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Monday, 26 October 2015

Woodland Management in Riddy Wood

I arrived at Riddy Wood to do the first lot of this winters coppicing earlier today, it was a beautiful day when I arrived and I hadn't been here since the leaves started to change into their autumn colours. 

The field maple and blackthorn were bright gold, there were bright red patches where the dog roses were laden with rose hips (a foragers diary post will be coming soon with a recipe for a Swedish dish 'Nippon soppa' or rose hip soup) here and there the bright pink of the spindle and the blue/purple of the sloes. From amongst them the larger trees protruded, oaks still holding onto their leaves, some still green, others beginning to turn, ashes already naked. 

I'm sitting here now listening to the nocturnal rustlings, calls, chirps and whirs and will be 'live blogging' from Riddy wood the whole time I'm here. Since it has grown dark I have heard, tawny owls, barn owls, little owls, the whir of bats wings, a tiptoeing fox, a barking muntjac and right this second I can hear a pheasant adjusting his position in the wild service tree where he is roosting. 

I have made use of the hours of darkness since putting away the chainsaws by bundling up some pea sticks which we will be selling to fund the programmes of environmental education that we will be offering here at Riddy Wood and at the other sites we manage. 

The moon is just about to clear the top of an ash tree which is between it and camp and I'll be able to turn off the lanterns in camp soon, it probably won't quite be light enough to sharpen the saws without a torch though. 

Yes we do use chainsaws at Riddy Wood, and I'm not afraid to admit it, as nice as it would be to make more use of traditional tools the time we currently have to dedicate to the project demands the use of modern tools and there would be no way we could achieve what we need to without them. You will soon see some blog posts on old tools though and maybe if you come on one of the woodland management courses we will be hosting you will get a chance to use some old two person cross cut saws and other more traditional woodland management tools.

Tomorrow I will be getting stuck into the next coppice 'coup' and will be felling mostly small elm trees, we are lucky here to have a healthy population of elm and hope that by keeping it in rotation as coppice we will be able to save it from Dutch elms disease. 

There was a large ash tree down in the woods when I arrived today, one that we were always going to have to fell anyway but it has saved us the job, if I have time while I'm here I will clear it up, but for now it can't fall any further so it will have to wait until the coppicing is done. There is a fairly brief window each year for coppicing, many say that you can only coppice in the months with and 'r' in, I would go a step further and suggest that September is too early and April is too late and the end of March could be pushing it too. The idea is to coppice trees while the sap is 'down' ie; over winter, this can only be done with hard wood trees and this promotes healthy growth, often characterised by strait multi stem growth the following year. These trees are then kept in rotation and cut every few years depending on the desired product, have a look at my article in The Bushcraft Magazine's Summer issue titled 'Interpreting Lowland Woodland' for more information about some traditional uses of coppiced wood.

Join me again tomorrow for another live blog from Riddy Wood.


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