Tag Archives: Coppice

The Other Tree

Well, yes, okay, I have been seeing another tree. I see a lot of trees 🙂

For about a year now. I met her just across the road from the farm. She was just standing there, stark naked beside the road when I first arrived here…..

Sweet Chestnut… and the moment I saw her something clicked (it may have been my camera)

We didn’t need leaves.

Sweet ChestnutShe had the most beautiful skin and I felt like I had known her all of my life.

Sweet ChestnutI have been trying to find a good time to tell you, it just never seemed like the right time. So I decided to wait for the fruit.

Well the fruit is here now.

Sweet Chestnut

I  know that you are going to say, “Col, she is not right for you.”

Yes, I get it but let me explain.

I don’t like Sweet Chestnut coppice because it is a non-native monoculture with no benefit to wildlife and a thick toxic leaf litter that inhibits all other growth.

This is a Sweet Chestnut coppice the summer after it has been cut.

Sweet ChestnutI know quite a lot about Sweet Chestnut coppice, I used to own one.

The picture above was taken on the 21st of August and that is a coppice in it’s first year of regrowth. On the same day I took this next picture of another coppice but this one is in it’s second year.

Sweet ChestnutIt is the same story, nothing grows here except Sweet Chestnut. The tree has a natural defence. It has toxins in the leaves which leech into the soil and inhibit other plant growth. It is the arboreal equivalent of Rhododendron.

This next picture is a Willow and Alder coppice just down the road and again taken on the same day and this is what freshly cut coppice should look like.

Alder and WillowAll coppice woodland is not the same. You need native trees to make it work.

All of that is history, let’s not dwell on the negative.

No tree has much wildlife value when it is young, not even an Oak and coppicing keeps trees in a state of eternal youth. To reach it’s full potential a tree has got to mature.

As it grows the smooth bark begins to crack and peel and it starts to provide homes for insects and food for birds. It produces fruits and flowers and parts of it die providing dead wood habitat for insects.

Even so, no Sweet Chestnut is ever going to be a great wildlife tree, not in the UK but as she stands here surrounded by Oak and Birch, Ash and Beech she is contributing. She is producing flowers and fruit that wouldn’t otherwise be here and she is adding to the biodiversity of the area and not detracting from it.

I do like this one. 🙂

Our Spot:

This is where I first saw her, it has become like our “special place” and it is where we always come for our clandestine little rendezvous. It is our spot.

Sweet ChestnutIsn’t she wonderful?

Sweet Chestnut

Sweet Chestnut

Sweet ChestnutShe flowers in July.

Sweet ChestnutThe pictures that I am going to show you of the flowers are all male flowers. The tree does also produce female flowers. I actually wrote this post yesterday and deleted it when I got to this point and realised that I somehow didn’t have pictures of the female flowers. You are just going to have to trust me, I can’t wait until next July to get this off my chest, I have already waited too long 🙂

Sweet Chestnut

Sweet Chestnut

Sweet Chestnut(Male buds, sorry 🙂 )

Sweet Chestnut

Sweet Chestnut

Sweet ChestnutThen we get to the good bit.

Sweet Chestnut

Sweet Chestnut

Sweet Chestnut

Sweet Chestnut

Sweet ChestnutEveryone knows roasted chestnuts. They must be one of the most delicious fruits to come off a tree (Sorry I was forgetting Apples)

This is the reason that we need to have relationships with this tree and to welcome it into our broad leaf forests to live amongst all of the other trees.

The fruits today are still a bit small but there are plenty more still on the tree and it won’t be long now and I will be roasting them over my little camp stove.

Sweet Chestnut

Free food and very good food. Thank you tree 🙂

Bluebell Woods

It was a blistering hot July day yesterday.

Any animal with any sense was lying down in the shadiest place they could find.

ShadeFizz was out in the farm fields with me and a couple of tennis balls and we were having a splendid game of “Mad Dogs and Englishmen.”

Lots of water and rest stops were required.



FizzIn fact there wasn’t very much else going on at all, just resting and drinking water, I needed a plan.

FizzI know a place where it is very cool and this seemed like a good day to visit. We are going to the Bluebell woods. Yes, to see Bluebells.

hadeThis is Sweet Chestnut coppice, well, it is what remains when the coppicing is abandoned.

Sweet Chestnut CoppiceI am not a big fan of this type of woodland. Sweet Chestnut is not native to the UK and it supports very little insect life, almost none and without insects you don’t get many birds.

This tree is also the arboreal equivalent of Rhododendron. It has one of the largest leaves of any tree in the UK and casts dense shade. When the leaves fall they create a thick leaf litter that is toxic and inhibits the growth of other plants.

Even when Sweet Chestnut is actively coppiced there is very little Spring growth as you would find in native coppice woodland, just a thick blanket of dead toxic leaves.

Sweet Chestnut CoppiceI do like coppice woodland, native coppice woodland is a wonderful wildlife habitat but it is important to know that not all coppice is the same. Hazel coppices well, Oak, Birch and Willow are the best wildlife trees that we have but diversity is the real important issue and the more species of tree a wood supports the more life it will support. Monocultures of non native species are an ecological disaster.

Having said that, some of my best friends are Sweet Chestnut as part of a mixed woodland it is welcome in my world. It has good nuts.

Sweet Chestnut CoppiceA Sweet Chestnut coppice is a nice place to visit on a sweltering summers day and a hard place to survive in.

The plants that do thrive here are the Spring flowers, Wood Anemones, Lesser Celandine and Bluebells.

We have come to look at the Bluebells.

