Dunston Common – Hazel Coppicing

Friday 3rd March 2017

We were at Dunston Common today, making a return visit to finish the work we did not finish on our last visit in January. On that occasion, we finished early because of heavy snow fall (wet snow) which left us all rather wet. I don’t think any of us thought the snow would be so heavy and were not properly prepared.  Perhaps we had all listened to the weather forecast this morning, which predicted heavy rain, so on this visit we were all better prepared for a wetting.  As it turned out, the rain did arrive but with less ferocity than the snow seven weeks ago.

Spring time at Dunston Common with Hazel catkins and snowdrops in bloom.

Working in a wooded area it was difficult to perceive that it was actually raining (so light was the rain) that it was only when I looked at the nearby pond and saw the rain drops on the water, which confirmed that it was actually raining.  Shortly after that the rain did stop, making most of us overdressed for the conditions. What a difference a visit makes!!

Using the rope and pulley technique that was taught to us last week to safely bring down a tree.

There was still quite a lot of work to do, mainly coppicing the Hazel trees and protecting the coppiced stumps with netting to prevent rabbit and deer from damaging them by eating all the new growth. There was still some Silver Birch to thin out and young Ben was keen to put into practice what we had learnt recently about cutting down leaning trees using ropes to guide down the falling tree.  The practice is always useful and I think Ben gained an important lesson in distance estimations.

As always on these occasions there is a lot of brash and wood to dispose of with a fire and the straight branches of the Hazel and Birch make this much easier.

Installation of guards around the coppiced stools to protect them from wildlife.

The last job of the day was to put up protective netting around the Hazel stumps. On some of the other sites that NFP manages, a lot of new growth on Hazel stumps is damaged by rabbits, so it is important to protect this new growth.  In some sites a lot of Cherry trees have been planted and quite a lot of these trees are now dead because the rabbits eat the sweet bark and over time they chew away the bark all around the trunk which kills the tree. The damage done to Hazel stumps by rabbits is not quite the same but they do cause the tree considerable harm, so netting the stumps is an important precaution.