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

Charcoal Burn – Truro

January 28, 2013

Overlooking the Helford Passage is a beautiful woodland project with established deciduous woodland and new plantings of over 5,000 trees. Amazing! The managers of the site invited me down to do a charcoal burn with lots of overgrown hazel they had cut the previous Winter. With a fantastic view over the river we loaded the portable kilns and began the burn.Image


Each burn is different with its own problems and challenges (I think thats why I love charcoal burning so much :-)) and this was no exception with a lid collapse near the end and the ignition of gasses. However, all was under control quickly and the kilns were damped down and starved of oxygen. Thank God for experience!


In the end we got a good 70kg of charcoal from the kilns which I’ll be selling in the Summer season.

Thanks to Hilary and all the crew at Malpas nr Truro.

If you are interested in ordering charcoal or learning to make it yourself then please contact me at

Ash Coppice Dilemma

January 28, 2013

Apart from charcoal burning and educational activities much of this Winter has been reclaiming neglected and overgrown coppice at Plan-It Earth Environmental Project.


Due to a land ownership dispute the ash coppice was allowed to be completely over-run with brambles and as you can see they had ‘scaffolded’ on the lower branches of the ash to grow over 12′ high!! Nightmare. The only way to deal with them without damaging the trees was to get in there with a billhook and clear it all tree by tree.

After a lot of hard work, a couple of pairs of gauntlets and a few scratches a lovely clean ash coppice is revealed.


THe spacings are slightly wider than I would have liked, but after some pruning the trees look remarkably healthy 8 years old and ready for their first cut.

However (and here is the dilemma), with Chalara Fraxinea (Ash Dieback) doing so much damage, particularly in newly coppiced stools, do I cut them? Or should I leave it a few years and see what happens?

Sustainable Living Skills For Schools

September 12, 2012

Some happy customers!

For this next academic year (Sept 2012 – July 2013) I am offering a flexible program of outdoor education for schools through my company Future tracks (

Future Tracks For Schools

Working towards an environmentally sustainable future, Future Tracks is a company providing education and consultancy in sustainability to all members of the community.

Where We Are

All the modules are delivered by our trained and qualified staff at our outdoor classroom based amongst coppiced woodland at Plan-It Earth Environmental Education Project near Sancreed in West Penwith, Cornwall. However, if transport is an issue we are happy to come into your school to deliver some of the modules. Modules that can be delivered in school are noted in the module description

Recent Projects With Schools Include:

Girls Go Wild! – a 2 day wild camping and activity adventure at Plan-It Earth for KS2 and 3 girls with their Mums. Organised through ECM St Ives.

Survival School – Regular extra curricula activity in half term holidays for KS2 and 3 students from St Ives cluster schools. Sessions included Fire, Camouflage and hunting, clean water, basic knife safety and wild food foraging.

Environmental Art – on-going project re-instating the skills of willow coppicing, living willow sculptures and crab pot construction in Portscatho on the Roseland Peninsula with MA students from the Art and Environment course at University College Falmouth.

The Secret of Napoleons Lost Treasure – a week long residency at Woldingham School in Surrey taking children out of the classroom into the school grounds to explore the schools history,  maps and navigation, knots and cordage, and use the available resources to create a sculpture as a lasting memory of the experience.

Session Planning

To aid timetabling our 2012/13 schools programme is tailored to fit easily into the normal school day, based on modular 2 hour sessions you can pick and choose modules to create the most curriculum appropriate experience for your students. Come and join us for a couple of hours or all day!

We are happy to emphasise and focus on particular aspects of each module. Talk to us about your curriculum and we will be happy to adapt our delivery to complement work you will do in school.

We normally run morning (10am – noon) and afternoon (1pm – 3pm) sessions but these times are flexible and can be arranged to suit you.


Listening to teachers we have decided to charge a flat rate for each module to aid budgeting. To keep costs down the flat rate includes most materials, but we will send a “List of things students need to bring” once the booking is accepted.

Flat rate for each module = £7.50 per student.


Essential Living Skills

These practical modules aim to equip students with some of the basic skills necessary to live comfortably on planet Earth. More than just “survival skills”, this knowledge underpins our understanding of geography, history, engineering and the sciences; enabling students to gain ‘hands on’ experience of how these disciplines affect the natural world.

ELS Module 1 – Navigation and Maps (KS2 – KS5) Practical activities with natural navigation techniques, grid and story maps leading to the use of a compass. For older students more complex compass navigation techniques (such as resection) are explored. Can be delivered in school.

ELS Module 2 – Safe Campfire Management (Age 9+) Learn to safely light, build, maintain and extinguish a fire outdoors for cooking, or warmth using a range of firelighting techniques. Includes identification of several native tree species and natural tinders.

ELS Module 3 – Cooking on a Campfire (KS3 – KS5) Used as an extension module to safe Campfire Management students will have the opportunity to cook food on the fires they have just made. Recipes include “Fish on a Stick” and the best toffee apples in the World (!), as well as seasonal, wild and more contemporary food.

