Coppicing wood is a method of sustainable woodland management used for millennia to provide wood resources. Wood is a natural and versatile resource that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. It is a carbon neutral fuel resource if it is regrown.
Coppicing takes advantage of the fact that certain trees can make new growth from a stump if the tree is cut down. Nearly all deciduous trees will coppice, but some are more vigorous than others like ash, hazel, oak, sweet chestnut and lime. Other deciduous trees that woodland managers commonly coppice are willow and birch. Evergreens, in the main, will not grow back, with Eucalyptus and yews being notable exceptions.
In a coppiced wood, tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level in winter. Subsequently, new shoots will emerge from the stump (called the stool in coppicing) and after a number of years the woodland manager will harvest the coppiced tree and the cycle begins again.
Typically, managers harvest a coppiced woodland in sections, on a rotation. In this way, a crop is available each year.
The cycle length depends upon the species cut, and the use to which the product is put. Birch can be coppiced for faggots (bundles of brushwood) on a three- or four-year cycle, whereas oak can be coppiced over a fifty-year cycle for poles or firewood.
Coppicing maintains trees at a juvenile stage, and a regularly coppiced tree will never die of old age —some coppice stools may therefore reach immense ages. You can estimate the age of a stool from its diameter. Some are so large — perhaps as much as 5.4 metres (18 ft) across — they have probably been continuously coppiced for centuries.
Uses for coppiced wood
Like any wood, people use coppiced wood as a carbon-neutral source of fuel as well as in a wide variety of construction uses. In addition, people coppice wood for more specialist uses, including:
- Baskets and other woven goods like fish traps and furniture
- Hurdles and wattle board
- Plant supports/stakes
In addition the whole woods can act as:
- Bio filtration
- Riverbank reclamation & soil erosion control
- Wildlife habitat