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Support conservation while keeping your house warm

Posted: Monday 7th December 2015 by Gordon Miller

Lewis Yates, our Volunteer Trainee Warden for the Weald, writes about the wood products now available for purchase at our Tyland Barn visitor centre.

No-one likes to see a tree cut down for no reason, but here at Kent Wildlife Trust we do it to help our woodlands thrive. These include occasional trees damaged by storms that we remove to keep our reserves safe for the public to enjoy, but there are many more that are cut for our general woodland management.

For many generations, especially in South East England, many woodlands have been managed as coppice. But in recent years many have been neglected and forgotten about as they have got less profitable over time. So we are trying to restore and maintain coppice management on several of our woodland reserves.

Coppicing is a traditional method of managing woodlands and takes advantage of our native broadleaved tree’s ability to regrow if cut down at ground level. Sweet Chestnut is especially quick at doing this and a single year after being cut down, an area of Chestnut (known as a cant) can already be over six feet tall! This young spurt of growth is ideal for nesting birds and browsing deer and once the mature old trees are removed the extra light helps flowers and insects to thrive.

So coppicing is repeated in cycles for generation after generation and each time it is cut it produces huge stacks of sustainably produced timber. We try and leave a lot of this in log piles which slowly rot and provide homes for all sorts of invertebrates and other small animals. But if we left all of the timber in piles like this then our woods would soon run out of room for their flowers and other animals!

One solution is to burn or chip this extra material but we don’t like waste so we are now starting to process this wood and turn it into logs and kindling for your woodburner. Tyland Barn is now selling these bags from the visitor centre and we hope to roll it out to other visitor centres if it proves popular.

Although Sweet Chestnut makes up the majority of our coppice work we also fell other species such as Sycamore. Over the last few years we have been removing this species to stop it dominating our reserve at Wouldham and now the seasoned wood is ready to keep woodburners going across the county. This is part of the management of this SSSI site and is producing local firewood, being located well within five miles of Tyland Barn.

So next time you are near Tyland Barn, why not pop in and stock up your log pile for those cold winter nights to come. As well as a nice cosy fire, you can be satisfied that your purchase has directly supported our conservation work in our local woodlands.

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