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the village idiot

An Idiot's guide to Ancient Woodland management

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COPPICE PRODUCTS.

 

Despite the majority of this thread so far being devoted to fairly heavy forestry activities, Steve and I actually spend most of our time over the winters coppicing. This includes 1 hectare coppice blocks as well as along all the ride edges.

 

In the past when most of our ancient woodland sites were under coppice management a huge amount of useful material was made available. These included rods for hazel hurdles and hedge laying, birch tops for brooms, poles for fencing and construction, thatching spars, wattle for wattle and daub wall construction, charcoal and firewood to name just a few.

 

As new materials came onto the market and the UK moved over to non wood based fuel sources the coppice industry all but died and the once thriving Woodlands fell into neglect.

 

Because of the past lack of management at the Wood most of what we are cutting is 'overstood' and out of rotation. This means that we generate only modest amounts of good quality coppice product. We do however pick out what we can as we find it, majoring in a few specific items.

 

Hedging Stakes and Binders:

 

Any straight material of suitable thickness that materialises from the overstood hazel coppice gets put aside for stakes and binders. These are used during hedge laying which others on this forum will be able to tell you much more about. Stakes are traditionally 5' 6'' long, about 1-2 inches thick and pointed at one end. Binders are thinner shoots cut as long as possible and are woven between the stakes by the hedge layer.

 

Below you can see Steve and volunteer extraordinaire Pete Fordham  with a bundle of stakes (not yet cut to length) and a bundle of binders:

 

sb1.thumb.jpg.cf8669fc830d05b7468664717218bcee.jpg

 

And below, one of our happy customers picking up a trailer load:

 

sb2.thumb.jpg.29fbd68c7c7f26f29a654a083b1b6e52.jpg

 

 

Another coppice product we do a limited amount of are Birch Bundles. These are used tightly packed together to make horse jumps. We have large areas of regenerating Birch where the conifers once stood. Birch is a 'pioneer species', very quick to recolonise suitable ground when it is opened up. Birch will be the species to largely replace Ash in the Wood when we lose all of our Ash to Chalara (more on this later).

 

Below is Steve with a trailer load of thin Birch stems before taking them to the processing area. The gloves in the foreground are a sacrificial offering to Odin.

 

bb2.thumb.jpg.52219e62cf42645faf74ceb478838f56.jpg

 

Here he is again (Steve, not Odin) with a completed bundle:

 

bb1.thumb.jpg.7b584ffec75bdeb7c4a398241baa96d6.jpg

 

Our ability to produce a greater range of coppice products will increase as we get deeper into the reinstatement of the coppice cycle within the Wood. By far the best use for all of the larger overstood coppice material we cut is charcoal and especially firewood production. Much more on these in coming posts.

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Thanks very much Conor,

 

I've enjoyed putting it together. It's the first time I've really gone through all the photos and it's been bringing back some good memories.

 

It's also reminded me that a job is as much about the people around you as it is about the work.

Edited by the village idiot
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Back in the 60s/70s my dad used to coppice hazel at the weekends to get Christmas money, him and his mate would sell it to garden centres for bean sticks.

 

Used a billhook, of which there are several sorts I believe.

Edited by Mick Dempsey
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4 minutes ago, Mick Dempsey said:

Back in the 60s/70s my dad used to coppice hazel at the weekends to get Christmas money, him and his mate would sell it to garden centres for bean sticks.

 

Used a billhook, of which there are several sorts I believe.

Nice one Mick. Old school!

 

There is still a market for hazel beanpoles. They look so much nicer in the garden than bamboo ones.

 

We do use billhooks for trimming up the hazel, but we do the initial cutting/felling with a chainsaw.

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2 hours ago, the village idiot said:

COPPICE PRODUCTS.

 

Despite the majority of this thread so far being devoted to fairly heavy forestry activities, Steve and I actually spend most of our time over the winters coppicing. This includes 1 hectare coppice blocks as well as along all the ride edges.

 

In the past when most of our ancient woodland sites were under coppice management a huge amount of useful material was made available. These included rods for hazel hurdles and hedge laying, birch tops for brooms, poles for fencing and construction, thatching spars, wattle for wattle and daub wall construction, charcoal and firewood to name just a few.

 

As new materials came onto the market and the UK moved over to non wood based fuel sources the coppice industry all but died and the once thriving Woodlands fell into neglect.

