Getting Ready 1

The first blackberries are ripening, the rowan berries are getting their colour and the birds have changed tune – Autumn is on its way and with it the new Coppicing Season. Here in the Northern Hemisphere. It is time to plan and prepare.

The first step is to decide what will be cut from where.

I do not own ‘a wood’ as such but there are several wooded areas in my garden. I also rent a few acres of woodland adjoining my place. This area was planted about 20 years ago but includes a few older conifers left when the previous crop was clear felled. For the most part I am leaving that as amenity woodland.

the rented woodland runs further down the valley and is quite boggy in places – but beautiful!

I am also taking some of the over-stood, self-seeded willows growing in the field on the opposite bank of the stream to my garden. This field has been abandoned and is being colonised by pioneer species – brambles, blackthorn, willow by the water and a few other self seeded trees dotted about. It clearly is on its way to becoming woodland, predominantly Ash. I decided to give it some help and as I often weed out tiny saplings from my garden and have been experimenting with growing trees from seed which I have collected from fruit bought to eat – so far apple has been the most successful – I am gradually transplanting these into the field.

To help you get the picture here is a schematic diagram of my plot.

The steeply sloping hillside was terraced to provide some flat growing areas leaving even steeper banks between them. The south edge of the terraces have been gradually planted with rows of trees closely spaced and in several cases those saplings have grown big enough to lay as hedges.

Almost all the trees growing on the slopes are self-seeded and have been coppiced at least once. The top (North) strip was planted with fast growing hybrid willows but during my late husband’s illness these were neglected and most have died and / or fallen over. I am gradually clearing them and re-planting with whatever seedlings I have plus some hedging trees bought to add variety. This will eventually be coppiced but I also need to bear in mind that it is a useful shelter belt.

The Eastern area beyond the buildings and vegetable garden is natural woodland and so far has been left to its own devices.

So where will I cut this year? The first job is to take out some scattered Ash trees which are suffering Ash Die Back disease. They may regrow if I cut them whilst they still have some life in them. Part of the bank below (south of) the veg patch was cut in the 2018/19 season and is already tall enough to be shading the veg beds too much. Having taught Laura, my helper / apprentice / tenant (more about the team in a later post) to hedge lay last winter I am hoping to lay the bigger trees at the top edge but I have also planted small saplings to thicken it so we will have to be careful not to damage those. If there are enough stems we will also lay any at the lower edge as a hedge. I have been gradually doing that along all the bottom edges for safety – if anyone slips or drops a tool there will be something to stop it going too far!

I want to do another section of the top strip and replant it. There are not many trees in the next bit because I cleared it some years ago but I need to find out what small ones there might be and fill the gaps.

Then we will go over the stream and continue working along through the willow. These are bigger trees taking more work, requiring the use of the axe but yielding more wood.

That should keep us busy!


  1. Phew, busy is right! Looking forward to reading more. We live in the woods, but we only own an acre of land. The rest is watershed. Have been thinking about collecting blowdowns.

    1. I hope you will find my posts interesting and perhaps useful. Collecting fallen wood is hard work but if you burn wood it helps to fill your store.

  2. It is so lovely to read about your wild garden, and beyond. I didn’t realise you had so much land under your care. You seem to have a very sensible, light hand when dealing with the plants that grow under your care. A new blog is a good idea. Are you able to put in a ‘follow by email’ button? I would like to have new posts come into my email box.

    1. Thank you Anne. The light hand is necessary given the amount of land and a desire on my part to do other things too! I tried to find how to put a follow by email button to no avail so have asked the help desk to advise.

    1. I think you may have enough on your plate at present Cathy! However being in woodland is incredibly relaxing – in Japan people go ‘Forest Bathing’! I hope you enjoy future posts.

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