Thursday, 22 September 2011

sweet chestnut coppice

We are learning to manage woodland in a traditional way.

Here's an example of coppice in action. This Sweet Chestnut was felled when the new boundary fence was erected. The tree was reduced to a stump only centimetres from the ground. The wood was logged and stored.
And in the place of the tree have sprung many shoots, most well over 2.5metres tall within the first year of regeneration - exuberant growth!!! Sweet Chestnut lends itself to coppicing because it regenerates so well.

This cutting back and subsequent regeneration is termed coppicing and has been a traditional way of managing woodlands for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Cutting trees back allows light to reach the woodland floor and stimulates ground plants to grow - creating a wider biodiversity. Without active management, woodland favourites like bluebells and primrose struggle to thrive because the high leaf cover of mature trees reduces their access to water and light. Where the flora is reduced, the food chains that follow will also be limited and this is why woodland birds reduce in number: there is insufficient food for them and their young.

Coppicing generates a wider range of wood for use. These stems will be allowed to grow and will have many uses - including bean poles, stakes, hurdles, firewood or even timber for building.

Too much of our woodland in the UK has not been managed in this traditional manner for many years. The result is that our broadleaved woods are of a similar height and this uniformity of height reduces the use of the woodland for wildlife. What is needed is a more complex profile from venerable trees through to recently coppiced wood to enable flora and fauna to repopulate our woods and forests.

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