Rosie and I now own a beautiful piece of mature woodland which we are managing for timber and for wildlife. Areas of the wood have been coppiced about 40 years ago and are in dire need of re-coppicing.
Coppicing is a way of harvesting timber which can extend the life of the tree almost indefinitely. The tree is cut to the ground and because it has a well-developed root system it grows back quickly. Only some varieties of tree are suitable for coppicing. In our wood we are coppicing Chestnut and Hazel trees. We coppice an area of about one quarter of an acre each year, a smaller area would probably not allow enough light in for the trees to grow well. We are replanting in between the old trees where there are gaps (due to the old trees dying) spacing the new trees at about two meter intervals. Some of the larger chestnuts are showing signs of heart rot and I hope they will be rejuvenated by coppicing.
The timber we cut is used for planking, making roofing shingles or firewood. We have a small group of people who come and trade labour for logs in a kind of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) arrangement.
We are members of The Small Woodlands Owneres Group see http://www.swog.org.uk/