Forest Diary

Coppicing Small Oak – March 2018

July 17, 2018 by admin in Forestry, Sustainablility with Comments Off on Coppicing Small Oak – March 2018

Coppicing Small Oak

While some our customers are contemplating whether or not to order another load of logs, others are making enquiries about items for their garden, such as arches, fencing and furniture.
Paul making a section of No.10 Decorative Trellis
At this point, I’ll spend more time at the yard, making, while Henry and Dan continue coppicing. The lads are cutting small diameter oak sticks from a woodland called Withybed, around two miles from the yard on the edge of the Dowles Valley in the Wyre Forest.  Natural England has given us permission to work this area with a long term aim to improve coppice density and at the same time, open up the rides to improve wildlife corridors.
Withybed after the smaller oak has been cut, and the larger sticks left for later in the year
Our agreed plan is to remove most of the small oak, which we will steam peel, together with the silver birch, which we’ll store for next winter’s firewood. The larger poles within the coupe will remain until April when we’ll fell them for traditional, natural peeling.

Steam Peeling – February 2018

March 23, 2018 by admin in Garden Furniture, Peeling, Rustic Fencing with Comments Off on Steam Peeling – February 2018

A Steam Boiling

It’s an early start this morning, up with the lark to light the boiler with some kindling and offcuts from the shed, to light our vintage Cradley steam boiler, in action since 1943! Its a great morning for some Steam Peeling.
Last night, the steam tank was packed full of chestnut poles, about 200 of them, in preparation for the day of peeling ahead. Once the steam gets up, after about an hour, the door of the tank is sealed and its contents are allowed to cook for about three hours. As long as the fire is tended regularly and the water level is maintained, the process looks after itself, so we can go on with other things until it’s ready to peel.
Around lunchtime the steam is quenched by increasing the water level, enabling the safe opening of the steam tank door and the removal of the cooked poles (with the aid of my welder’s glove!)
Paul taking the cooked poles from the boiler tank
 
Out come the poles in batches of about 30 and while they’re still hot, we begin to strip off the bark with our peeling irons, leaving a pile of it on the ground and stacking the poles under cover in a ventilated shelter, where they’ll stay until dry and ready to use.
  Dan peeling the chestnut poles

After about an hour the three of us have emptied the tank and at this time of the year, when we’re trying to gather in as much wood as we can, we’ll probably load up again for the next day.  We don’t want to waste the bark, so will use it on the log burner in the shed.
Henry stacking the peeled chestnut poles

Coppicing Chestnut – January 2018

March 23, 2018 by admin in Coppicing, Garden Furniture with Comments Off on Coppicing Chestnut – January 2018

Coppicing Sweet Chestnut In Shrawley Woods

One morning in January, with a crisp frost underfoot, me and my sons, Dan and Henry, load the chainsaws onto the back of the pickup and set off to Shrawley Woods, a thirty minute drive from our yard on the edge of the Wyre Forest, to start coppicing for our next load of raw materials, in order to replenish our stocks ready for the rush of Spring and Summer orders.  Shrawley is just one of several local sites where we regularly coppice our raw materials and at the moment is the furthest we travel for it.
A morning in the forest
The Forestry Commission has kindly allowed us to coppice an area of sweet chestnut, which we have divided into six coupes (sections), one of which we will cut and clear every winter in rotation over a period of six years, starting the cycle again in the seventh year. This provides us with the smaller, straighter sticks needed for our products, in particular, our fencing.
On arrival at Shrawley, we park up on site, put out the safety signs, don our safety gear and then out come the chainsaws. Now the work can begin, but there are far more trees to be coppiced than hours in the day, so let’s get on with it!
Henry about to start cutting the last remaining stools
As the chainsaws rev into action, the tranquillity of the forest is broken, but it’s a necessary part of achieving our goal and will be over and done with in a few days, when peace and birdsong will be restored once more.
After the work is completed, the ground is bare, allowing light to fall onto newly cleared areas. As the frosty mornings turn warmer and the sun spends more time above the coupe, the flora and fauna begin to flourish, its own cycle working in harmony with the coppicing rotation. In a few months, things will start to look very different, as the new chestnut sprouts from the old stools and the forest plants spring into life, pushing their way up through the forest floor, competing for the light.  The sweet chestnut will ultimately win, eventually supressing the growth of the flora, until we start the whole cycle all over again in seven years’ time.
The finished coupe
After a few days of cutting, the chestnut is stacked and ready to be collected by a local haulier, who brings it into our yard with his forestry tractor and forwarding trailer, where it’s unloaded, ready to begin the process of steam peeling, before being turned into our traditional rustic products. Coppicing as a means of traditional forest management is well documented and further explanation can be found online and in publications.
A stack of chestnut poles awaiting collection
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