The 30 of October was National Coppice day and this year it fell on a Sunday. This event was created to celebrate the life of Oliver Rackham OBE, who sadly died in February 2015. He was an academic at the University of Cambridge who studied ecology, the history of British Countryside and became an eminent authority on our native trees.
To mark this date the National Trust and Cotswold AONB Conservation Board came together in the form of the Cotswold Wardens helping me to run a coppice event, with public engagement in mind.
The venue for the event was Littleworth Wood. This 30 acre, Ancient Semi-natural woodland lies in the north of our region on the boundary of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, on the opposite side of the valley to Snowshill Manor.
This wood has been managed in the form of “coppicing” for the last 20 years, however there is evidence that it was managed in this way prior to its ownership by the National Trust.
Coppicing is a very old practice of cutting back a woods understory or young trees and encouraging the re-growth of easily worked rods of wood, think broom sticks and oars. The produce that is currently being created in the wood, is used in the art of “Hedge laying”, “Stakes” and “Binders”. Stakes are robust poles that are driven into the ground along the length of the hedge, between which the hedge is woven. Binders are thin, long pliable lengths that are platted along the top of the hedge locking the stakes in position and holding everything in place. All material will be used in a local hedge laying competition.
The trimmings from the production of materials mentioned above are also gathered and tied in bundles. These items are collected and used by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust in the re-instatement of river banks, this is real partnership working in action.
The additional bonus from all this hard work is that a lot more light is now reaching the woodland floor. The up shot from this is greater numbers of wild flowers and a sustained population of Silver Washed Fritillary butterflies, once so common in managed woodland.
Sadly the weather was not that sunny and we only encountered a couple of families who were enjoying the wood. But I am sure Oliver Rackham would have been pleased we were all out there, working the wood and keeping it alive.
Martin Jones, Area Ranger North Cotswolds.