The woodland here in East Sussex dates back hundreds of years to the time when bodgers and woodsmen lived and worked in the woods.
There is evidence of old charcoal burning platforms and iron ‘bloomeries’ which confirm it’s location as an important part of the once thriving high weald iron industry.
Our mission is to restore the woodland back into it’s traditional coppice cycle. This means regularly cutting back small areas or cants encouraging regrowth and providing timber products for traditional woodland crafts. Although the immediate effects of coppicing can look quite destructive, it is actually a way of prolonging the life of the woodland.
The trees are ‘shocked’ into producing multiple shoots which in turn become stems, nourished by a mature and well developed root system. These stems or ‘stools’ can then be ‘harvested’ just like any other crop: hazel is fast growing and produces bean poles, hedging stakes and binders in about 6 years. Chestnut slightly slower and will produce fence or gate posts in about 15 years.
The wildlife of the woodland also benefits from this regular coppicing. Once a cant is cut, the light floods in, dormant wildflower and other plant seeds can germinate, niches are created for insects and other invertebrates encouraging birds and butterflies into the woodland. As the stems regrow, so the light getting to the forest floor once again diminishes, but in another part of the wood a new cant is cut… and so the cycle continues.
This is of course, the ideal scenario, but in recent times the use of plastics and mass production techniques have meant that many coppiced woodlands have become unviable, there has been no market for their products and hence the cycle has stopped, the wood becomes ‘derelict’ and overgrown, with a permanent high canopy. Our woodland is no exception, it is a slow process and at first much of the ‘overstood’ coppice is only suitable for firewood, but as we continue in our work of restoring it, it is hoped we will be able to offer more and more traditional coppice products.