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Charities’ coppicing cooperation

by Rod Kebble

Farmer Mike Clear and CRT volunteer Conway Churchill recently asked Mike Coates, manager of the RSPB’s Farnham Heath Reserve — which borders Pierrepont Farm at a number of points — if they could fell some of the coppiced trees on his land.

Mr Coates understood the benefits of managing the woodland properly (see below) and gave the go-ahead.

Countryside Restoration Trust volunteer Conway Churchill coppicing with a chainsaw.

Looking like one of Cromwell's Roundheads, CRT volunteer Conway Churchill coppices a chestnut.

In this instance, Conway and Mike were working on that part of the reserve adjacent to Tankersford Copse (see farm map), coppicing trees that were last harvested around 40 years ago.

Some of the felled timber was too heavy for them to lift into the trailer and herdsman Tony Timmis was called in from the farm in a tractor with a fork-lift on the front. The wood was recovered to Pierrepont, where it will be transformed into fencing, charcoal or fuel.

This is the first time the RSPB and CRT at Pierrepont have worked together to their mutual benefit and it is hoped they will be able to help each other again in the future.

Countryside Restoration Trust volunteer Conway Churchill fells another tree.

Conway fells another tree. Note the "stools" of freshly-felled trees in the foreground, from which the shoots of new growth will come.

The benefits of coppicing include:

  • extending the useful life of a tree — if left alone, the tree would reach a point where it would be just too big to make coppice products and would be simply chopped down;
  • keeping the tree alive and healthy for longer than its usual span, thus providing a habitat for birds;
  • it is very sustainable, which is good for all countryside organisations, not just the RSPB and CRT;
  • it has been used to manage woodland for the past 4,000 years and the skill should be passed down to future generations;
  • it is a fun and healthy outdoor occupation for those doing it and a great way to educate people about woodland and wildlife.