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Defending against deer and bunnies

by Conway Churchill

It is common practice to build sturdy and often quite elaborate defence round newly coppiced stools in order to prevent new shoots from being subjected to the tender mercies of cute little bunny rabbits and deer. The defences round the stools in the woodland at Pierrepont Farm are no exception.

Regular volunteer Rod Kebble takes great pride in building defences that would challenge even the most determined furry animal. Houdini himself would struggle to break through.

A fence to protect a coppiced hazel erected by Countryside Restoration Trust volunteers.

A coppiced hazel stool protected by a fence made of the tree's branches woven with brash, June 2010. Designed more to protect against deer rather than rabbits, the fence has allowed the new shoots to thrive. Unfortunately, the tree at the back was blown down the following winter and flattened part of the fence...

The downside of building such defences is that a great deal of patience is required. In addition to selecting sturdy branches from the brash and thumping them into the ground, more whippy and prickly brash has to be threaded through these ‘posts’. The job is tedious and time consuming and having been blessed with the patience of a two-year old I prefer I much rougher and readier method.

I cut up lengths of brash and simply dump it on the coppiced stools. The process lacks finesse but is very effective and time efficient as with the help of Damien and Richard Powle, from Merrist Wood College, we had the stools at the east end of the coup (the name for an area of recently-coppiced trees, from couper, the French for “to cut”) covered and protected in a morning.

Coppiced chestnut stools under brash at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm.

The minimalist approach favoured by Conway Churchill. The coppiced chestnut stools are next to invisible under the piles of "brash" (the thin ends of branches etc).

As you can see from the photos it is very difficult to even see the stools so hopefully the creatures that like nice fresh chestnut shoots will become very disheartened and go elsewhere. We also took the opportunity to give the coup a general tidy up. It now looks managed and cared for and we regularly receive compliments from passing walkers.

Another view of brash-covered coppiced stools at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm.

More brash-covered stools mark where timber has been harvested. The new shoots (assuming they survive) will be left to regrow for twenty years or so before they are next cut.