Willow coppice

Bowles Hybrid Willow Year 1

Bowles Hybrid Willow before coppicing

It seems counterintuitive to coppice our willow (Salix spp.) in it’s first year of growing, but coppice it we must! Cutting it back at the end of the first year will encourage multiple shoots to form at the base. Which means that in years to come we will have a denser screen and more willow biomass. That’s the theory at least.

We planted the 500 cm lengths of Bowles Hybrid willow back in December 2011 for a couple of reasons. Firstly to hide the very ugly farm buildings just behind our home, and also as a biomass crop to keep us self-sufficient in wood for heating in later years.

The willow around the farm buildings grew at a tremendous rate, we were really impressed, reaching over 2.5 meters in their first year! The willow in the field did less well. Mainly because we didn’t keep the grass around the small stems down. We think the root competition combined with the grass shading out the young plants were the main causes.

Bowles Hybrid Willow Year One

Bowles Hybrid Willow harvest

Now we have a lot of willow cuttings. We are going to use them in several ways;

  • to fill in any gaps where the original willow failed to take,
  • to extend our biomass plot,
  • to make a rooting hormone liquid,
  • to experiment with making artists charcoal, and if I have time
  • to practice basketry making with.

Nice! Don’t you just love willow!

Wish I’d learnt how to make spoons

In our efforts to get proper internet access we’ve had to have a few trees taken down along a hedge (it’s a long sorry broadband story that I won’t go into). Our first thoughts were to lay the hedge, but the trees were way too large, so felling was the only option.

One of the people we had got to know through the local Transition meetings had recently set up a woodland management business with a friend and was happy to take on the work at a very reasonable rate. We were keen to get the trees down before the end of Winter so that the coppiced trees could start to regrow as soon as possible. Our idea is that we’ll see what re-grows this year, fill in any gaps in the hedge with native trees in the Autumn and then in seven or so years time lay the hedge properly.

Tall Hedge in January

Craig and Bryn talking hedge coppicing strategies

Seizing a few sunny days at the end of January Ian and Bryn set about with their chainsaws. On the one hand it was sad to see the trees come down, but on the other it was good to see our future seasoned wood supply increase! Most of the trees should grow back, as they were mainly Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) with an Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), a Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and a Laburnum (Laburnum anagyroides) scattered along the row.

Within a few days the Brynmorian Woodland Management team had finished and what a brilliant job they had done too. Bryn even took a few moments out to demonstrate his handmade archery bows and arrows, really impressive stuff. I would definitely recommend them.

No Hedge

Hedge is mainly stumps now (February), still a lot of tidying to do.

I’m pleased to have so much green wood about. Sycamore wood is a gorgeous creamy white. It is traditionally used to make household utensils like bowls and spoons as it has no taste and if worked while still wet it shouldn’t crack when it dries. According to Mike Abbott’s book “Green Woodwork, working with wood the natural way” it was widely turned into large bowls and ladles for the dairy industry in Wales with the pole-lathe. Very exciting. I do miss my pole-lathe and what better excuse to hunt out the perfect Ash pole so I can set one up here.

Herald moth (Scoliopteryx libatrix)

This Herald moth was hibernating on my shaving horse!

Craig has very kindly levelled the floor for me in Pointy Shed, moved my shaving-horse in and found my various bits of green-woodworking tools from the storage boxes. I could have spent all afternoon slicing away slithers of sycamore wood with my drawknife, but alas as Spring approaches there is so much to do (and I don’t really think I need too many pointed sticks at the moment).

I’m now wishing I’d asked Mike Abbott to teach me how make wooden spoons. I know we’d have been hard pressed to fit that in as well as making a stool and various tools on that weekend in March years ago, ah well, I suppose I have plenty of wood to teach myself, but if you are passing this way Mike?