 

Because of the past lack of management at the Wood most of what we are cutting is 'overstood' and out of rotation. This means that we generate only modest amounts of good quality coppice product. We do however pick out what we can as we find it, majoring in a few specific items.

 

Hedging Stakes and Binders:

 

Any straight material of suitable thickness that materialises from the overstood hazel coppice gets put aside for stakes and binders. These are used during hedge laying which others on this forum will be able to tell you much more about. Stakes are traditionally 5' 6'' long, about 1-2 inches thick and pointed at one end. Binders are thinner shoots cut as long as possible and are woven between the stakes by the hedge layer.

 

Below you can see Steve and volunteer extraordinaire Pete Fordham  with a bundle of stakes (not yet cut to length) and a bundle of binders:

 

sb1.thumb.jpg.cf8669fc830d05b7468664717218bcee.jpg

 

And below, one of our happy customers picking up a trailer load:

 

sb2.thumb.jpg.29fbd68c7c7f26f29a654a083b1b6e52.jpg

 

 

Another coppice product we do a limited amount of are Birch Bundles. These are used tightly packed together to make horse jumps. We have large areas of regenerating Birch where the conifers once stood. Birch is a 'pioneer species', very quick to recolonise suitable ground when it is opened up. Birch will be the species to largely replace Ash in the Wood when we lose all of our Ash to Chalara (more on this later).

 

Below is Steve with a trailer load of thin Birch stems before taking them to the processing area. The gloves in the foreground are a sacrificial offering to Odin.

 

bb2.thumb.jpg.52219e62cf42645faf74ceb478838f56.jpg

 

Here he is again (Steve, not Odin) with a completed bundle:

 

bb1.thumb.jpg.7b584ffec75bdeb7c4a398241baa96d6.jpg

 

Our ability to produce a greater range of coppice products will increase as we get deeper into the reinstatement of the coppice cycle within the Wood. By far the best use for all of the larger overstood coppice material we cut is charcoal and especially firewood production. Much more on these in coming posts.

Nice tractor there by the way. Guess she does a good job up and down the slopes, etc.... Alpine?

 

 

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2 hours ago, the village idiot said:

COPPICE PRODUCTS.

 

Despite the majority of this thread so far being devoted to fairly heavy forestry activities, Steve and I actually spend most of our time over the winters coppicing. This includes 1 hectare coppice blocks as well as along all the ride edges.

 

In the past when most of our ancient woodland sites were under coppice management a huge amount of useful material was made available. These included rods for hazel hurdles and hedge laying, birch tops for brooms, poles for fencing and construction, thatching spars, wattle for wattle and daub wall construction, charcoal and firewood to name just a few.

 

As new materials came onto the market and the UK moved over to non wood based fuel sources the coppice industry all but died and the once thriving Woodlands fell into neglect.

 

Because of the past lack of management at the Wood most of what we are cutting is 'overstood' and out of rotation. This means that we generate only modest amounts of good quality coppice product. We do however pick out what we can as we find it, majoring in a few specific items.

 

Hedging Stakes and Binders:

 

Any straight material of suitable thickness that materialises from the overstood hazel coppice gets put aside for stakes and binders. These are used during hedge laying which others on this forum will be able to tell you much more about. Stakes are traditionally 5' 6'' long, about 1-2 inches thick and pointed at one end. Binders are thinner shoots cut as long as possible and are woven between the stakes by the hedge layer.

 

Below you can see Steve and volunteer extraordinaire Pete Fordham  with a bundle of stakes (not yet cut to length) and a bundle of binders:

 

sb1.thumb.jpg.cf8669fc830d05b7468664717218bcee.jpg

 

And below, one of our happy customers picking up a trailer load:

 

sb2.thumb.jpg.29fbd68c7c7f26f29a654a083b1b6e52.jpg

 

 

Another coppice product we do a limited amount of are Birch Bundles. These are used tightly packed together to make horse jumps. We have large areas of regenerating Birch where the conifers once stood. Birch is a 'pioneer species', very quick to recolonise suitable ground when it is opened up. Birch will be the species to largely replace Ash in the Wood when we lose all of our Ash to Chalara (more on this later).

 

Below is Steve with a trailer load of thin Birch stems before taking them to the processing area. The gloves in the foreground are a sacrificial offering to Odin.

