Whitlingham Marsh – Hazel Coppicing

Friday 30th October 2015

Following on from our work on Mulbarton Common, today we were doing preparation work for another visit there. The sides of one of the Mulbarton ponds needs to be reinforced with faggots, so today we were on Whitlingham Marshes coppicing Hazel trees from which we made faggots. (Faggots are ~ 20-30 Hazel branches bound together with fencing wire and are 2-3 meters in length).  The faggots will be laid along the edge of the pond and held in position by Hazel stakes, which will help to stop the pond banks from deteriorating further.

Friday on Whitlingham Marsh dawned almost windless and raining. Now, who in their right mind wants to go and stand under dripping trees and chop branches off them? Children do.

Today we had a group of Mulbarton residents helping coppice trees for their pond, and as it was school half term, children came along as well. I imagine they thought it would be great to go down to the woods and chop trees down and no amount of rain was going to stop them.

Whitlingham Marshes Hazel coppicing to be used as faggots to stabilise Mulbarton Common ponds.
Hazel coppicing at Whitlingham Marshes to be used as faggots to stabilise Mulbarton Common ponds.

Four young children got stuck into the coppicing, and they seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves sawing away at the branches, stripping off the leaves and cutting them to the required length. Much better than being stuck at home on a wet day.

With other trees that we chopped down today (to increase the light on the woodland floor and encourage flower growth), we soon had a mound of wood to be burned but starting a fire in wet conditions has its own difficulties. The fire did not go too well but after a lunch break and with the rain having stopped, we set about resurrecting the flames.  In a short time, we had a good fire going once again and managed to burn all the brush. As the flames died down leaving glowing embers the children had another treat, toasted marsh mallows. Long thin twigs were selected, points cut on the ends, and marsh mallows impaled on them before dangling them over the embers. The best part of the day for the kids (and some mothers).

Oh, and we managed to make a good pile of faggots for the Mulbarton ponds. However, that will be for another day.

Written by Alan Rae, Norwich Fringe Project Volunteer