Much of the woodland at Swan Barn Farm is hazel coppice with oak standards, these woods, along with others on the Black Down Estate are going to provide the materials for the main structure of the building.
When native trees of species such as hazel are cut (known as coppicing) they do not die, but instead grow back the following season with a profusion of stems. These multi stemmed trees are very productive and can provide materials for a number of uses.
Here you can see an area which was the winter before last. By the following summer the stumps (or stools) already had vigorous regrowth sprouting where they were cut. After 12-15 years this regrowth will have reached a usefull size and this area of woodland will be cut again.
This is a very sustainable way of managing woodland, the resource naturally replenishes itself and much of our native woodland has been managed this way for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
We also have a number of sweet chestnut coppice’s on the property, here you can see Dave coppicing in Ridden Corner Copse on Black Down. This is the wood which will provide the main structural elements of the frame of the new building.
Coppice woodlands are also a very important wildlife habitat. For the first few years after cutting they are alive with wild flowers and insects, as the regrowth gets more bushy they are used by many species of bird. Then when the canopy starts to reclose species such as the dormouse move in. The wardens run a nestbox scheme to monitor this protected species and the work we are undertaking on the woods and hedgerows at the Farm are providing really important habitat for them. The picture above of Matt holding a dormouse was taken as part of this monitoring programme.
As well as the coppice the woodland also contains a number of “standards” these larger tree’s, usually oaks, are allowed to grow on to maturity and then each time an area of coppice is cut a few of these are felled. They replenish themselves from the seed of the remaining standards and so are also sustainable. It is important to harvest some of them each time the cycle works round otherwise they can start to shade out the coppice. Here you can see Dave felling one of the standards, this particular one is currently seasoning and if we get planning permission it will be turned into the floorboards for the new building.