What is woodland coppicing?

A dog investigating a newly coppiced woodland area

Our volunteers often help with coppicing at our woodland sites, but what exactly does that involve?

Why we use coppicing

Coppicing is the woodland management technique of repeatedly felling trees at the base (or stool), and allowing them to regrow, in order to provide a sustainable supply of timber. This practice has a number of benefits over replanting, as the felled trees already have developed root systems, making regrowth quicker and less susceptible to browsing and shading.
 
It can be dated back to the Stone Age by the discovery of Neolithic, wooden track ways that have been constructed entirely from coppiced material.

 

What coppicing means for wildlife

These days the demand for coppice timber is lower, but it remains a popular conservation practice for the benefits it offers to wildlife and to the trees themselves. Trees naturally retrench (shedding their branches to extend their lifespan) and coppicing can be an excellent way of simulating this to increase the life of the tree.
 
It also increases woodland biodiversity, as greater amounts of light can reach the ground, allowing other species to grow there. Many of these species are food sources for butterflies and other insects, which in turn provide food for birds, bats and mammals.
 
In well managed coppice woodland the varied age structure of the vegetation also provides good habitat and cover for a number of different bird species.