Coppicing update Spring 2018

Coppicing at the Dorothy Elmhirst Field

Cutting of the hazel in the copse along the stream boundary of the field has now ceased for the Spring and Summer. It may look disorganised and untidy but unfortunately due to the snow and rain in March the field has become waterlogged and the felled hazel has not been processed or removed. Work will resume as soon as conditions allow.

The coppicing is part of a five-year project supported by the Dartington Recreation Association with the agreement of Dartington Hall Trust, the land-owners, and is intended to boost the coffers of the DRA.

The project aims to harvest the overgrown hazel for products like rustic and bean poles, and pea-sticks, as well as wood, with the hope DHT will allow, in the future, a sustainable annual harvest to be taken from the copse.

Last year an estimated 14 cubic metres of logs were cut, as well as 100 plus bundles of kindling, with more than 110 kg of charcoal produced. Donations for harvested items have raised several hundreds of pounds for the DRA, and charcoal is in store for summer BBQs at £4 per 2kg sack.

Brash, poles and logs have been provided to Dartington Primary for their forest school activities and logs have gone to the Bridge Academy.

Bean poles, pea sticks, rustic poles, and green logs, are available in return for a donation to the DRA. But please do not just help yourself.

Call DRA community trustee Allan Tudor, Tel 864320, to discuss requirements, price and removal. Items are available collection-only from site, but logs can be delivered.

Although the work may sometimes seem haphazard that is the intention, as DHT want the hazel cut randomly. The wildflower “rabbit” triangle was mowed in September, and some of the blackthorn was cut back to stem enchroachment.

About 170 hours of work has been done plus 45 hours from Jay Newton, and my wife, Carole. Work was done on 78 days, most of it during the week to avoid disturbance to neighbours. Work may be done at weekends if that is the only time volunteers can assist. Offers of help were made but only one came to fruition: thank you, Jay.

Explanatory signs had been put up at all access points to the Dorothy Elmhirst Field but sadly all have been torn down.

The work has opened up the parts of copse and stream to more light for flowers, birds and insects. At least a dozen species of butterflies, stoat, squirrels, rabbit, frogs, kingfisher, dipper and heron have been seen at Bidwell Brook. Flower species include blubell, ransoms, wild daffs, primrose, celadine, wood anenomes, snowdrop, lady's smock, meadowsweet, knapweed. The invasive weed Himalayan balsam was removed by hand-pulling.

The hazel coppiced in the first year has thrown up a mass of shoots more than a metre high. Some of propagated stools seem to have taken root. More propogation will be done this Spring, conditions allowing.

Cutting is due to resume in November and will, weather permitting, continue to the end of February next year. Volunteers are welcome. Please contact Allan.

Most people who stop to talk seem to be interested and supportive. An interesting year, with a great deal learnt.

Thanks to DHT and John Channon for supporting the project, and to Dave Prout for assistance in sorting out some problems.

Allan Tudor, Community Trustee, DRA


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