Coppicing, a traditional method of woodland management, is employed by Sherradspark Wood Wardens to ensure optimal growth of trees and promote a thriving wildlife population. Chris Cooke has created a photographic record of a hornbeam coupe coppiced by Wood Wardens in 2015.
Photo 1: 13 Nov 2014 – Before
This shows a historic hornbeam coppice within Sherrardspark Wood that has not had the benefit of regular coppicing. These hornbeam stools have been left untouched for some 40-50 years and are now overgrown. In its heyday, the new growth would have been cut back down to the coppice stools every 5-10 years to harvest the new wood for fuel, building, fencing and traditional country crafts. Regular coppicing returns this woodland to its original managed state, which is a requirement of the management regime stipulated by Natural England to maintain Sherrardspark Wood’s SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) status. It also prolongs the life of the tree.
Photo 2: 27 March 2015 – Newly coppiced coupe
These are the same stumps in the foreground of the Nov 2014 image after they have been coppiced. Whilst this might look severe, this is normal coppice management, practiced for centuries.
Photo 3: 22 April 2015 – One month after
Only one month later and the hornbeam stools are already sprouting new growth! Note that the left-hand hornbeam stool is actually hidden within the brash hedge created with cut down branches. The brash hedge, which breaks down naturally in time, is laid to help protect the new growth particularly from muntjac deer which will eat the new shoots.
Photo 4: 24 September 2015 – Five months later
Here the regrowth from the hornbeam stools is remarkable! It is this fresh new growth that produces the wood for traditional uses and helps to sustain the life of the tree.
Photo 5: 19 November 2015 – One year later
Whilst the vigorous new coppice growth still holds its leaves, the mature trees have shed theirs. Note the extra daylight flowing in to an area that, just one year ago, was almost devoid of sunlight.
Not only does regular coppicing preserve a centuries-old method of traditional woodland management that Natural England seeks to maintain, but also it provides a much broader, and open, environment that can sustain an increasingly diverse wildlife habitat. This is perhaps the greatest benefit.