After taking expert advice about the condition of our wooded area, we have decided to coppice the woods in sections over a ten-year period.
Coppicing is an ancient practice of cutting suitable trees and shrubs to the ground and allowing them to regenerate, some trees being allowed to grow into large trees. This is a traditional method of woodland management which takes advantage of the fact that many trees make new growth from the stump or roots if cut down. In a coppiced wood, which is called a copse, young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level. In subsequent growth years, many new shoots will emerge, and, after a number of years the coppiced tree is regrown and the cycle begins again.
As a charity whose purpose is to create woodland it might seem incongruous to fell sections of our wood, but this will allow light into the wood, allow the planting of new species of trees, increase the diversity of fauna and, in ten years, be ready to start the whole process again – it will also improve the habitat for shrubs and wildflowers growing under the canopy. The coppicing would be done in sections or coups over ten years. This actually leads to the trees having a longer lifespan. A note to the casual observer here – while the newly coppiced area might at first look devastated, it will add immeasurably to the wellbeing of the wood as a whole.
In times past and in commercial copses coppicing was done for commercial reasons: charcoal production, chair-making or bodging, poles for tool handles or plant stakes, and traditionally house-building. We, however, are doing it solely for the health of the woods. We would, though, be willing to let people have logs for stoves for a donation to HBUF.
We hope to carry out this work over the winter period. We intend to send two of our members on chainsaw courses to comply with health and safety regulations.
In the same area as we would start the coppicing process we are going to cut a path through some mounds of earth in order to give disabled people and people with pushchairs access to the whole of our site. This is one of our charity’s purposes. There are steps over the mound that volunteers constructed some years ago but, as will be appreciated, these are not wheelchair friendly.