Large areas of woodland in the UK have been unmanaged for a number of decades and are now suffering neglect and degrading in quality. Much of these woodlands are over-stood coppice and old plantations that have not been thinned. These woods are now at the point where they need managing to prevent them being lost or reduce the decline in the quality of timber. At present it is possible to bring many of these areas back to life and production, but the longer this is left the harder it becomes.
Coppicing is ancient form of woodland management where tress are cut and allowed to regenerate. In this system a tree is cut in the winter months and left to regrow. When it reaches a size where a product can be made from the tree it is re-cut forming a cycle or rotation.
It provides the understorey of a woodland and is regular and sustainable source of timber which has many uses. The most common trees to be coppiced are Hazel, Chestnut and Willow.
Coppice is a major type of woodland in Britain but has been left without much management since the 1940’s. As a result much of the coppice is in great need of re-cutting to preserve its integrity and health. We are at a point where the coppiced trees are starting to fall apart. Coppicing allows a range of age and heights throughout a woodland, with this variation comes a diversity of flora and fauna.
Thinning and felling in woodlands can also help to allow a varied age structure, let more light into the woodland floor and allow the removal of diseased or dangerous trees. It can also be used to remove invasive species such as Rhododendron which can spread through a woodland creating dense shade beneath it preventing our native species from growing.
As part of restoring neglected woodland it is important to maintain the fences and gates, this can help to control damage that is caused by deer and rabbits to young trees. It also prevents people from illegally entering and causing damage either with vehicles or through fly tipping. Maintaining and restoring ditches can also help to keep vehicles out as well ensuring the wood doesn’t become waterlogged. This can seriously affect the health of trees and can increase the risk of wind throw, where trees that are unstable in wet ground are blown over in high winds. This in turn increases the risk of other trees being blown over as they have often grown in shelter from the wind and are then left exposed.