Wood is a natural and versatile resource that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. It is a carbon neutral fuel resource if it is regrown.
Coppicing is a method of sustainable woodland management that has been used for millennia to provide wood resources.
Coppicing takes advantage of the fact that certain trees can make new growth from a stump if the tree is cut down. Nearly all deciduous trees will coppice, but some are more vigorous than others like ash, hazel, oak, sweet chestnut and lime. Other deciduous trees that are commonly coppiced are willow and birch. Evergreens, in the main, will not grow back, with Eucalyptus and yews being notable exceptions.
In a coppiced wood, tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level in winter. Subsequently, new shoots will emerge from the stump (called the stool in coppicing) and after a number of years the coppiced tree is ready to be harvested and the cycle begins again.
Typically a coppiced woodland is harvested in sections on a rotation. In this way, a crop is available each year.
The cycle length depends upon the species cut, and the use to which the product is put. Birch can be coppiced for faggots (bundles of brushwood) on a three- or four-year cycle, whereas oak can be coppiced over a fifty-year cycle for poles or firewood.
Coppicing maintains trees at a juvenile stage, and a regularly coppiced tree will never die of old age—some coppice stools may therefore reach immense ages. The age of a stool may be estimated from its diameter, and some are so large—perhaps as much as 5.4 metres (18 ft) across—that they are thought to have been continuously coppiced for centuries.
Like any wood, coppiced wood can be used as a carbon-neutral source of fuel as well as in a wide variety of construction uses. In addition, there are more specialist uses that coppiced wood is grown for, including:
- Baskets and other woven goods like fish traps and furniture
- Hurdles and wattle board
- Plant supports/stakes
In addition the whole woods can act as:
- Bio filtration
- Riverbank reclamation & soil erosion control
- Wildlife habitat