Hazel Coppicing

Today I expected to be mowing and raking the reed bed at Pulfin Nature Reserve near Beverley, but the ground was too wet to get the mower in, so our work day was redirected to a nearby patch of hazel woodland at Meaux (pronounced ‘mewss’ as in juice). There is very little of this type of woodland in East Yorkshire and it provides a particular open habitat which supports a diverse range of species. It’s been coppiced in the traditional way for hundreds of years. Nowadays, the farmer gets stewardship payments to encourage him to preserve it and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust are carrying out the maintenance in return for the cuttings which can be bundled and used to prevent riverbank erosion elsewhere. It also makes a nice day out for volunteers!

It was a bright sunny day and the birds were singing. The woodland floor is carpeted with bluebells which are just coming up. A woodpecker drummed on a tree, before being drowned out by the roar of chainsaws.

We started by constructing a simple frame of wooden stakes, in which to pack the hazel brash in order to make suitable bundles. The guys with chainsaws cut out overgrown stems from the hazel ‘stools’ and we dragged the brash to our frame and packed it in, to form a bundle about 2 metres long. We then tied the bundle up with baler twine and trimmed off any excess vegetation to keep it tidy. Larger timber was cut to suitable lengths and sharpened at one end to make stakes, which will be used to keep the bundles in place along the riverbank.

Packing brash into the frame
 
Tidying up the bundle
 
The first bundle completed
 
 Stakes will retain the bundles on the riverbank
 
A coppiced hazel 'stool' in a carpet of bluebells
 

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