National Tree Week, Chapter 3: What is Happening to the Hazel in Burleigh Wood?
In honour of National Tree Week 2022, Rich-Fenn-Griffin, Loughborough University’s arborist has written a third guest blog for us, this time on the Hazel Tree in Burleigh Wood.
You might have noticed on your walks in the wood that some of the hazels are being cut right down to the ground. This is nothing to worry about and is called coppicing (which is an ancient way of managing hazel). Let me explain.
Coppicing is a very old practice in Britain, dating back to Neolithic times. It involves periodically harvesting wood from deciduous species like hazel resulting in a multi-stemmed tree. Historically the wood would have been used for fuel (including charcoal making), building and fencing materials, and other purposes. Coppicing meant that areas of ancient woodland that might have been cleared, were in fact retained because they produced these useful products.
The word ‘coppice’ is derived from the French word ‘couper’ meaning ‘to cut’. The woodland is divided into areas called ‘coupes’ each being cut rotationally every seven to ten years. The coppice trees, like hazels, are termed the ‘underwood’. Underwood species respond to cutting by producing multiple stems. The base from which the stems arise is called the stool. The periodic cutting of the underwood extends the life of these trees, so that many coppiced stools are in fact hundreds of years old.
The hazel is cut close to the ground. Next year, new stems will begin to grow.
Coppicing in woodlands like Burleigh has been practiced for hundreds if not thousands of years. For this reason, many of the species in the woodland depend on coppicing activities for their survival. Some insects feed on hazel at different stages whilst clearing a coupe favours the growth of light-loving plants for a short time on the woodland floor.
To ensure the long-term survival of these species at Burleigh and to continue to extend the life of the hazel stools, it is necessary to coppice. You will notice the use of the coppiced material in the woodland. Hazel poles will be used to create barriers to restrict access to the bluebell areas, whilst arisings (brash) will be used to create habitat piles that will benefit invertebrates, fungi, birds and small mammals. We ask that you do not remove any wood from Burleigh as this provides important habitat to the species that have called this place home from many thousands of years.
The remaining hazel stump is called a ‘stool’. Some stools in Burleigh Wood may be hundreds of years old because they are coppiced.
Thank you for your understanding and if you have any questions regarding the management of this wood, please email Richard (email@example.com).
This article is in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on Land. To read more click here.
Loughborough University Sustainability Blog