Wivey Grows is officially launched!

Coppicing Update with Richard Adams

04 March 23 - by Will Varney

This month's blog features a Q & A with Richard Adams who provides an update on coppicing work at Langley House. Being the focus of earlier blogs in September with Dylan's work experience and in November with an introduction to woodland management at Langley House, this coppicing update is a great display of the continuous progress of Wivey Grows, a project striving for sustainability in the local community.

As a crucial part of the coppicing work at Langley House, Richard Adams provides fantastic insight into the rewarding and often challenging nature of woodland management in the following Q & A...

1) For new blog readers who may have missed the last coppicing blog or those who have forgotten what it entails, could you provide a summary of the process and its aims?

Coppicing is a form of woodland management that generates long straight poles over a 5-7 year time frame, these are then all cut down to the ground during the winter (harvested) to be used for many tasks that need straight sticks! The area that has been cleared then has sunlight on the ground allowing a wide variety of plants to grow. The stumps left in the ground (also called stools) sprout many shoots in the spring and grow quickly capturing carbon until the cycle comes back for them to be harvested again. The area you are working is divided into the number of cycles (5 or 7) depending on how large you want your poles to be. Typical trees for coppicing are willow, hazel and chestnut. Other useful bushes (like red/black currants etc) can be underplanted into the gaps so that when the willows are next harvested, they will burst into production because the sun has returned! This hugely increases the biodiversity in the area. The stands of trees are quite a monoculture, all the same age but with the rotation there are different stages of growth and varying amounts of light coming down. Different plants can grow in the different stages of regrowth until the light is limited just before harvest.

2) What recent coppicing progress has been made at Langley House?

We have started with remedial work because the willow was planted originally in 2009 so is well overdue for management. Some trees have fallen over as the roots are not strong enough to support all that growth above. We have cleared our first swathe of willow and processed the felled trees into brash: twigs and small branches, poles and long logs.

Since we last worked our patch, the winter wind has blown over, in spectacular fashion, one of the standing willows that we now can see was a bunch of sticks put into the ground together rather than a root with all of those stems. It is therefore very weak.


3) Have you come across many challenges in the more recent stage of coppicing? If so, how have you found a way around them?

We have harvested a huge amount of material, moving it all is an amazing challenge, we are thinking about bringing in a big chipper to turn the brash and bent sticks into chips that we can use for our pathways. Some of the longer material we have harvested will be used to make progress on the roundhouse during the summer.

4) Is the Wivey Grows Coppicing work regular? When is the next planned stage of coppicing due to take place?

Coppicing is winter work, but the materials can then be used and worked on during the rest of the year in green woodworking, making fence panels from flat pieces of willow (Laths) or by weaving lighter sticks into all sorts of things.

We used split branches that we sharpened to support the scaffold planks for our new raised beds. Our next coppicing day is 25th March!

5) Are people able to help out with the coppicing work? How?

Come along to the day, we start earlier than usual. Bring stout waterproof shoes or boots, preferably not wellies, and weather appropriate clothes for rough work. We usually provide a soup lunch for the team. Do let the Wivey Grows team know if you would like to come and want to know more.

Many thanks to Richard for helping out with the blog again and providing an update on Wivey Grows' coppicing. To help out with a Q & A on top of all the excellent work he does on-site is amazing and really shows the important contribution of Wivey Grows team members to all elements of the project!