Coppicing - MaHS - Moss and Height Spring Wood
Please find links to the management plan documents for the Moss and Heights Sping Woods
by Brian Crawley
An interesting happening in woodland management took place earlier in the year. The Woodland Trust leased the management of a twenty-hectare ancient woodland in the south of the Lake District to the Bill Hogarth MBE Memorial Apprenticeship Trust.
BHMAT is managing the woodland in accordance with the existing Woodland Trust Management Plan that can be seen on the WT website or in the White Hart Inn at Bouth. The Woodland Trust's public access arrangements will be maintained.
The management includes continuity of the coppicing of Height Spring - the southern part of the woodland. This involves felling areas - coupes - of the underwood and some larger trees each year, whilst leaving selected mature trees - standards - to maintain a 'coppice with standards' regime. The cut stools will re-grow many new stems. This management is traditional to this woodland and provides a bio-diverse habitat. Many plants, insects and other animals benefit from the cycle of open sunlight when just cut, to shade under the re-grown trees.
Most felling is carried out in the autumn and winter but some oak is felled in the spring and early summer to facilitate the peeling of the bark for use in leather tanning. The other produce is used for many appropriate woodland crafts with a last resort of firewood or barbecue charcoal. The latter may be made in the wood by a variety of methods. The cut stools are protected from deer browsing by dead-hedging with surplus brash or sometimes fencing.
PLEASE TAKE EXTRA CARE IN AREAS OF FELLING OR WHEN OTHER WORK IS BEING CARRIED OUT IN THE WOODLAND
BHMAT was formed in 2000 after the sudden untimely death of Bill Hogarth in 1999. For the last twenty years of his lifetime's work as a coppice merchant Bill had encouraged and stimulated other people into an interest and involvement in traditional woodland management. After his death a group of appropriately stimulated people in the north of England decided that he must "...be remembered...in years to come...for the work put in to promote an interest in others to carry on the age-old coppice and woodland craft industry." (Bill's own words from Chapter 5 of the book 'Bill Hogarth MBE Coppice Merchant' edited by Alan Shepley.) The stated purpose of BHMAT is to ensure that the coppicing skills of Bill Hogarth MBE are recognised for their full worth and their continuity secured through a broad-based apprenticeship scheme.
The Woodland Trust procured Moss and Height Spring Wood in the heydays of the 1980s. The wood was principally semi-natural broadleaf, bordering Forestry Commission Ancient Semi Natural Woodland at the south and leading into a small shrubby, marshy field at the north west corner. Most of the wood had been coppiced at some time in the past but in the west There was a small area of larch and spruce that was clear felled and replanted with oak, ash, alder and hazel in 1995. Birch naturally seeded throughout. The excellent network of permitted footpaths and an unsurfaced 'byway open to all traffic' - probably an ancient coffin road - through the middle of the wood, had been much used and appreciated by locals and visitors for many years. It had been a popular dog walk for our family for quite a few years prior to our eventual business interest in it. An additional byway and other footpaths through the adjacent Forestry Commission woodland adds considerably to the attraction of walkers. The proximity of this footpath resource to the village of Bouth led to an almost adopted status.
Meanwhile, in the 1980s Bill Hogarth, being the only remaining coppice worker in the district, had been initially getting publicity for his work and then progressing into demonstrations and teaching courses. By the early 1990s he was giving coppicing courses for the Greenwood Trust, now the Green Wood Centre, in Coalbrookdale, in Wales and in Ireland as well as for Cumbria Broadleaves in his home county. 1992 saw the making of the Spirit of Trees programme for Channel 4 and his receipt of over 1000 letters and phone calls with enquiries about coppicing. In 1995 he was awarded his MBE and voted winner of the Living Natural Treasure Award from Country Life magazine. My wife had to enquire about the meaning of it when he said to her one day "They keep coming, Louise." His obvious joyous surprise that the interest in his work was continuing was a stimulus to the formation of BHMAT.
Bill had a workbase in Black Beck Wood, also close to Bouth, where Spirit of Trees was filmed, and re-calling his coppicing in Moss and Height Spring Wood about 30 years previously he approached the Woodland Trust about allowing him to re-commence coppicing in their wood. A lot of negotiation and a visit to the wood by top WT officials enabled Heather Swift, their local woodland officer, to slip a thumbs-up to Bill as the party departed.
He re-cut his first coupe in Height Spring - the area to the south of the byway - over the winter of 1993-4. He transferred the running of the coppice management courses being organised by Cumbria Broadleaves into Height Spring and I was privileged to be one of the trainees, in 1995, to participate in one of his inspiring courses. The first practical day of the event was actually passed with an unforgettable session of anecdotal information in Bill's plastic covered shelter in Black Beck Wood due to the first snowfall of the year in mid February. The next day was then hands-on in Height Spring with a visit from Richard Pow, the Cumbria Broadleaves course organiser, who took the photograph - featuring me in the yellow jacket - that subsequently appeared in their brochure for later courses. Rebecca Oaks had beaten me to the same course also in Height Spring, one year earlier, 1994.
My wife and I developed a coppicing business working in local woodlands during the next few years with much help and encouragement from Bill who sadly suffered a blood circulation trauma whilst working in Height Spring and died in hospital in February 1999. Height Spring was coppiced for another couple of years by a firewood merchant and in 2003 my wife and I were invited by the Woodland Trust to take on a three-year contract to coppice in that wood. We very much enjoyed that occupation up to our retirement in 2006 when the job was taken over by a BHMAT trainee. That arrangement, unfortunately, did not mature and the work in Height Spring ceased again in 2009.
The next sequence of photos relate to our business - Woodland Ways - operations in Moss and Height Spring Wood, 2003 to 2006.
BHMAT, however, had continued to blossom and the apprenticeship format was adopted in 2005 as the National Coppice Apprenticeship Scheme being administered by the Green Wood Centre (part of the Small Woods Association). The significance of Bill's early teaching courses with the Greenwood Trust is quite symbolic. Seventeen people have benefited from training through the Apprenticeships to date.
In 2009 BHMAT received the unexpected but very welcome offer from the Woodland Trust to take on a lease for the ongoing management of Moss and Height Spring Wood, including, of course, coppicing in Height Spring. Considerable investigation into the benefits and problems of this proposition were undertaken especially much discussion with local sister organisations like Coppice Association North West, Wood Education Programme Trust and Cumbria Woodlands and the lease was duly signed in April 2011.
The next few photographs are of the CANW/BHMAT visits to the wood to do some charcoal making, oak bark peeling and rustic furniture making.
CANW and BHMAT jointly have made a couple of visits to the wood and made contact with interested locals. An update to the Management Plan is now underway. The future for the wood as a prime example of ancient woodland management practice and site for training and demonstration exercises for future coppice workers with a possible additional local's involvement is looked forward to with great excitement.