Welcome to Underwood – the North-East Coppice Network.
What is coppicing?
Coppicing is a traditional technique for managing deciduous broadleaf woodlands to produce regular crops of straight poles for roofing, thatching, fencing and charcoal – and much more. Trees are cut on cycles of between eight and twenty years and fresh, vigorous growth shoots from the cut stumps. Coppiced trees can survive for many hundreds of years: it’s one of the most sustainable forms of land use.
Ground flora, and the abundant invertebrates, birds and mammals that native broadleaf woodlands support, benefit from going through successive cycles of light and increasing shade, providing rich habitats. The woodland soil is healthy, carbon-rich and irreplaceably biodiverse.
The earliest evidence for coppicing in Britain goes back at least nine thousand years; and by the Neolithic period (4,000 – 2,200 BCE) sophisticated roundhouses, trackways and farm compounds were being constructed across Britain, largely using coppiced poles.
Material from coppiced woods is known as ‘underwood’, as opposed to ‘timber’ which comes from single, mature, ‘standard’ trees.
Coppicing in the North-east
In the more densely-wooded, iron-rich lands of the Weald and Forest of Dean, where charcoal production sustained underwood management for centuries; and unlike Cumbria, where the tradition has also survived, coppicing in the North-east of England seems to have more or less died out as an industry in the 19th century.
The Underwood network of woodland managers, craftspeople, charcoal producers and teachers who work woods in the region aim to revive coppicing here, with benefits for nature, traditional crafts, sustainable land use and what we call social ecologies – a broad range of mutual benefits that comes from involving people and communities in the nurturing and management of their local woods.
- To support and promote the management of coppiced woodlands in the North-East.
- To generate and market coppice produce such as poles, hurdles, charcoal and basketry.
- To improving woodland habitats through active coppice management.
- To engage communities and individuals in active woodland management and to promote ides about social ecology with educational and social projects and events.
- To share skills and best practise amongst members through regular meetings.
- To share information and work with the National Coppice Federation to further our aims.
If you are interested in actively supporting or benefitting from actively-managed and productive native woodlands, why not join us? We welcome educators, woodland owners, craftspeople, social prescribers and would-be volunteers.
While we set up online forms, our email is kindly hosted by Living Woods North-East. Please contact at email@example.com.
Membership is £20 per year and includes affiliation to the National Coppice Federation, whose magazine, Cleft Stick, will be sent to you.