ELS Module 4 – How to Get Clean Water (KS2 – KS5) Learn to filter and treat water using everyday household objects to make it safe to drink through ‘hands on’ learning; and on a larger scale we look at reed bed filtration systems as a way to treat sewerage.

ELS Module 5 – Shelter and Natural Building Techniques (KS3 – KS5) This module investigates the principles of shelter building for individuals in a survival situation, for groups of people in Nature and also natural building techniques for more permanent structures. Includes exploration visit of a Straw Bale house and a cob and roundwood roundhouse.

ELS Module 6 – Wild Food (KS2 – KS5) This module begins with a Wild Food walk identifying and collecting a range of local plants which are tasted and their uses explored. The second part of the session then gives students the opportunity to learn how to prepare fish and small game for the table. Note: This includes the cleaning, gutting and skinning of fish and rabbit, which may need prior permission from parents.

ELS Module 7 – String, knots and things.  (KS2 – KS5). This module identifies plants that can be used to make string and rope. Students harvest some of the plants, prepare the fibres then learn the techniques to produce their own string and rope. The string is then used to help make their own Roycroft 3-stick frame rucksack.


Sustainable Arts & Crafts

Using local resources these modules aim to provide students with practical arts and craft skills which work with the environment and equip them with knowledge of where art materials, and household goods actually come from.

A&C Module 1 – Green Woodwork (KS3 – KS5). Students come along to the outdoor studio where we discuss wood and tree selection and the products appropriate for each type of wood. We demonstrate and let students have a go on a pole lathe and shave horse then use the wood selected to produce age and skill appropriate products; willow placemat weaving for younger ones and spoon carving or stool/furniture making for older students. Can be delivered in school.

A&C Module 2 – Pit Firing Clay Pots (KS2 – KS5). This exciting module shows students how to sculpt their own clay items. Then together we prepare and light a pit kiln which fires the clay pieces they have made. We are happy to deliver the clay pieces to school the following day once they have cooled.

A&C Module 3 – Sustainable Textiles 1 (KS3 – KS5). With this module we aim to show students how to make their own textiles. Using local wool the students learn to make their own felt. Then they have a go at spinning wool with a drop spindle. Note: Unwashed woollen fleece contains lanoline that some people are allergic to. This will need to be checked with parents before the session. Can be delivered in school.

A&C Module 4 – Sustainable Textiles 2 (KS3 – KS5). An extension to Module 3 students build their own simple loom which they then use to make their own cloth or rugs. Can be delivered in school.

A&C Module 4 – Making Art Materials (KS2 – KS5). At the outdoor studio this module shows students how to make their own handmade paper and artists charcoal using recycled and everyday materials. The materials created we are happy to deliver to school the following day once they have cooled and dried.



Bushcraft and Coppicing Workshops – Winter 2012

September 12, 2012

Here are the dates for the Winter workshops I am running through my company Future Tracks (

Apart from the first one all the bookings should come directly to me:

Email Bookings:
Phone bookings: 07776 223337

See you there!

Sunday 30th September 2012. Charcoal Burning.  Learn the practical skills and techniques needed to produce your own BBQ charcoal from readily available materials. 10am – 4pm.
Cost £20.00. Contact Hilary on 07969 436669.
– Monday 22nd October 2012. Rabbits! – Skins and Brain Tanning. Come along on this practical 1/2 day course and learn how to gut and skin your own rabbits and prepare the skins with the fur on to produce soft leather. 10am – 2pm. Cost £25.00.
– Saturday 10th November 2012. Bushcraft Archery (Part 1) – Arrows. Come along and learn the basic principles of fletching by making your own medieval style arrow from first principles. 10am – 4pm. Age 16+. Cost £50.00.
– Saturday 24th November 2012. Coppicing Willow Shelterbelts for Woodfuel. Willow shelterbelts can provide a windbreak for other crops and a source of sustainable woodfuel for your heating . Come along and learn how to source, plant, maintain, harvest and process a willow shelterbelt through discussion, and practical work on existing willow coppice. 10am – 4pm. Cost £40.00.
– Sunday 25th November 2012. Coppicing Willow Shelterbelts for Woodfuel. Willow shelterbelts can provide a windbreak for other crops and a source of sustainable woodfuel for your heating . Come along and learn how to source, plant, maintain, harvest and process a willow shelterbelt through discussion, and practical work on existing willow coppice. 10am – 4pm. Cost £40.00
– Saturday 1st December 2012. Willow Hurdle Making – Come along to learn how to make your own willow fencing panels. 1/2 day course 10am – 2pm. Cost £25.00.
– Monday 14th January 2012. Charcoal Burning.  Learn the practical skills and techniques
needed to produce your own BBQ charcoal from readily available materials. 10am – 4pm.
Cost £20.00.
– Saturday 26th January 2013. Bushcraft Archery (Part 2) – Bows. Come along and learn the basic principles of bow-making by constructing your own simple but effective longbow. 10am – 4pm.
Age 16+. Cost £50.00.

