Cuttin’ for your country

The first axemen came out of the now-lost cedar stands of coastal New South Wales, the primeval beech forests of the West Coast, the great kauri forests of the upper North Island. They were hard men who liked a drink and a wager: the inaugural woodchopping contest is said to have taken place in 1870 between two toey Tasmanians for a £25 stake (newspapers report it ended in a “free-for-all fight”).