Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

OLIVER Rack­ham, who played such a sig­nif­i­cant role in re­viv­ing the tra­di­tional man­age­ment of woodlands dur­ing the last 50 years, died ear­lier this year, and on Oc­to­ber 17 he will be cel­e­brated in the first Na­tional Cop­pic­ing Day.

In Buck­ing­hamshire your lo­cal Wildlife Trust is hold­ing a cel­e­bra­tory event at Fine­mere Wood, one of the an­cient woodlands near Quain­ton where we are restor­ing the di­ver­sity of wood­land trees and flow­ers to ben­e­fit the many species of bats, but­ter­flies and birds that live in the wood.

Cop­pic­ing is a tra­di­tional way of man­ag­ing wood­land, which be­came es­tab­lished dur­ing me­dieval times when it was rel­a­tively easy to saw and chop straight branches and even small tree trunks. This pro­longed the life of the trees that quickly grew new branches.

The cop­piced prod­ucts were used to build homes, and make im­ple­ments, hur­dles and bas­kets; straight spars are still used for hedge­lay­ing and thatch­ing, and hazel poles are good for climb­ing plants such as run­ner beans!

Any branches too small to be used else­where were ideal ma­te­rial for burn­ing to make char­coal. Itin­er­ant char­coal burn­ers used to make kilns within woods to use the ma­te­rial on site.

Many trees in woodlands were cop­piced on a cycli­cal ba­sis with new growth emerg­ing from the cop­pice stool ready for har­vest­ing ev­ery 10 years or so. This type of man­age­ment in pock­ets or coupes within and on the edges of woods cre­ated an un­der­storey with a va­ri­ety of height and den­sity that en­cour­aged a di­ver­sity of wildlife.

Cop­pic­ing in woodlands con­tin­ued for sev­eral cen­turies, but by the Sec­ond World War many woods were ne­glected. Rel­a­tively open glades of cop­piced hazel, sweet ch­est­nut and elm be­came derelict as trees ei­ther died, or grew tall and shaded the ground where prim­roses and wood vi­o­lets had pre­vi­ously flow­ered.

Sur­veys show that the area of cop­pice in Eng­land dra­mat­i­cally re­duced from 134,000ha in 1947 to just 22,000ha in 1998.

Hun­dreds of years ago woods across the for­mer For­est of Bern­wood land­scape in Buck­ing­hamshire were cop­piced, and to­day the Wildlife Trust is re­in­stat­ing this process for the ben­e­fit of wildlife.

Oliver Rack­ham was an ac­knowl­edged au­thor­ity on the coun­try­side; par­tic­u­larly trees, wood­land and wood pas­ture, and played a sig­nif­i­cant role in re­viv­ing the tra­di­tional man­age­ment prac­tice of cop­pic­ing in wood­land man­age­ment of the later 20th cen­tury.

On Oc­to­ber 17 (which would have been his 76th birth­day) the Wildlife Trust is giv­ing ev­ery­one a chance to find out what cop­pic­ing is all about, why we do it, how we do it, what hap­pens to the pro­duce and how wildlife ben­e­fits from it.

Come along and find out how to make char­coal, have a go at cop­pic­ing, and go for a walk in the woods to spot places where peo­ple cop­piced trees all those cen­turies ago! Bring a pic­nic and make a day of it. More in­for­ma­tion on www.

Main pic­ture cop­pic­ing in Fine­mere Wood: Char­lotte Kar­mali. Inset prim­roses and vi­o­lets will flower in woods as a re­sult of cop­pic­ing: Don


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