Local residents are invited to learn traditional coppicing skills and cut their own sticks at Great Wood in Borrowdale. Whether it’s bean poles for the allotment or a rustic walking stick to use on the fells, on Sunday 3rd February the National Trust ranger team will be on hand to help people harvest what they need.
The new event is part of a plan to reintroduce coppicing, a woodland craft that was practiced in Borrowdale until the mid 20th Century. It was used to collect material such as willow for basket weaving, hazel for making hurdles (temporary gates), and ash, oak or holly for the bobbin mills at Keswick. Winter is the traditional time to do this because the sap isn’t rising in the trees.
Over the past 20 years the Trust has been restoring this ancient woodland site by removing conifers and enabling native species to grow. As a result there is a dense growth of young hazel, ash and birch. By reintroducing coppicing to Great Wood local people will be helping sunlight to reach the forest floor which in turn will aid the wildlife that make the woods their home.
Maurice Pankhurst, Woodland ranger, said: ‘I used to play in the woods when I was a kid growing up in Sussex; that was one of the last areas where coppicing was still happening. As you walked through the woodland you’d suddenly come into bright sunshine in a clearing and you’d hear different birdsong. You would get this wonderful mosaic of light and dark which is so beneficial for the wildlife species in the wood.’
The long-term aim is to increase biodiversity. More sunlight will encourage bluebells and blackberries, enabling woodland insects and birds to thrive. Birds like the garden warbler and blackcap love sitting down low in blackberry bushes to sing, and hedgehogs love bramble cover too. Voles also like sunny clearings which will provide more food for tawny owls.
The event takes place on Sunday 3rd February, from 10am till 2pm. You can drop in for an hour or stay all day, no experience is necessary and families are welcome. Bring your own gloves and hand tools, no power tools please. Parking is available (normal charges apply). For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk. The event is free but places are limited so booking is essential, to book a place please call 0344 249 1895.