Monday, 16 March 2015

Branching out...

Can't see the wood for the trees...woodn't it be good...This post is about coppicing and woodland management and I asked Beth to come out with a witty title so you can imagine the endless smut she came up with... :rolleyes:

Following on from CumbrianRambler’s “14 things hiking can learn from gaming ”, woodland management has already been made into computer games such as A world of Keflings, Age of Empires and some other farming based games. These strategy sim games are hugely popular just as woodland management was when it started sometime after the Ice Age.

Milling logs for nice big stacks of timber
Just as the game goes, chop trees to make logs, use the logs to make basic Mills, Mills to process timber, timber to build houses and more productive mills. With more productivity came the need for more skilled workers, coppice workers and carpenters. And so the need-productivity cycle began. Of course the next age would bring stone but I’ll leave that till I start learning mining and dry-stone walling ;-)
I don’t know the facts and figures but it would seem our British woodlands are dying and losing their biodiversity and ecosystems. As we have become less dependent on woodlands for our livelihood previously managed and coppiced woodlands have been neglected. Nature has been left to its own devices and not always for the better. As woodland canopies close up the rich array of wildlife and flowers decline so you often have completely bare ground and field layers.  Browsing animals in particular Deer have had a big influence in changing the diversity of woodland.

Now I could have got the wrong end of the stick with all of this so Tony feel free to correct me and I’ll replace it with just the nice pictures.

Anyway what is all this about. I have been learning lots on how to coppice from Tony the expert coppicer , Cumbria Wildlife trust, Cumbria Woodlands and private woodlands, so it’s been interesting seeing it from different standpoints. The main concern at the moment is the heavy decline of the High Brown Fritillary butterfly which still resides around Morecambe Bay and south Cumbria and opening woodland floor by reintroducing coppicing gives the butterfly the habitat it needs.
Shoots re-growing from a coppice stool

This time I have been helping out with Tony at a private wood and really appreciated being asked to help out and I think the owner was too. With a management plan in place to get the once coppiced trees back into a rotation by setting up a number of coups, opening the ground for flowers and butterflies,  while also encouraging all wildlife from birds to badgers, deer to owls and even a Peregrine flying overhead into the woodland for the owner to enjoy.

Hazel flowers and catkins

 It was time for felling, I'm quite pleased with myself I can use a bowsaw on a 15cm diameter tree and get it to fall exactly where I want it but I haven't ventured out into chainsawing yet:-(  brash stacking, ground clearing, log rolling, brash clearing, log stacking, tree planting (Cherry, lime, Whitebeam, Hornbeam, spindle),log stacking, brash burning, log stacking and coup fence building.

A great tool for dragging large long logs

Video of Tony using a Danish cut to fell the tree in the right direction
What to fell a tree a different direction it's leaning to, try the Danish cut

Video of 'Scarring for standing dead wood'


Trees planted in coup

tony sawing logs

Brash burning

Temporary fencing to protect newly planted trees from browsing

So now we wait for nature to take its course and grows according to plan. Would be great to see how it develops over the years.