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Evening All,

I'm lucky enough to be in the process of buying a house and outbuildings in my small corner of France.
Luckier still there is around half an acre of chestnut plantation, current average DBH of around 15-20cms. Spaced 4 metres apart with 5 metres between rows.

Questions:
1. Are these stems too big to effectively coppice?

2. Which other firewood/native species can I inter-plant? (which will tolerate the shade of the canopy, which is currently pretty full, but which will be broken a little by the first round of thinning/coppicing?)


I'm aiming basically to turn this regimented mono culture into a firewood producing, wildlife/ dog walking area. 

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15-20cm dia is a good harvesting size, but are they all like that? Half an acre is awfully small, and it sounds like a fragment of a single coupe which would have been felled on a 15 year rotation. So you need to work out how to turn this even-aged plantation into something more diverse. You could fell a fifteenth of the trees annually to maintain the cycle, but since they are already at harvesting size, the ones you cut in fifteen year's time are going to be pretty big, and fall pretty hard on whatever you have planted under them.

 

Ah yes, the underplantings! you have already observed that sweet chestnut casts a lot of shade, and you will shortly find that they also shed immense quantities of very large leaves which take a long time to rot. This will bury anything you have planted, which will also be having trouble finding root-space in ground full of sweet chestnut roots.

 

In short, I don't envy you for the task you have taken on. You would have to grub out or poison some of the stools to make way for anything else, and opening up the area to more light would cause the sweet chestnut to grow more branches, making harvesting and processing for firewood more difficult. Oh, and if you do go for hazel, don't expect hazelnuts if it's grown in shade. Have fun!

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We have plenty of chestnut coppice here, personally I’d leave it be. 

 

Coppice in small parcels if you have to (though 1/2 an acre is already quite small)

 

Keep the brambles down and plant some cyclamen and other woodland flowers.

 

We own some woodland and I’ve often though of doing that, no time though!

 

 

Edited by Mick Dempsey

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Cheers for the help so far.
I'm pretty sure it was planted as a firewood crop for the house. Or to bump up wooded areas on the old farm for tax purposes!

As you can see from the photo its pretty close to the house, so it would mainly be a little firewood helper and a side project.
my rough maths works it out as around 65 trees. Can i coppice randomly or does it have to be in blocks?

House.JPG

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I've just thinned 2.3 hectares where sweet chestnut had been planted every fifth row. It had been planted seventeen years ago with the obvious intention of felling and poisoning or for coppice the sweet chestnut which never happened. The sweet chestnut had ruined the oak and nearly so with the ash, the only other dominant species was cherry, which was starting to be stifled by the remaining ash racks and the chestnut.

 

I would fell the lot and replant with a mix of hardwoods and re coppice the chestnut stools every three years for three rotations until your new stock gets going and then selectively kill of the coppice stools. You could do it selectively or in thirds/quarters but leave a decent gap between the chestnut and your new stock. 

 

 

 

 

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Ah , missed the firewood bit, do it in quarters and include some cherry to draw the slower stock as your replacement firewood once you've done all four.

 

oh and chestnut spits lovely get a good fire guard or woodburner if you don't have that already. 

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I think you will struggle with under planting with anything but more chestnut, horse chestnut have a chemical called aesculin in them which inhibits other species growing under them.

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3 minutes ago, treeman said:

I think you will struggle with under planting with anything but more chestnut, horse chestnut have a chemical called aesculin in them which inhibits other species growing under them.

The wood has Sweet not horse :) 

Edited by Luckyeleven
clarity

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