Archive for February, 2013

Willow Coppice for Woodfuel – New Planting at Higher Keigwin

February 25, 2013

Transforming the overgrown and neglected Withy Wood at Higher Keigwin into coppice began in earnest this Winter. Despite the wet, wet, wet weather! we managed to transform this….

2012-11-27 16.14.17

…and this…

2013-02-08 13.09.15

…into this…

2013-02-08 13.01.07

…through clearing and felling about 1/4 – 1/2 acre per year which produced 6 – 8 cubic metres of cut wood. Drainage was also improved by digging out old and neglected ditches at the edge of the site. Once this was done the mulching plastic was laid and willow setts planted to improve stocking density.

2013-02-20 13.00.30

As well as a good willow coppice, it looks as if we also made a new happy coppice owner! Thanks Lisa, Piers and all the family.

If you are interested in sustainable woodland management, coppicing and planting for woodfuel then please contact me at


Coppicing For Woodfuel – Case Study

February 25, 2013

I was approached through my company Future Tracks ( by Lisa and Piers Guy, local landowners with a 16acre neglected willow woodland on the North Cornish coast. They wanted help and advise to regenerate the woodland to ensure a sustainable, regular supply of woodfuel for the farm and associated holiday cottages and also provide a recreational space that could be enjoyed by their family and guests.

After an initial consultation and site visit we drew up a coppicing plan.


Coppicing Plan

Where We Are  


Higher Keigwin Farm, Cornwall


Key:        0577 = “Withy Garden” / 0689 = “Withy Wood” / 9588 – “Under Wood”

Higher Keigwin Farm lies in West Penwith near Morvah. The fields we are concerned with lie NNE of the farm and are indicated as (0577) – “Withy Garden”, 0689 – “Withy Wood” and 9588 – “Under Wood” on the map above. In addition the area to the North of Under Wood called “Fountain Moor” is also under the stewardship of the landowner who is managing it as a wildlife habitat in partnership with Cornwall Wildlife Trust. The site is adjacent to lowland heathland and is exposed to prevailing South Westerly winds directly from the Atlantic Ocean.

  1. Withy Garden is a 2-acre field of prime farmland containing grass with a partial willow shelterbelt on the Western boundary, a Cornish hedge with partial shelterbelt on the Southern boundary, sparse willow shelterbelt on the Eastern boundary and newly planted mixed trees and Withy Wood on the Northern boundary. The landowners would like the field to remain largely unplanted as this is a prime site for planting crops or for camping in the future.
  1. Withy Wood is a 2 ½ acre site of mixed broadleaf woodland consisting mainly of mature Goat Willow with areas of bracken scrub. Some sporadic cutting and coppice management has taken place in the Eastern half of the wood which the owners would like to extend to create a coppice of willow and ash for woodfuel. The wood also has a stream running through it which needs management and areas opened for recreational activity along its banks.
  1. Under Wood is a 1 acre site of mixed broadleaf woodland consisting mainly of Goat Willow to the West and moorland of bracken and bramble to the East. The woodland to the West provides a valuable shelter for the rest of the site from the prevailing South Westerly winds. The owners would like to coppice the woodland whilst maintain shelter for the site, and prevent willow encroachment into the Eastern moorland area.


Aims and Objectives:

By undertaking this proposal Future Tracks aims to:

  • Improve biodiversity of the Higher Keigwin site.
  • Provide a renewable and sustainable woodfuel source for the farm through a coppicing woodland management regime.
  • Create woodland glades to provide recreational spaces for woodland owners.
  • Provide shelter for any further planting / glamping in the Withy Garden field.
  • Improve access to drainage ditches to ease maintenance.
  • Prevent willow encroachment into Fountain Moor site.

Why Coppicing?

Coppicing is the traditional management of small scale woodland, cutting small areas of trees (called “stands”) on a rotational basis to improve biodiversity and generate woodland products. The introduction of areas of coppice allows a range of light levels to reach the canopy floor encouraging the following flora and fauna to use and inhabit the site:

Birds: nightingale, dunnock, song thrush, willow warbler, willow tit and linnet.

Butterflies: orange tip, brimstone, small tortoiseshell, meadow brown and ringlet.

