For at least one aspect of coppicing, this is what success looks like. Throughout 2013 and 14 we only saw two species of butterfly inside the wood itself, Silver Washed Fritillaries and Speckled Woods. Almost as soon as we had completed coppicing in March we started to see Brimstone, Green-Veined White and Peacock butterflies taking advantage of the light, warmth and shelter. And yesterday this Red Admiral (one of a mating pair) added itself to the list.
A very big (and slightly belated) thank you to the team of volunteers from the South Downs National Park who helped us scythe the grasses and brambles on the margins of Pheasant Field. And an extra special thanks for doing it on one of the rainiest days in spring – too wet to get the camera out. Scything and raking are an important part of managing fertility in the meadow for wildflowers. And it is a good means of “scalloping” the edges of the bramble to improve it as habitat for butterflies and our many nesting birds.
Removing the rusty remains of the collapsed barbed wire fence that once maked the boundary between Lag Wood and Pheasant Field.
Our woodsman Jake, layering Hazel back in March
Layering is a technique for increasing the density of Hazel coppice. A suitable stem is cut around three quarters through, the bark scraped on one side back to the outer surface of the wood and then laid flat on the ground so that as much of the stem lies as flat as possible. It is then secured with pegs made from Hazel brash. The “layer” will root along the stem where the bark has been scraped away creating, in time, a new Hazel tree. Layering means simply to create a “layer”, ie a thing which lies flat.
We thought we should catch up on a few posts so (as you can see from our wonderful Bluebells) this pic is a few weeks old. Coppicing means cutting a tree back to ground level and allowing shoots to re-grow from the root system. This has huge benefits to the wood, it allows light and warmth back down onto the woodland floor and stimulates all kinds of flower and insect life. Much of the smaller cuttings have been placed in “brash piles” by the bases of larger trees. These provide a great habitat for nesting birds such as Wrens and small mammals such as our many Wood Mice and Bank Voles. The plastic netting is required to prevent rodents, particularly rabbits from nibbling at the young shoots as they re-grow from the coppice “stool”. Roe Deer will also eat the young shoots from coppices and, in sufficient numbers, can pose a serious threat to re-growth. There are very few of them in Lag Wood but we have seen evidence of them this year and we’ll be keeping a close eye on them.
We are very pleased to say that we have started coppicing in Lag Wood, following the approval of the Forestry Commission who gave us the go-ahead last week. The permission extends to limited coppicing within conservation guidelines. We are coppicing a central section of Hazel in order to restore a former woodland ride which has become overgrown.
The work will be undertaken by a young woodsman called Jake who recently qualified under the Small Woods Apprenticeship Scheme. Jake will be working on several days in the next three weeks. Please keep dogs on leads when in the wood you see our signs on the stiles. This is for Jake’s health and safety as he will be using a chainsaw and other sharp implements. Hazard tape will be used where Jake is working. Please do not enter these areas.
A huge thanks to the Monday Group for clearing this section of public footpath where it enters the meadow from Misty Bridge. Just below the surface in this picture is the old hardened track that once ran from the bridge to Woodbine Cottage. It should be a lot firmer to walk on and less steep where walkers have hitherto had to clamber up the slope to the stile. Next week the Monday Group will be clearing the brambles along the old track to where it joins the existing footpath a little lower down.
We are in discussion with Ian Weir and Les Campbell of the Hassocks Parish Council about how to improve other parts of the public footpaths which have become very muddy this year.