Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Coppicing for butterflies

As part of the Rother Woods Project, sponsored by Butterfly Conservation and others, coppicing has started in Killingan Wood about 200 metres north of our house.

20090107 Killingan Wood coppicing 001a

Most of the wood is very shady since coppicing ceased many years ago and the trees, mostly hornbeam, are now what coppicers call "overstood", that is they have gone far beyond the ideal age for cutting.

The increase in sunlight reaching the ground will certainly have a beneficial effect on early-flowering woodland plants and there may also be an increase in woodland butterflies and some other invertebrates.  Most of the stools should, however, grow up again quite quickly (if the deer do not get at the new shoots) and shade will rapidly return to the woodland floor.  Hopefully there will be plenty more areas of new coppice to which the light demanding species can move.

20090107 Killingan Wood coppicing 009a

The notice above on a tree where the path starts into the wood says the timber will be used for firewood.  This is now getting to be quite a scarce resource in South East England but it was, of course, what many of the coppices were used for in the past.  In a more natural world than our own, unless there were forest fires, trunks and branches of trees would die and fall to be colonised by a myriad of fungi and invertebrates and these, of course, would provide important food resources for birds, bats and other wildlife.  But we can't have everything and, if gas fails to arrive from Russia, I am sure many will be grateful for the short period of respite British fuel wood might be able to provide.

Anyway, being so close at hand, I will have a splendid opportunity to observe exactly what happens after this coppice restoration.

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