Debrief – Bushcraft Workshops Summer 2012

September 12, 2012

Well what a Summer!

Luckily with the new Outdoor Studio space I was warm and dry and so were the brave souls who ventured out to do the Bushcraft workshops.

Wild food was sought out and consumed, rucksacks were made, traps were constructed, slings and atlatls were used to throw projectiles and fun was had by all! I’ll be posting the Winter Workshop schedule so let me know if you want to join in.

Green Woodwork Space Mk III

September 12, 2012

So the Spring and Summer have been busy here. In April I began construction of a new Green Woodwork space / Outdoor studio. A more permanent structure that I needed to build by myself using only hand tools. Quite a task, but a  great site was found amongst coppice with tree shelter to protect against those prevailing South westerlies.

New Space Beginning to Take Shape

I decided to use chestnut posts for the uprights to protect against rot, but as I could only obtain posts 8′ long I had to raise the posts at the front on stone pads (Japanese style) to gain the height needed. Thanks to David Hurle for the advise how to go about this. The posts to the rear of the structure (on the right in the above photot) I could dig straight in with a base of hardcore at the bottom of the hole.

I used the structure for the new pole lathe as an additional brace for the largest central chestnut post. Note: the tripods of hazel used for the front posts are only temporary to provide stability during construction.

The horizontal crossbeams were made using Sitka Spruce (long and straight) that was left over from the straw bale house build on site.

Once the crossbeams were put into place (with help from a couple of willing friends :-)) then I could start putting the roof on. As this was an open sided structure it needed to be light but firm and I decided, after much thought about turf roofs, to go with a modern roofing material. I chose Coraline / Onduline as it was within budget, made from bitumised organic material, light, guaranteed for 15 years and easy to remove if necessary.

All in all I am very happy with the final result, and this summer saw a peaceful oasis of calm in the woods amongst a maelstrom of Olympic fervour.

Summer Workshops 2012

April 9, 2012

Through Future Tracks I will be hosting the following workshops during the Summer all will be loacated in West Cornwall.

12th April – Paper Making (with Headsintheclouds). Learn to make your own paper.  Cost £15.00. Contact  Francesca on  0784 2888645 /

21st June – Sustainable Artists Materials (with HeadsintheClouds). Learn to make your own paper and artsists charcoal. Contact  Francesca on  0784 2888645 /

23rd Jul – Gypsy Basket Making @ Plan-It Earth. Weave your own baskets using  willow and hedgerow materials. Cost £15.00. Contact

26th Jul – Family Bushcraft @Plan-It Earth. Cost £15.00. Contact

30th Jul – Spoon Carving @ Plan-It Earth. Learn to carve your own spoons. Cost £15.00. Contact

2nd Aug. – Bushcraft Fire making and Cookery @ Plan-It Earth. Learn to light and safely manage a fire to then cook on!  Cost £15.00


13th Aug. – Bushcraft Fire Making and Cookery @ Plan-It Earth. Learn to light and safely manage a fire to then cook on!  Cost £15.00


16th Aug. – Family Bushcraft @Plan-It Earth. Cost £15.00. Contact

23rd Aug.Family Bushcraft @Plan-It Earth. Cost £15.00. Contact

28th Aug – Gypsy Basket Making @ Plan-It Earth. Weave your own baskets using  willow and hedgerow materials. Cost £15.00. Contact

30th Aug – Foraging and Wild Food @ Plan-It Earth. Come for a walk and learn some useful plants to eat, heal and use. Cost £15.00. Contact

Girls Go Wild! – July 2011

April 9, 2012

During the Summer holidays we were pleased to host at Plan-It Earth the Girls Go Wild! project, where 6 girls and their Mums were invited to take part in a 2-day camping and bushcraft adventure with loads of activities designed to increase participants confidence within the natural world, themselves and with each other.

Activities included:

  • Setting up camp with Bell Tents.
  • Wild Food Walk.
  • Wild Tea tasting with Netles, gorse flowers and Goosegrass.
  • Making Fire with strikers and matches
  • Safe campfire management.
  • Preparing and cooking fresh mackerel.
  • Camp cookery.
  • Storytelling.
  • Night walk with bat detector and moth trap.
  • Making natural herbal remedies and beauty treatments.
  • Slackline walking

For most of the participants this was the first time they had camped out and many of the activities were new to them. Here are some photos fgrom the two days…

Campsite Complete

Fire Demonstration


Wild Teas...Can you guess whats in them?

Lunch...yum yum

Moth trap on Night Walk



Taking the Tents Down

A great few days with all participants getting something out of the experience that they can take back to their own lives.

Many thanks to Rachel and David @ Plan-It Earth Eco project, Windrose for facilitating the herbal remedies and Julie for co-facilitating with me.

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