Mammals: Wood mouse, common shrew, bank vole, field vole, pygmy shrew.

Invertebrates: Scorpion flies, hover flies, beetles, weevils, bumble bees, lacewings, gnats, crickets and groundhoppers.

Reptiles: Grass snakes and adders.

Plants: Bluebells, wood anemone, raspberry, St Johns Wort, figwort, ragged robin, foxglove and wood spurge.

  1. management and areas opened for recreational activity along its banks.


Action Plan – Winter 2012/13

To manage the Eastern 1 ½ acres of Withy Wood (0689) as Short Rotation Willow Coppice to generate woodfuel for use on the farm. This to be done by separating the proposed 1 ½ acres into 6 “stands”, each of ¼ acre approx. (see Map below). One stand to be managed in accordance with the following work plan for the next 6 years beginning with Stand 1 in Winter 2012/13), thus enabling the coppice to be managed in rotation.



Coppicing Work Plan – Winter 2012/13 (Stand 1)

**Note: Rabbit population needs to be controlled before the work is undertaken to prevent the need for rabbit fencing. If rabbit fencing is needed then the cost for this will be in addition to the cost quoted.

Proposed Work

Estimated Time

Estimated Cost (£)

Scrub clearance of stand 1, prep ground for laying mulching sheet, flatten ground, removal of tree roots etc 2 x days 200
Cut down mature trees to coppice height in Stand 1 2 x day for 2 x chainsaw  operators (inc. qualified tree surgeon climber 400 + fuel/oil
Cut up wood into 8” logs and stack on ride next to Stand 1 1 x day for 1 x chainsaw operator 100 + fuel/oil
Lay plastic sheeting in Stand 1 1 x day 100
Plant pre-ordered willow setts into laid mulching plastic in Stand 1 1 x day 100
Total Labour Cost = 1,000 + fuel/oil

Costs For Coppicing – Stand 1

Materials / Labour


Labour (as per Work Plan above)


Fuel / Oil

30 (approx.)

Mulching plastic (100m x 1m)


Biomass Willow Setts (400 see below)


Delivery of willow and mulching plastic


Total =


Yield and Returns

Re-establishing working coppice like this will produce 8 – 10cubic metres of wood per year once in rotation after 6 years, if managed properly, thus saving the farm £800 – £1,000 per year on seasoned hardwood. Therefore, the initial investment can be paid off in 1 – 2 years, the crop requires minimal maintenance and the landowner has energy security for the forseeable future.


When employed on projects like this, once the initial cutting and planting is complete it is important to me that I give landowners the skills and knowledge to be able to manage and maintain the coppice themselves. Thus enabling them to become truly self-sufficient, and giving them the option to contact me to work on the woodland if they do not have the time to do so themselves.

If you are interested in growing your own woodfuel then please contact me at

Beacon Wood Coppicing Group

February 25, 2013

One of the projects this Winter has been to set up a local coppicing group for the community woodland granted to us by Cornwall Heritage Trust (CHT) on the North side of Sancreed Beacon. I wanted to set up the Beacon Wood Coppicing Group to:

Provide the local community with a sense of ownership for the site.
Provide the local community with a means of obtaining sustainable woodfuel
Re-introduce coppicing management skills into the local community
Get help to do all the work needed!

After an initial call out for interest via leaflets and local community networks, then word of mouth we have a merry band of 16 coppicers joined up to the group. Each day begins with Health & Safety briefing and demonstrations to ensure everyone can work in a safe way with the tools and appropriate signage is put up to inform members of the public about the work

As well as maintaining and managing the 6acre woodland, the group is responsible for preventing willow encrachment into the lowland heathland of Sancreed Beacon. Which is how we found ourselves transforming this….

2013-02-06 14.01.42

into this….

2013-02-06 14.01.52

Lots of lovely willow 2″ – 4″ diameter which can be dressed and carried away by all those who come along to use as woodfuel in their woodburners next Winter. We managed to cut about 1/2 acre over 3 days and create lots of sheltered habitat piles for the flora and fauna.

Thanks to all those who came along, and the sense of satisfaction from members of our community being able to be self sufficient in their own wood made my Winter a little warmer :-).

If you are interested in setting up community groups to harvest their own woodfuel then please contact me at