Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Coppicing Birch

Newly Planted 2 Year Old Birch Trees

Every year the team take delivery of a trailer load of coppiced birch to make the supports for the plants on the herbaceous border, for an example of the supports made see blog entry 15th March 2011 'Basket Weaving'. Today Ali went on a training day at The Harcourt Arboretum to learn about this ancient form of woodland management, Coppicing, that produces these plant supports. Working with the staff at the arboretum they started the day in a new area of coppice, planting 2 year old birch trees which, in 5 years time, will be cut down. Each tree was supported by a bamboo cane and protected by a clear plastic tree guard.
Having helped to create a woodland for the future, they then moved onto the coppicing of a small birch woodland that was planted in 2000 and is cut on a three to five year rotation. This rotation can increase the biodiversity in the woodland, the clearance results in the variation of light levels reaching the woodland floor as well as altering the number of stools, size and age of the trees.

Birch Coppice

Coppicing is the repetitive cutting down of multi stemmed trees, in this case birch, creating a stump, a coppice stool, which will regrow from dormant buds or root buds producing new wood for future. The stems are cut using a saw, making a sloped cut which is thought to shed water and prevent fungal decay. The part of the woodland coppiced is called a 'coupe', also known as a sale, fell, cant, panel or burrow depending on locality.


Coppice Stool


Joined by volunteers the 'coupe' is methodically cleared. As the team go deeper into the woodland, the cut down wood in called 'underwood', the further they have to drag it back to the path for collection, being careful not to trip over the newly created stools!

Cleared Birch Coppice


At the end of a very tiring day the area of birch had been coppiced and the underwood, approximately 750 pieces are stored ready for use as plant supports.

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