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Coppicing

Page history last edited by Julia 4 years, 4 months ago

~Coppicing.~

 

Coppicing is an ongoing project. In the first phase we are renovating the old coppice areas in the existing woodland, which hasn’t been coppiced for 50 years or so, probably since the Second World War when much timber was felled as part of the war effort. The second phase of the plan is to coppice the new woodland and then continue coppicing in rotation. By this point we will have a coppice that produces useful poles. The restoration coppicing, however, does not produce such useful wood, and although there are some good, straight poles among it, the aim is to establish a good, traditional coppice to provide material for us to use in our various projects and crafts.

 

The other reason we decided on coppicing for the management of part of the woodland is for conservation reasons. Coppicing is recognised to have many benefits to certain woodland flora and fauna, and its decline has led to a loss of habitat for many species. Coppicing benefits wildlife by opening up small areas, allowing sunlight to penetrate to the woodland floor enabling many of the woodland wildflowers to prosper, flower and spread. Over the course of the next few years the trees grow back, but while this is happening other plants and shrubs that would have been shaded out thrive and grow densely. Eventually, the canopy closes again and the trees flourish, reinvigorated by new growth. Coppicing in rotation results in different areas at various stages of growth, and this fact adds diversity of habitats and so benefits all sorts of wildlife.

 

In particular, the dormice in Coed Panteg will benefit from our carefully planned coppicing as it will constantly reinvigorate the hazel trees, giving the dormice more nuts for them to eat. The denser tangle of shrubs and trees is more suitable for them than a wood composed of tall trees with a dense canopy that inhibits vegetation in the shrub and woodland floor layers.

 

The first rotation of coppicing produces a large amount of wood that has accumulated over the decades of uncut growth, but it is not very useful for many purposes as it is often not very straight, it may be damaged or branching and is large diameter, heavy trunks that are impossible to extract by hand. The next rotation will hopefully yield many smaller, straight and therefore more useful poles. In the meantime, we have lots of wood; some of which we use for firewood; some for other projects and Martin has been making use of the rest to make charcoal, a traditional coppice product with many environmental benefits.

 

In the first year, we coppiced half an acre. This was done immediately after our big tree planting operation and took a couple of weeks. We found that this was maybe too much and had produced more timber than we knew what to do with, so we decided to scale down future years to one third of an acre. This is the minimum area needed to still allow enough light in to generate good regrowth of the coppice stools. The plan is to coppice half an acre in future rotations, when the amount of timber produced will be more manageable.

The area we first coppiced has a reasonable number of stools considering how long it has been neglected, but we decided to increase the number in a few areas, planting a few additional trees and layering some hazels from existing stools. Layering is a way of propagating trees: a stem is bent down into a shallow hole dug in the ground, pegged in place and covered up with soil. The stem will hopefully root and establish a new tree.

 

We have left a few trees standing in the areas we have coppiced to be standards. We selected good, straight trees that we hope will grow on to give larger trunks for timber, but we also chose trees that we just liked the look of for some reason. We attempted to create some standing deadwood by ring-barking a couple of suitable large trees. Standing deadwood is particularly beneficial to wildlife. As it rots down it provides food for insects and fungi and provides an ecological niche that is increasingly rare in most woods due to woodland managers succumbing to a feeling that even woodlands need to be ‘tidied up’, unfortunately this is common these days.

 

It will be fascinating to watch how the wood develops under our management scheme, to see which species prosper and if we can encourage more diversity. Already the first two areas are regrowing fast: some stools have put on nearly 2 meters of new growth a year. It was notable that there was a particularly fine display of primroses, bluebells and early purple orchids in the first coppice area in spring this year, almost certainly a response to the increased light they had received last year.

 

Projects    
  Tree planting/New woodland
  Coppicing
  Orchard
  Gardens
  Arboretum
  Products:

 

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