If You Go Down To The Woods Today - Issue 1 Volume 9

The coupe is quiet, no more sawing, felling or snedding.  The roots of the hazel, willow and holly are full of energy, ready to feed the newly formed stool so new growth can begin the cycle once more.  But what about all that material?  The logs, the lop and top?  Where has it all gone?  This week that’s what we are going to discover.

At the Coupe

The coupe had a mixture of understorey and it has all been felled as discussed in previous week’s blogs.  This process creates a huge amount of material that needs to be used up or it simply becomes a mess. Burning it, for me, is not an option.  The fire would destroy the seedbank below and cause a scar that would take years to heal. So what to do?

The new stools and their tasty new buds also need protecting so here’s the first solution to the brash problem; a dead hedge. 

In the photo above you can see where I have stacked all the thin branches or “lop ‘n’ top”.  In some woods stakes are driven into the hedge to make it stronger but here I’ve used the trees themselves.  The dead hedge not only protects from most deer, muntjac get in anywhere, but it also provides a new habitat.  The small mammals that the raptors feed on such as wood mice now have a dense woody subway to use. The lack of burning means that the carbon is slowly released and by the time comes to coppice this coupe again the dead hedge will be a shadow of its former self but the coupe will have already been marked out.

The Logs

So, the brash has its purpose but what about the thicker stems? Well, these all have a use too.  The prog, as mentioned in another post is one of the first things I look for in overstood understorey. They are such useful natural gadgets.

The thicker pieces are cut and stacked ready to be picked up for logs used in leaking woody dams.

Here I have stacked a pile of timber in a small river called a goyle.  The way this has been done lets water and gravel pass underneath as well as fish and other aquatic life.  However when heavy rainfall comes rather than it washing away precious soil and environments, the dams slow the water and trap more debris becoming even more efficient.

The logs can be chopped, stacked and dried ready for the next wood fire season but there’s another way heat can transform them.  The charcoal burn.  I would be a charlatan if I claimed I knew the delicate nuances that goes into each and every burn.  What I do know is that a huge amount of hard work goes into the preparation and the actual process itself.  One wrong decision and the kiln would be full of ash rather than char.  It really is a specialist skill.

The charcoal produced in this way has very little carbon footprint, if any, and burns hot and for a long time. 

Those are just a very few products that can come out of an overstood coupe.  I will mention the others once I have made them.

So, The Next Time You Are Out And About…

Have a look to see if there are any dead hedges or leaking woody dams on your walks.  Can you provide small shelter for the tiny mammals in your garden rather than take all of the lop ‘n’ top to the recycling center?  The next time you are going to have a real BBQ how about trying your local coppice worker’s charcoal?  I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

Until next time.