 

bb2.thumb.jpg.52219e62cf42645faf74ceb478838f56.jpg

 

Here he is again (Steve, not Odin) with a completed bundle:

 

bb1.thumb.jpg.7b584ffec75bdeb7c4a398241baa96d6.jpg

 

Our ability to produce a greater range of coppice products will increase as we get deeper into the reinstatement of the coppice cycle within the Wood. By far the best use for all of the larger overstood coppice material we cut is charcoal and especially firewood production. Much more on these in coming posts.

Fantastic to see coppice products becoming more and more used again, regeneration of woodlands is vital to improving our environment. Great job there. 

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I am about to start looking after a small woodland and meadow area of about 40 acres on one of the estates sites. It hasn't really had any management for decades. Stuff everywhere. 

 

Getting started is going to be interesting. Mostly mixed broadleaf, not an old plantation of conifers, just semi-ancient woodland untouched and old meadow area that has turned into woodland due to no management. Wildlife levels seem to be quite high which is nice. But lots of laurel and rhodo at the edges, old rocks in there too and pretty steep slopes, maybe it was an old quarry or something, its quite a level change between new and old. One of the old rides has been cleared as a dog walkers route, but that is about it. 

 

Will have to research what the area used to be. 

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WOODLAND GRANTS.

 

As mentioned in one of the previous posts I am self employed and generate my income from the sale of the value added arisings of our management activities. Firewood being by far the biggest income stream. 

 

I couldn't keep up the management momentum as much as we do without having Steve on board, and a large proportion of his wage is made up of the Woodland grant that we receive from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

Without wanting to get political on this thread, the money apportioned by the RPA originates from the European Union, the looming prospect of Brexit is leaving us uncertain about whether these grants will continue, and therefore potentially Steve's job.

 

When I started at the Wood we applied for grants under the English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS). Within EWGS was the Woodland Improvement Grant (WIG) which paid a set amount of money per coppice compartment or meter of ride edge work completed etc. The more improvement work you did the more grant money you received.

 

Three years ago, after EWGS was discontinued, I went over to the new scheme of Countryside Stewardship (CS). The Woodland improvement element of CS is called WD2 and the payment criteria is rather different. It is set out in 5 year cycles and linked directly with your 10 year management plan. The amount of grant payed is based on the total area of woodland under improvement. Raydon Woods are 100 hectares in size. The grant pays £100 per hectare per year. So as long as I could prove that the entire woodland was benefiting from my planned improvement works the estate would be payed £10,000 per year. This new system tends to favour larger blocks of Woodland. Small woodland owners cannot claim large amounts through CS and quite a few people see CS as a bit of a backwards step after EWGS. Grants can make a big difference as to whether management work is financially viable, and under the new scheme a certain amount of operations in smaller woodlands will have ceased.

 

In order to get the maximum area of Raydon Wood into Countryside Stewardship I concentrated on including ride creation and maintenance operations. The logic being that these works helped to open up the woodland for access and created habitat havens throughout the entire site. My other obligations include 3x 1hectare coppice compartments and 5 hectares of thinning/selective felling. I have to submit a progress report to Natural England in years 3 and 5 of the scheme with photographic proof of the progress. The payments from the RPA go to the Woodland owner annually and are then filtered through to Steve via his pay packet.

 

Within the Countryside Stewardship woodland option there is also scope for claiming for 'capital items'. There are a range of options on the guidance notes listed as eligible capital items. They include pond restoration, and if I remember correctly, Deer stalking seats and Deer fencing, alongside a few other things. We get paid a certain amount of money per pond that we rejuvenate. It tends to cover about 50% of the cost.

 

If your woodland management activities are economically marginal, or even if they're not, it's well worth looking into the possibility of grant assistance. It can make a big difference and the application process is not too gruelling. First port of call is the Forestry Commission website. Loads of info on there regarding grants.

 

In a few years time CS will be phased out and the plan is to replace it with another new scheme called ELMS. We don't yet know what this scheme will look like, it is currently being trialled in a few locations in the UK.

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18 minutes ago, AJStrees said:

Nice tractor there by the way. Guess she does a good job up and down the slopes, etc.... Alpine?

 

 

No slopes in Suffolkshire AJS.

 

There is a lot more info on the tractor in some of the more recent posts.

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