This is all that remains of the Bluebells that carpeted the floor of this wood a couple of months back but this is an important part of the Bluebell story.

BluebellsThere is much more to Bluebells than the showy display of flowers in early May. The story starts with the tiny green shoots that pierce through the leaf litter in January and it ends here with these seed pods full of shiny black seeds that will be tomorrows Bluebells.






BluebellsWell, we didn’t come here to write the Bluebell story, we will do that on a cold January day when there is little else to gladden our hearts. Today we are just collecting some photographs.

Today looks like another scorcher, the plants are buzzing with life, there is lots to see and write about and Fizz and I need to get out there and work on our tans. 🙂


You might want to come back tomorrow.

This post is just going to ramble on and on. I will tell you why. Fizz and I have been to some really nice places today and when we got back….


Someone had bought me a bottle of whiskey for looking after Fizz while they were away. Hurrah!

We are going to go out in the fields and set a trail cam up in the hope of catching Foxes and then we are going to explore a bit of ancient woodland but there are jobs to do first.

I had to go and buy some food for the birds. I have an arrangement with my landlord, he has a farm shop that sells bird food among other things and I am allowed to help myself to feed the birds in the garden (and he says I can have the nuts for my Badgers but I don’t take much). While he was away I gave all of his bird seed to the sparrows. (they were hungry)

Bird foodI have bought a little half a coconut thing and my plan is to take his empty seed feeder down and put my coconut there and he won’t notice that there is no seed left.

I just needed a little bit of help from the Woodpeckers.

Coconut FeederAnd do you love Woodpeckers? I love Woodpeckers.

Coconut feeder“Of course! He has removed the seed feeder and put a coconut there to focus on the Woodpeckers. What a clever man and what lovely birds.”

I am considered locally to be a bit of a bird Guru but I am not and I have to go to bird experts all of the time for help. It just stems from one silly little thing. My landlord loves Goldfinches and almost as soon as we met we got talking about birds and he told me about this fascination, he had never had them in the garden but he knew some great places where we could go and see them. Goldfinches love sunflower hearts. He has got charms of Goldfinches in his garden now. I don’t actually like them that much myself, I mean they are cool and I am kind to all animals. i like the Dunnock and the Wren, tiny little brown things that you wouldn’t notice. Modest and beautiful.

Don’t worry about the Sparrows they are eating peanuts now and they pig the worms that I put out for the Dunnocks and Robins and the sunflower hearts that the Goldfinches love.

So that is the birds sorted, next we have to do the caterpillars.

I have got five of them now. Although the nettles seem to thrive I have noticed that after a couple of days the caterpillars seem to lose interest. If I give them fresh leaves they charge around like little monkeys, so, change the leaves.

First I have to make sure that nobody is about to moult or pupate.


Then so long as I am happy with the situation I just have to pop down to the florists and buy a new bunch of nettles.

Stinging NettlesThis is an Ouch Ouch Ouch moment for me. (“I will take you out in a minute, I just have to look after my bugs”)

I have to count them all off the leaves…

CaterpillarsPut the fresh leaves in…


Then all that I have to do is watch them for about an hour.

I gave up covering them. Once they have found their leaves they are fine and don’t try and escape. There is just a little transition period when I disturb them and I have to make sure that they settle back in.

Small Tortoiseshell LarvaeWalkies!

There is something about nature that I find attractive. Plus Dogs need walking even if they are not your own.

FieldSo here is the Fox-cam.

FoxcamI surveyed this area a few weeks ago. I left the camera out for three nights and each night it returned sixty videos (The limit of the SD card) This is a bit of a Fox and Badger hotspot.

I have set the camera right beside an abandoned Badger sett that I think has been taken over by Foxes.Fox earthWhat I would like to get is daytime footage of the Fox. The Badgers opened up this outlier sett in March but they have moved into the next field. If we get some good weather soon we will go Badger watching. There are some nice Elm trees up by the new sett, they didn’t all succumb to Dutch Elm Disease.

We have to be a little bit careful with the Badgers because DEFRA are continuing with their pilot cull in this area. They are a bit cagey about exactly where they are culling but I think that we are safe because they send out sett surveyors first and we haven’t seen them.

They don’t ask for permission to kill your animals they just send you a letter telling you that their surveyors will be on your land at such and such time and there is nothing that you can do about it. They are rubbish at finding Badger setts though and our main sett is on a public footpath, I don’t think that they can shoot there.

The fields are lovely at the moment. My landlord normally lets them out for grazing in the summer and we have either sheep (short grass) or cattle (long grass) but just now they are being allowed to grow for the grass crop. They will be mown as soon as we get a bit of dry weather and some lucky animals will get to eat a wildflower meadow.


Clover Red Clover Bluebell Forget-me-notThere is a down side to having such long grass when it is wet…

wet wet wetBut it is more of a down side when you are a midget.

FizzHappy midget.

FizzSo, rambling on, here we are in the forest and it is hard for me to put my camera down.

Chestnut coppice

Chestnut coppice

Chestnut coppice

Chestnut coppiceThis is a derelict Sweet Chestnut coppice, we are in the woods behind the farm. The ferns are mostly Broad Buckler but there are Male Fern and Shield Ferns here as well. Much of the green on the floor is what remains of the Bluebells.

BluebellsThe Bluebells are quietly going to seed now.



BluebellThese seed pods will slowly dry and turn brown, then they will crack open showering shiny black seeds everywhere.

One of the things that I love most about the Bluebells is that the end of the Bluebells isn’t really the end of anything, it is the very beginning of summer.

Yew Tree

Well I better wind this up now and go and get my Fox cam, it was good whiskey.