Gilly Cameron Cooper
A scene of apparent devastation on a circular walk around Groombridge turns out to be part of a coppicing process that has been practised in this country since Neolithic times.
Trees, such as these sweet chestnuts, are regularly felled to stump, or 'stool', level; new shoots sprout and grow into a cluster of strong, straight and supple young wood that can be used for a host of practical construction purposes.
Phil Anley, 65, a woodsman since the age of 15, cut this entire coupe (section for cutting) on his own, this winter. In 20 or so years, these stumps will look like the multi-trunked trees in the background of the photo. Phil manages 1.5 acres of Newpark Wood near Groombridge, Sussex, for his post and rail fencing, and log business. After felling the logs left for 6-9 months to season before being stripped, cut and split for fencing or sawn into logs dry enough to put in your woodburner.
Coppicing extends the life of woodland –by regenerating growth from parent stumps that be hundreds of years old, and a;llows a biodiverse environment of plants and insects to develop.
We came across the coppicing in Newpark Wood, on a circular walk from Old Groombridge, north on a section of the Tunbridge Wells Circular route, W through Newpark Wood, SW to Burrswood and along the drive to Old Groombridge Green. More on Gilly's walks www.cicerone.co.uk/1009 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Walking-Londons-Waterways-Gilly-Cameron-Cooper/dp/1504800559/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=walking+london+waterways&qid=1620143045&s=books&sr=1-1
L-R Phil with freshly cut sweet chestnut rails; Tools of the trade - a cleaver, and on the ground, a home-made mallet; Felled 'coupe' of woodland, with 20 year-old coppiced trees in the background.