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Dartmoor, UK

The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas

The work.

It seems the biggest threat to the coppice industry and associated skills and crafts is the lack of the resource itself. We need a good supply of quality Hazel coppice to support our future livelihood and confidently promote coppice work. As it stands our wood like so many other small woods in the UK  consists of derelict Hazel coppice at stocking density which could be increased.

This, at times can be disheartening. However we are now able to see improvements. Every Hazel stool we have cut has regenerated which gives opportunities to propagate to increase the stocking density and begin to plan for the future.

By far our biggest threat to success is from browsing deer. We have a number of Fallow and Roe who pass through on a regular basis!

We have a stalker who helps control numbers but we also have to protect the cut stools with some sort of barrier method.

Fencing is not for us.

a. It is too expensive for our site.

b. We feel that it would be too restrictive for the rest of the woodland inhabitants who should be allowed to move freely through the wood.

We decided to use a brash hedging system which we have honed over a few seasons which we feel is a sympathetic and effective approach.

This may not work for every site but it seems to work for us!

Our coppice compartments are roughly 0.3 acres each.

The operation goes something like this:

     We fell a fairly small portion of over stood Hazel in a day (its very easy to quickly get in a mess with brash!)

We then sned up the larger stems and present them for extraction by horse to the glade to season.

The remaining brash is worked up with billhooks to create piles of rods, some of which are put to one side if they are of hurdle quality. The rest are bundled up and carried to our central glade where they will season before being turned into charcoal.

What brash remains is turned into "faggots" 6'-8' long and 2' thick.

We pile these faggots usually two high in squares or triangles around the cut stools. We have found that depth is more important than height in dissuading deer from browsing.

The faggots take no more time than burning the brash and help to maintain a tidy site as the work progresses.

It is a very satisfying process as everything we cut gets used, which feels in keeping with a coppice management system.