How to make the most of longer days in the woods

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If you manage woodlands you’ll know that spring heralds the time to reduce your timber harvesting. Richard and the CAT woodland team look at what opportunities the break in late spring and summer offers sustainable woodlands.

After what seemed like a long cold winter of rain and snow, some of you might have been worried that we’d never see spring! But with the first buds of blossom and the wild garlic flowering it seems that spring is finally upon us – though the rain is still here!

So what now for your woodlands?

Harvesting in April to May should be avoided in most native woodlands, especially those with dense ground flora. Indeed, it is best to avoid it in any managed woodlands until the autumn. This means spring provides the perfect time to start thinking about what products your woodlands can provide.

One of the easiest is to bind together Birch brash to create traditional “besom” brooms. Other uses for brash include bundling it up to create faggots for firing clay ovens. Long bundles of brash can also be used to stablise riverbanks and muddy footpaths. Willow can also provide the perfect charcoal for artists.

Chairs and gates are other potential products. They can be relatively quickly produced from green wood. Green wood is easy to use because it still contains sap, which makes the material easier to shape. If you want to develop this area of your business, a workshop can prove invaluable. Many sustainable woodland businesses use foot operated lathes to turn furniture legs and tool handles.

“The gentle interaction between the woodland and the woodsman, between wood and craftsman, is something to be cherished. The natural environment is our life support system and through understanding it we can step closer to making our communities more sustainable.” – Adam Thorogood, woodland management officer at CAT (you can read more here)

The warmer months also provide a fantastic opportunity to monitor the biodiversity in your forests. Ideally, we’d recommend that you record the different flora and fauna throughout the year but this can prove tough after the leaves have fallen. Trees become harder to identify and the forest floor can be masked by rotting leaves and snow or mud.

Managing a native woodland offers a great opportunity to promote biodiversity. Without active management, levels of life-promoting sunlight become reduced. The woodland understorey can become overgrown with brambles and high levels of nutrient run-off from agriculture can encourage prolific growth of plants like nettles instead of more diverse flora.

So as the local wildlife becomes more prominent over the next few months, you can witness firsthand how your sustainable management has affected biodiversity.

Many woodland owners may not realise that with a more considered approach to management they could get a wealth of rewards. More active management can help them make a bigger contribution to the economy, to carbon storage, whilst at the same time protecting and enhancing the environment and our heritage.

“Community woodlands are delivering a huge range of public and community benefits, including recreation facilities, biodiversity conservation, rural development and jobs, renewable energy through wood fuel, locally produced woodland products, social inclusion, and outdoors education.” – Coed Lleol Website

By hanging up our felling axes and focusing on biodiversity and green wood products until the nights draw in again, we can create truly sustainable woodlands.

CAT have approximately 30 acres of woodland under management, including a mix of species and ages. Our woodland experts teach on a series of short courses throughout the year. Find out more here.