Tree work

The tree-scape of the Forest is characterised by ancient coppices and pollarded trees.

Woodland coppices

We continue to manage our coppices according to the tradtional system of coppice management, where resources allow.  This involves cutting trees to their base, to create a so-called stool, from which new growth will emerge.  During this early phase, the freshly cut stools need to be protected from grazing cattle and deer, by individaul baskets or a wide perimeter fence.
Whilst some of this work is carried out by commerical contractors, we are very fortunate to have a dedicated group of coppice volunteers who have been active for over 30 years.

Our amazing pollards

Hatfield Forest has over 850 veteran pollard trees, each with its own management plan. The aim is to keep the trees alive as long as possible. Once dead, we try to keep the trees standing by turning them into monoliths, by removing all the branches. Standing deadwood is a rarer and therefore more valuable habitat than fallen deadwood. Once fallen, deadwood rots quickly and so the habitat is lost.

Dealing with storm damage

The Forest becomes a potential danger zone when strong winds threaten.  We have to close the Forest and then undertake a survey of the main areas for damage before re-opening.  Damage can range from small branches blown down, to much larger branches, branches and trunks splitting and even trees falling over.
The St Jude storm in October 2013 caused a significant amount of tree damage. Unfortunately a 250 year old black walnut tree, believed to have been planted during the Houblon's ownership and the only one in the Forest, was lost.
We try to leave the storm damaged trees and branches where they fall as they provide excellent habitats for a variety of species.

The sad tale of the twin-stemmed oak

This venerable ancient oak stood guard over the exit road as it emerges from Elgin Coppice and across Takeley Hill towards the boundary exit gate.  It was an iconic tree, readily recognised by its twin stems, the subject of a many a photograph.

Looking good - the twin oak
The twin oak by the exit road
Looking good - the twin oak

Unfortunately, in October 2018, an entire half section was blown down by high storms.  The remaining half was deemed to be vulnerable to further damage and a potential safety hazard, so that some remedial work would be needed to safeguard its future.

After a thorough survey, including an element of stress testing, it was concluded that a 50% reduction in the canopy was necessary to make the tree safe.  In addition, to give it the best possible chance of survival, it would be necessary to retain as much live growth as possible lower in the crown.

This work was duely carried out, with the aid of a "cherry picker" platform.  The fallen trunk was deliberately left where it fell, to provide a habitiat for wildlife.

Not looking so good after serious damage by high winds
The twin oak, after high winds, with single stem standing
Not looking so good after serious damage by high winds

There is a young oak tree nearby, which in the fullness of time will provide some natural succession planning.

Watch the video.... "Hatfield Forest's Amazing Pollards"