Woodland Management - Coppicing, Pollarding and Felling
Nick has been managing the woods around the Lough with help from the Forestry Commission. Ours and the adjoining woods includes ancient woodlands; and a large number of trees were planted before the Second World War.
Late last year I noticed what seemed like a coding system on some of the trees: an orange P, dots on some trees and tried to work out what these meant. How I expected to know about woodland management beats me? I had to find out and did not to have to go far; a quick conversation with Nick was enough.
It turns out that our woods had not been managed for some time and required some TLC with some pollarding and coppicing. However it is important to get the timing right; that is in the winter when the sap is down and there are no nesting birds to disturb.
What we are doing in effect is to remove some of the branch cover and let light into the woods to encourage more ground cover plants and also to sustain the bugs and beetles that are part of the food chain for the local bird life.
The orange P is for pollarding - we take the upper branches of a tree off and the tree dies standing up. I can hear a "why"? We do this to allow certain trees to die standing up by ring-barking, or girdling, these trees, that is, cutting them all the way round the lower trunk so that they provide over 50 years shelter and food for a huge variety of grubs and beetles. The bugs and beetle in turn are food for woodpeckers and tree-creepers and mammals like shrews that feed on them.
The orange dots mean "fell". We fell small areas of the woodlands to create a varied environment which, as visitors have noticed, enormously increases the range and number of plants, insects and birds. We fell more of the species which would otherwise come to dominate - holly, sycamore and beech - and leave the rarer scots pines, rowan, hornbeam and cherry. When, as sometimes happen, we have to fell species we wish to encourage, we do so in a way, coppicing, which encourages vigorous regrowth, especially willow "scarr" in standing water to absorb nitrates from the Lough.
Hopefully this helps to explain how and why we are managing the woodlands as we are and helps you better understand how the local eco-system work.