Traditional Woodland Skills

Thursday, November 18th 2021

Work on the Willow coppice is now complete and a regular group from the Personalised Learning Centre have been making the most of the spare cut wood to acquire new skills; using hand tools they have been creating wooden mallets as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award with staff from Marrick Priory.

With this year's willow work complete, attention has now turned to the Hazel woodland which is also coppiced. Traditionally, the coppice timber produced from this practice was a valuable product so little was wasted. Building and fencing materials and firewood were the most common uses, with the twigs used as faggots, but also the supple young shoots were used for hedging. Whole or split rods were interwoven to form the ‘wattle’ used to fill in the panels of timber-framed buildings. It can be dated back to the Stone Age by the discovery of Neolithic, wooden tracks that have been constructed entirely from coppiced material.

It also increases woodland biodiversity, as greater amounts of light can reach the ground, allowing other species to grow there. Many of these species are food sources for butterflies and other insects, which in turn provide food for birds, bats and mammals. In well managed coppice woodland the varied age structure of the vegetation also provides good habitat and cover for a number of different bird species. 

Today, regular conservation volunteers were joined by a team from the Personnel Recovery Centre in Catterick Garrison. They rebuilt a section of a Hazel hedge using the cut stems. This will provide a valuable habitat in itself for invertebrates and small mammals and birds such as Wrens will build their nests in it.

The woodland alongside Risedale Beck is a beautiful place to spend a day working in the autumn sunshine!

The benefits to the ground flora are already clear and next spring there will be a wonderful display of wildflowers such as Bluebells, Wood Anemones and Primroses.

So its a 'thumbs up' for the volunteers who have helped out with this task so far!

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