Active woodland management and coppicing in particular are extremely beneficial to an area’s biodiversity. From the early Middle Ages until the late nineteen century most woods in lowland England were coppiced. In this traditional method of managing woodland the trees were cut at intervals, typically every 5-20 years, to produce a crop of poles for which there was a wide range of markets. However, demand for these natural products started to decline as substitutes took their place. Consequently, by the late 1800s coppicing started wane and today only a small fraction of woodland remains actively coppiced. The effect on our native wildlife has been dramatic and the future survival of some species, butterflies for example, may depend on a return to more traditional methods of managing woodland.
Nowadays, hazel coppicing provides minimal return in relation to effort involved and much coppicing these days is done by volunteers. To put this into perspective, it is recorded that in 1895 there were 38,500 hectares (95135 acres) of coppiced hazel in Hampshire which had reduced to 211 hectares (520 acres) actively coppiced hectares by 2004 (Restoration of Neglected Hazel Coppice – Forestry Commission, March 2004).
The following short videos produced by the Forestry Commission encompass all that we are striving to achieve in our management of Pondhead and explain the benefits of the work our volunteers are undertaking.
Whilst the overall aim of active management is to improve wildlife habitat the presence of large herbivores can quickly upset the balance. In particular, deer browsing is a major obstacle to successful woodland management. Intense browsing by fallow and roe deer can quickly suppress regeneration and kill coppice stools. Even populations of the smaller species of deer, such as Muntjac can substantially reduce regrowth. More information on deer can be obtained by clicking here.