Ancient woodland management finds new fans

Coppicing has been given a new lease of life in a partnership between The Sill project and Bedale-based Heritage Craft Alliance Ltd.

Participants on the Heritage Craft Alliance coppicing course at Kirknewton which was a huge success
Participants on the Heritage Craft Alliance coppicing course at Kirknewton which was a huge success

An early form of woodland management has been given a new lease of life, thanks to a successful partnership between The Sill project at Northumberland National Park and Bedale-based Heritage Craft Alliance Ltd.

A two-day coppicing course run by the organisations was held in ancient woodland in the village of Kirknewton near Wooler and was oversubscribed – proving that there is still demand for this unique Neolithic pastime more than 6,000 years since it first began. As a form of forestry which is based on the harvesting of woodland, this Defra-supported practical coppicing course has helped to preserve an important rural habitat in Northumberland National Park, opening up the dense canopy to support many species of wildlife.

At the same time, it offered a unique training opportunity to enable people from all walks of life, to develop knowledge and understanding of some of the oldest rural skills, which still have a big role to play in modern conservation – a fundamental aim of both The Sill project and Heritage Craft Alliance.

Jonathan Pounder, who led the course on behalf of Heritage Craft Alliance, said: “Coppicing is a dying rural skill and it’s so important for the environment that we help to bring it back to life.

“Centuries ago, the woodland in Kirknewton that we were working on would have been coppiced in this way on a cyclical basis, offering the rural community sustainable timber as well as supporting the environment and woodland habitat.

“These benefits still apply today and we are hoping to bring coppicing back into mainstream use.

“At the end of a challenging couple of days, it was fantastic to see the difference all our hard work had made, opening up this overgrown canopy to let light into the woodland floor.

“The hope is that we will be able to repeat this rotation and build on what we have started.”

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