HOW TO GET INVOLVED IN NATIONAL COPPICING DAY
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. bbowt.org.uk/whats-on
Main picture coppicing in Finemere Wood: Charlotte Karmali. Inset primroses and violets will flower in woods as a result of coppicing: Don