the Build Back Greener movement and the actions specifiers can take post COP26.

“We all know the rainforest is disappearing, fast,” says Janine.  “We also know that finding low-carbon sustainable building methods is the only way to reach net-zero by 2050. Through our partnerships with eco-conscious civil & marine engineers, architects, and designers, we’re meeting the challenges of climate change and demonstrating the potential of sustainable reclaimed timber.”

Reclaimed Timber: A Back Story

During Colonial times, tropical hardwoods such as Greenheart, Ekki and Jarrah were imported into the UK from South East Asia, Australia, West Africa, and Brazil for use in marine construction and sea defences.  Janine explains, “These majestic trees had taken hundreds of years to grow, their grain made extremely dense and durable thanks to the heat of the sun.  Unbeknownst to most people, the UK’s historic piers, jetty, sea groin wall and marine piles are primarily made of this remarkable material.”

Over recent years, this timber has been replaced.  Tragically, although it is unlawful to throw away, burn or compost timber for which there is a market, many piles of mixed timber ends up chipped or burned. To combat this illegal waste, Janine and the Ashwell’s team is on a mission to give tropical timber a second life in a circular economy process that prevents further deforestation, saves energy and mineral resources.

Reclaiming timber is the action of rescuing it from an undesirable state and ensuring it does not go to waste. As Janine clarifies, “Reuse, not recycling, is often the key and can pay dividends, both financially and from a sustainability perspective.” Ashwells is striving to reclaim as much timber as possible. To achieve this, the team travel the length and breadth of the UK, assessing marine structures before reclaiming and repurposing as part of an FSC accredited process.

Janine says, “There really is no excuse.  Today, it’s possible to reclaim timber and to reuse it to benefit people and the planet.  We work with some of the UK’s largest civil and marine engineering contractors – reclaiming timber that contributes to a saving of 500 tonnes of C02e annually- but there are still many contractors who are yet to change operational processes to save timber from the chipper.”

Ashwells is determined to stop this waste.  Most recently the team was on site at a historic Thames side yard being cleared to make way for the new Silvertown Tunnel.  On hand to reclaim even the most degrade timber and prepared to use their expertise to resaw for use in future client projects.

Asked about the actions the civil engineering, construction and landscape industry can take post COP26 Janine concludes, “We’ve got to work together if we’re to achieve the goals of COP26.  Marine and civil engineering can be more sustainable if the potential of circular economy reclamation and procurement is unlocked.  We’re determined to lead the charge and help clients to achieve real change.”

Read the full article here >>



Reclaimed Keruing timber from Southend Pier takes pride of place in Gerald Davies’ winning Community and Schools Development garden – RHS Back to Nature (co-designed by Andrée Davies and Adam White in collaboration with HRH the Duchess of Cambridge). Ashwells were invited to supply timber reclaimed from Southend Pier for use in a central woodland walkway feature of the celebrated garden.  The garden is now on display in RHS Wisley in Surrey.


Ashwells was invited to supply reclaimed timber for The Finnish Soul Garden created by Tania Suonio and Conquest for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021.  Boards reclaimed from a historic Thames River Police jetty made the perfect material to be reused as the strong, hefty decking central to the Silver Gilt award winning garden.


For over 30 years, we have  tirelessly reclaimed tropical hardwoods such as Greenheart, Jarrah, Ekki, and Keruing; repurposing the timber for future use in a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified process, that prevents further deforestation and saves C02e. Our reclaimed timber features in major projects across the UK, including RHS Chelsea, RHS Hampton Court, The Eden Project and London Zoo.