At the University of Kent we carry out coppicing across the Canterbury campus as part of our woodland management plans.
The practice of coppicing can be dated back to the Stone Age and is the traditional woodland management technique of repeatedly felling trees at the base and allowing them to regrow. On campus we usually wait around 15 years for a tree to regrow before we fell it again. We work on defined areas within our woodlands, coppicing one section each winter then moving onto the next section a year later. This means we end up with a very diverse range of ages in our trees across our three areas of woodland – Parkwood, Brotherhood wood and Bluebell blue.
Coppicing was traditionally done in order to provide a sustainable supply of timber, however this is not why we coppice at Kent. Our primary goal for coppicing is to improve the health of our trees and create additional benefits for other wildlife. Coppicing is a human intervention that somewhat simulates the act of retrenching (when trees naturally drop their branches to extend their life) which helps our trees live longer within our woodlands. By removing sections of canopy we are increasing the amount of light that can reach the woodland floor. This allows other species of vegetation that are dormant in the seed bank in the soil the chance to grow and increase the diversity of that area. This increase in vegetation increases the amount of habitat and forage opportunities for insects, birds and mammals.
When we coppice we do not clear fell the sections, instead we ensure that very mature trees are left in place, species such as oak and ask are left and we leave a proportion of ivy, holly and bramble to ensure there is cover and forage for other species. We also leave any newly emerging vegetation and any deadwood we find which is useful for insects.
Whilst coppicing we also take the opportunity to remove any invasive vegetation from the area and collect any litter we uncover.