Matthew Robinson, PECT’s Woodland Management and Volunteer Manager, talks about the formation of a new community group for our local woodlands.
Nene Coppicing & Crafts is a group of enthusiastic volunteers who have, under Peterborough Environment City Trust’s guidance for the last three years, been acquiring skills in coppicing, woodland management and greenwood crafts.
In the winter of 2014-15, the first plots in Bretton woodlands and Castor Hanglands were coppiced (a traditional method of managing woodlands and encouraging a greater biodiversity).
Once cleared of the dense Silver Birch growth, it was found that many of the old Hazel stools in this abandoned coppice were no longer viable, but it enabled us to practice layering techniques and infill planting with locally-sourced Hazel saplings. The need to fence the coppice plot to prevent deer from browsing on the new growth led us to experiment with various dead hedging techniques until we evolved something that suited the material we had available.
During the following summer, despite the need to control brambles and the vigorous Silver Birch re-growth, we found plenty of time to make charcoal from much of the felled Silver Birch and practice greenwood crafts, using shave horses and a pole lathe made by some of our members.
Shelters for a camp kitchen and a tea area have also been constructed, using tarpaulins and Birch poles. Group members are ever researching and practicing new woodcraft skills, from making cordage (cords or ropes) to hedgerow sauce using woodland materials.
Bretton’s woods and Castor Hanglands are rich in biodiversity and hopefully our coppicing efforts will bring benefits too. We will be keeping an eye on the changes in our plots as they mature.
We actively encourage other volunteers to join our activities and we have had a diverse set of visitors, from staff on corporate team-building days to families keen to get their children to engage with nature, plus we also run volunteer woodland management days on Tuesdays. We are always keen to learn more ourselves and are more than happy to share what we have learned.
For more information about volunteering, call Matthew Robinson on 07736 308475 or email [email protected].