Forecast: freezio!

When cut-backs aid productivity

Work up here at Growly Copse is not just managing the nursery stock, especially the herbs, but also by coppicing the land.

Badgeri. Photo by Peter Trimming

Badgering away. Photo by Peter Trimming

Now is the time get on with coppicing the woodland, before the birds get on with nesting and breeding. This has been an ongoing project for the last couple of years.

It’s an old, typical English woodland with a mixture of deciduous trees but its been left to its own devices for too long. The ash and sycamore were originally planted, probably in medieval times, to be frequently cut back – harvested in essence. The wood was used for building, fire wood, fencing, as well as charcoal.

Growth hampers competition

But its been perhaps 50 years since it was touched. The sycamore has gone wild, overrunning the woodland floor along with brambles and stifling wild flowers and ground plants. Along the southern ridge, holly has gone mad and like the sycamore cuts out too much light and overwhelms other trees and bushes.

The other problem is that some of the ash are over a 100 old and because they had been coppiced in the past, they now have multiple trunks from a single root system. The reality is they’re getting too tall or warped and putting a strain on the root system. That’s a major issue with some of the ash along the northern hedgerows and unless drastic action is taken, all the trunks will come down possibly killing the root system.

But the big disaster was a large ash that came down in a recent storm and the reality is several hundred pounds-worth of good building timber has been lost. This was also the home to the tawny owls.

Housing development passes planning stage

Plans are underway to put up suitable nest-box for them nearby, along with others to resupply what cover has been lost.

It’s the same with some of the oaks that have come down, the trunks needs to be kept off the ground and, hopefully at some future point it could get milled.

The thinning that has already been down has shown benefits. Wild garlic has made a comeback and bluebells are beginning to spread. Even our wild orchids have been multiplying, as has wood sorrel and woodland lillies.

Investment in new stock

There’s also replanting to think about. I’ve been growing stock – oak, ash, willow and hawthorn; it’s just trying to find the time to fit it all in.

The wildlife in the woodland is thriving too. Stag beetles around our wood hotels, deer, fox runs, badger sets – it’s amazing how a relatively small woodland area can support so much wildlife.

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