Coppicing

What is Coppicing?

This is a traditional method of woodland management. It exploits the many species of trees that put out new shoots from their stump and roots if they are cut down. Young trees are cut back to ground level to encourage new growth. After a number of years, coppiced trees are harvested and the cycle begins again.

Typically coppiced woodland is harvested in sections or coups. This allows for various stages of growth throughout the managed area and therefore a year-round crop.

Advantages

It is a simple process in practice. Cutting trees rather than replanting can make regrowth quicker as felled trees have already developed root systems. It also increases woodland biodiversity by providing a variety of habitats for small mammals and wildlife through the different ages of each coppice cycle.

Disadvantages

As the activity involves cutting down trees to stimulate new growth, areas of coppice are not as desirable from an aesthetic and recreational point of view. Also, as trees or shrubs are on a continual cycle of regrowth the timber produced tends to be of a smaller size. This, however, makes it ideal for where there is a high demand for agricultural materials such as hedging stakes or for use where conditions limit other uses of the land. 

Pollarding

Pollarding promotes the growth of a dense head of foliage and branches by cutting trees at around 2-3m from the ground. This accounts for a considerable amount of the historically managed landscape trees in Cumbria - lapsed pollards are often found on woodland edges. 

The process allows trees to live longer by maintaining them in a partially juvenile state, with the new growth offers a regular supply of new wood for various purposes and particularly for fuel.

Both coppicing and pollarding are important for cultural reasons, as well as ecological and economical benefits of coppiced products.

Coppice Products

Historically, coppiced materials were used to make a wide range of products from bobbins to beesoms, to charcoal, tanning bark and oak swill baskets. Many of these items are still made in the county, but the scale of production is considerably less than the 1950’s when plastic hadn’t reached it’s commercial potential. These days, the market for coppice products are more niche and craft/heritage focussed. However, they are tactile and have the makers mark of artisanal goods. They are arguably far better for the environment than plastic alternatives.

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