Conservation, Cants & Cutting Costs

Conservation, Cants & Cutting Costs

The benefits of coppicing by Matt Hayes, Weald Warden

This past winter, staff and volunteers were hard at work at one of our woodland reserves in the Weald. The task was coppicing, a typical woodland management technique of cutting the trees in an area or ‘cant’ and allowing the trees to regrow.

This is a cycle that has happened, particularly in Kent, for hundreds of years. The act of coppicing allows light into the woodland giving plants and seeds that have waited, a chance to grow and flower. This in turn supplies pollen and nectar for insects such as butterflies. A few years after this, the young trees and bramble will have their turn, which provides great habitat and food for birds and small mammals. The trees gradually get larger and start to look more like the woodland that it was before being coppiced. Eventually the cycle can start again. Coppice is cut on a rotation, which means that we cut a small area each year and end up ideally with a range of growth stages throughout a woodland or area, providing habitats for a wide range of species.

As part of our woodland management work in the Weald area, we produce wood. Sweet Chestnut as many of you will know has long been used for a wide range of uses such as fencing materials or hop poles. Usually we try and sell Sweet Chestnut coppice as standing timber, however this is not always possible on difficult or small sites, which means doing it ourselves is the only option.

This year staff and volunteers in the Weald area have found themselves extracting timber and turning logs into fencing materials at the Gill near Goudhurst. We are delighted to have produced over 2000 fencing stakes and around 200 strainer posts, giving us a sustainable supply of materials that would usually have cost the Trust around £5,000.

Other uses for the wood have included making our own post and rail fencing and signage for the reserves which we are building on over the coming months. Many of the reserves have fenced areas to keep livestock in or out as well as boundaries to be fenced. All of this needs replacing or repairing from time to time and the materials have already been put to use on some of the West Kent reserves

We hope to continue to use the wood that results from coppice and woodland work in the future, potentially becoming self-sufficient in fencing materials. This invaluable coppice work improves the habitats on our reserves, provides materials and saves money.

For further information about volunteering on any of our reserves please click here.