Monthly Archives: February 2012

This is derelict coppice

So, a little more explanation of coppicing, for those who don’t know about it (those who do, please click somewhere else – now!).

The above is a rare West Yorkshire (or West Riding of Yorkshire as we used to say) hazel coppice I’m working/restoring.  It has not been cut for about 55 years, and should have been cut every 7 years. This is why it is called derelict.  It’s over-grown, lots of dead wood, large tree-sized members in the stools.  OK rewind, a stool is this:

Essentially a collection of stems all growing from the same roots.  When it’s derelict it contains: very big stuff – in our case up to about 7 inches diameter; living and dead sun shoots (these are rods which shoot up to the sun very quickly doh!); rotten wood; birds’ nests; long thick straight poles; long bent wiggly poles and anything in between.

Usually coppice woodland contains some standards.  These are trees which will be harvested outside the coppicing 7 year cycle, that is they are left to mature into proper timber, maybe 50 years or more.  “Our” woodland seems to be lacking in proper standards, and instead has self-seeded trees, mostly only fit for firewood.

Cutting.

This is a hazel stool that has been cut. Notice how I’ve angled the trimming cuts to shed the rainwater away from the centre of the stool.  It will now regenerate and hopefully grow lots and lots of straight rods, useful for a hundred things, including hurdles.  The re-growth will be better after the second cut – in about 14 years’ time, hey that’s when I’ll be 73, well if I’m still going strong (why not?).

I’m not sure how or when this coppice woodland was established, but someone, quite a while ago, planted a host of hazel over 2.5 hectares.  It has been cut previously, and the stools are well established, but not ancient.

The trouble is.  Once the hazel is cut, and it starts to push up the re-growth in spindly stems.  These are seen as ideal snack material for deer (mostly roe deer around here).  So, it is a good idea to attempt to discourage the deer.  We try to do this by heaping the brash (cut tops of the hazel) on top of the stools.  The regrowth will come through, but hopefully the deer will be discouraged. A better way is to erect high fences to keep the deer out.

The brash stack gets deeper and deeper and avoids burning anything, and ultimately ends up as dead hedging.  This is a method of using the rubbish from cutting to form a hedge of dead material which has a temporary function (deer repulsion). It will later rot down and return to the soil.

We are after getting several marketable products out of this: logs for fire wood: logs for charcoal; hedging posts; staves; sticks; weaving material; stuff for courses etc, etc.  The piece looks a bit chaotic, but there is a method.

Why coppicing is like making stir fry

Spot the similarities?

Much chopping and sorting into heaps.  Sharp stuff to do the chopping. Hi-tech background equipment (well a hob and a Land Rover are pretty hi-tech compared to a bill hook and knife).  Raw ingrediments. Piles of stuff.  Promise of future good stuff.  Cold first then hot.  And working alone.  The kitchen and the new coppice woodland (very rare in West Yorkshire) were both my domain with no visitors.  I’m not anti-social, but it’s good to have your own time now and again.  The woodlands were filled with animal tracks, many rabbits, and some others, and there were deer as I looked around first thing with Michael, the owner.  The piles of brash soon attracted a robin, as did the disturbed soil.  This wood has not been worked for many years, and there is much dead wood to prove it. I’m hoping that my efforts will produce a richer environment in years to come.  The plan is to coppice 1/2 hectare a year for 5 years in blocks of 5 to 11 stools.  This should produce a good mix of woodland environments.  I’m looking forward to coming back and looking at the wood in Spring.

Here’s a little 8″ x 8″ bird table recently commissioned.  I always try to give them a go with the birds, and this one worked as usual – spot the coal tit inspecting the sunflower seed.

It’s hard in Winter

Today I’ve been finishing a couple of jobs at the workshop and making logs and filling the charcoal kiln in the yard.  The weather has changed and we had rain – the sort that falls and then instantly freezes on anything it touches.    The new logs I was splitting for the kiln/firewood logs for next year were glued together with ice, I couldn’t lock the trailer hitch as the lock was frozen, going into and out of the wood was hazardous – rain on compacted snow – not good. But it still looked kind of pretty.

Yesterday I recovered the loaded trailer from the other-side of the river (I’m usually on the dark side, but this Winter I’m felling timber on the “sunny” side).  The exit from the wood on that side is short and steep, and too much for the Landy, even in pulling gear and locked 4×4. Gave up as I was tired after quite a day’s felling (about 2 in 10 trees fall, the others are winched down.  Thanks Theo, winchman) parked the trailer in the wood and went home.  It was much easier on a new day.  This is the “solve problems by ignoring them” method of working.  I’d brought my concrete three-pronged rake and smashed up the ice a bit.  Out came the trailer first go, although it took quite a bit of the rocking-to-and-fro technique to free the trailer wheels from the frozen ground.

Note.  This was actually written late last Thursday, but embargoed pending checking.