The coppicing season has come to an end at Birchanger Wood. Volunteers have laboured hard over the winter to cut back trees to allow light onto the woodland floor, boosting the flora and helping to support biodiversity.
While it may seem counterintuitive to cut down trees for the sake of woodland conservation, coppicing is an age-old practice of harvesting trees for wood products – baskets, beanpoles, walking sticks, arbours, thatching, fences, charcoal and firewood. The practice of coppicing goes back to a time when society was heavily dependent on wood and woodlands were cared for due to their economic importance.
Many bird species rely on insects as a source of food and insects benefit from the flowers that flourish when the woodland floor gets more sunlight, unimpeded by the dense canopy of mature trees.
The trees themselves are not harmed and if they are protected from browsing animals such as rabbits and deer, they will grow back healthy – often with a longer lifespan than if they were left to grow as standards. However, the trees and flora can only thrive if walkers, cyclists and dogs keep to the paths.
In line with a management plan devised by conservation experts and overseen by our warden Pat Forrest, Birchanger Wood Trust is pursuing this time-honoured method of woodland management with sales of firewood from coppicing helping to sustain our work.
We are now boosting our capacity to coppice larger areas by training long-standing volunteers in safe chainsaw use and building a covered wood store in our secure compound. The store will improve the quality of firewood, which was being stored under canvass where it was more open to the elements.
We look forward to another summer watching our woodland benefit from continued management and developing a legacy for future generations.
We have a packed series of events led by local science educator and conservationist Jono Forgham – visit our events page for more details.