For centuries local people have been cutting wood in Fineshade and for 9 years until 2016 the Fineshade community had a contract to coppice areas, providing a great sustainable supply of firewood.
Paul Hackett writes:
Coppicing is an English term for a traditional method of woodland management which takes advantage of the fact that many trees make new growth from the stump or roots if cut down. In a coppiced wood, young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level. In subsequent years, many new shoots emerge and after a number of years the coppiced tree, or stool, is ready to be harvested and the cycle begins again.
Within the confines of annual contracting with the Forestry Commission, parts of Fineshade are coppiced by local people. Traditionally coppicing can be done on cycles of between 4 to 20 years depending on the trees and the ground conditions.
Each phase of the regeneration favours one or more parts of the woodland ecology. Before trees are cut they are a home to numerous bird species, lichens and mosses. After cutting, woodland flowers grow and enable insects, bees and small mammals to thrive. The new shoots are a delicacy for deer and other herbivores in the woodlands and after a few years brambles take over and give a home, food and security to dormice and some larger mammals and reptiles. The brambles also protect the stools enough to prevent the deer eating new shoots.
Eventually the tree has grown to a sufficient size for some of it to be suitable for stakes, binders and other useful products and after a few more years the trees can be felled again for fire wood or charcoal making.
The community coppice plot in Hollow Wood near King's Cliffe in 2009
The last community project - removing willow in Mill Wood in the spring
Within Fineshade, various areas have been coppiced traditionally for hundreds of years until the wood began to be used as a commercial plantation forest by the Forestry Commission.
The practice of coppicing started again in Fineshade early in the 21st century and the hope was to make it a very long-term project, becoming cyclic in the traditional way. There was a hope that some of the more ancient crafts such as harvesting stakes and binders for hedge-laying, or making charcoal could also be reintroduced.
Local residents formed into groups to bid for contracts and from 2011 to 2016 we harvested willow from Mill Wood in the west part of Fineshade Wood.
The main objective there was to give the recently planted oaks a chance to grow tall and straight by removing the willow canopy. The willow was removed as waste product and used for wood burners.
Sadly, in October 2016, the residents' group decided that they were unable to continue because of the ever-increasing restrictions that were being placed upon their activity.
At the moment there is, once again, no Community Coppicing taking place in Fineshade Wood. What a shame!