Willow Coppicing

This week we have mostly been cutting willows.

At the entrance to Flanders Moss near the car park there is a program of rotationally coppicing the willows (and as I found out after everyone had gone home; the Birch).

The purpose of this is to vary the age structure which creates diversity of habitats and allows differing levels of light on to the ground flora.

A closed canopy woodland full of mature trees has a very dark and humid floor which suits some floor dwellers: Eurhynchium praelongum and Mnium hornum (mosses, which like to lurk in dark places) but not others. Allowing a bit of light creates conditions for lichens and plants to flourish.

The trees will re-sprout in the spring and willows can re-grow remarkably quickly hence their popularity for harvesting and use for biofuels.

The willow is rotationally coppiced on an eight year cycle to make sure there’s plenty of flowering willow in the spring.  Willow nectar and pollen is a vital food source for pollinating insects early on in the year when there’s not much else in the way of food about.

Bumble bee on willow

Bumble bee on willow

Once the willow’s been cut down then there is the question “what to do with the willow”

Normally we would use that fine old technique ‘the habitat pile’ which is code for ‘let’s just dump it in a heap’! Not that there’s anything wrong with dumping it in a heap, as lots of bugs, inverts, worms and fungi just love a heap of rotting vegetation. We already have plenty of habitat piles throughout the woods (go visit the bug hut along the path). But plenty of beasties like a bit of open ground as well.

Therefore we burned a large portion of the willow on corrugated iron sheets to keep the burn nice and tidy although with the howling wind this was rather tricky – kudos to the fire team for keeping the fire in a small space.

As with all these tasks there is a process.


Make sure you’re cutting the right trees; better to err on the side of caution, as this is not a mistake easily rectified (more on this later).


Chop down trees and scrub


Move to fire site


Get fire going and burn willow


Once fire’s gone down place potatoes in ash to bake and then eat potatoes with butter, cheese, olives etc

Any spare cut willow can be used to build mini bug huts and big stumps flattened off with chainsaw the following day.


Almost finished

We have to come back and get the Birch (my mistake), but better to not cut trees that are meant to be cut than the other way round.


Seven Spot ladybird

Even on cold breezy winter days, it’s worth keeping your eyes open.  This very early (and probably very chilly) ladybird had come out of hibernation and was having a little wander round.

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2 Responses to Willow Coppicing

  1. peigimccann says:

    Before people had a hand in things, what would have kept the willow in check? Perhaps elk (what we call moose)?


  2. Pingback: Wild willow wands | 2 bogs, a swamp and some islands

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