Planned Woodlands Operations for 2018-19
Coppicing in Devil’s Head Plantation
Devil’s Head Plantation, part of the Thorndon Park SSSI (Site of special scientific interest), is an area of sweet chestnut coppice. Coppicing is a historic management technique to produce firewood and timber, involving cutting “stools” or the previous growth, to ground level, so that they can re-shoot quickly. Areas within a woodland block are coppiced on a fairly short cycle, so that there is an ongoing patchwork of different ages and heights of coppice and seedling regeneration, providing constant habitat for biodiversity. Natural British flora and fauna have co-evolved with this system over thousands of years. One quarter of the sweet chestnut coppice in Devil’s Head Plantation will be re-coppiced as part of a new programme to improve woodland and its biodiversity across Essex County Council woodland estates.
The tops of the trees are termed “brash”, which can appear quite considerable after woodland work. This disappears in a few years, after doing a job of protecting regenerating stools and seedlings, or where it has been laid down as a mat to protect the woodland floor against compaction by machinery.
Prior to starting work, the area is surveyed for potential bat roots and other protected species’ habitat. This includes birds in the nesting season. If any are found, that section of the work is protected by a buffer zone and resumed at a later date.