Forest Diary

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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