If you are walking in the wood you might notice lines of enigmatic yellow flags in odd parts of the wood, sometimes accompanied by strips of yellow tape lined up with them. You might also wonder why they keep moving around. Don’t worry, we are marking out areas for our management plan so that we can survey in detail what is in the wood. This includes estimating numbers and ages of trees and coppice stools, assessing areas of habitat and documenting flora and fauna. It is an important part of planning. It helps us understand where and what we coppice, and what we leave alone. It also forms a baseline which we can use, in future years, to assess whether we are meeting our objectives of improving habitat and biodiversity in Lag Wood. It’s quite a detailed job so the little flags might be around for a few weeks.
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.
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.