Re-surveying our first coppice coupe

IMG_3443

Part of our first coppice coupe after ride clearance in 2018

Known to us by the catchy title of Sub-Compartment 1g, we completed coppicing this coupe in March 2015. It runs alongside the east-west path through the wood with the little bench around half way along. Part of this area had been coppiced for Hazel in the winters between 1998 and 2000 when Hazel coppicing took place in a broad band all along this east-west path (which we have christened “Bench Lane”). Tree rings counted during our coppicing in 2015 showed that Sweet Chestnut, Birch, Willow and Ash stools in this coupe were last coppiced around 1955. The presence of several mature Oaks and the density of old Hazel stools suggests that, like most of Lag Wood, a coppice-with-standards regime had been in place for some very considerable time before the 1950s.

The main headlines from our survey: The Hazel coppices show robust and abundant regrowth. A very small proportion of our Hazel stools were lost. Our experiment with “layering” hazel was successful. “Layering” is a means of producing new stools by cutting a single stem in such a way as to lay it flat to the ground while still attached to its root system. The “layer” stem will then produce new roots and ultimately new coppice stools.

Our worries about coppicing Sweet Chestnut were unfounded. There are only two of them in Lag Wood and we did not want to lose one of them, but the one we coppiced regrew quite spectacularly and continues to do so.

All of the 13 Ash stools we coppiced are now affected by Ash Dieback, although there is abundant natural regeneration of Ash in the ground layer. Some of these appear to be more than one year old and are healthy, so far at least. “Singling” Ash does not appear to have slowed the disease. “Singling” means coppicing an old coppice stool but leaving one more mature stem in place.

Other tree species coppiced appear to have regrown well including one young Hornbeam sapling that had been ring-barked by squirrels. There is a patch of natural Birch regeneration in the north-west of the coupe which is becoming overgrown by Hazel. The willows appear to be in excellent health despite one or two of them being re-coppiced twice during ride management subsequent to 2015 (see pic above). In terms of tree species diversity, Field Maple looks like being a key beneficiary of coppicing here and throughout the wood but even this shade-tolerant mid-storey tree needs some light. The seven mature Oaks in the coupe are all healthy and squirrel damage seems more limited this year.

The ground flora remains diverse and Twayblades have unexpectedly appeared in the coupe. Understandably, ground flora is no-longer as abundant as it was in the years immediately following coppicing, but the dominance of brambles found in the following year’s coupe is nowhere near as marked in this one.

Our use of coppice protectors (see pic below) instead of deer fence seems to have been reasonably effective. Unfortunately coppice protectors are laborious to install and extremely fiddly to remove three years later. We may use them again but not en-masse as we did in 2015.

The density of Hazel regrowth may now be inhibiting some slower growing tree species and ground flora. Re-coppicing this coupe, or part of it, this coming winter may have several benefits if coppicing is restricted to Hazel only. It would assist areas of Field Maple, Birch and Ash regeneration – the latter should be encouraged as some natural regeneration may be resistant to Ash Dieback. Ground flora would also benefit. A watch should be kept for excessive bramble growth in subsequent years. Apart from the presence of Ash Dieback, the coupe has progressed as we hoped and we are pleased with the outcome.

Panorama 20150419 Sub-cpt 1g

The coupe after coppicing in 2015

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