Posted: Tuesday 26th November 2019
Over the coming weeks, we will be undertaking the first phase in a long-term restoration of hornbeam woodland at Bencroft Wood, part of the Broxbourne Woods National Nature Reserve.
As with many of Hertfordshire’s hornbeam woodlands, Bencroft Wood was historically managed by coppicing to supply wood products such as charcoal. Due to a decline in demand for these products, many woodlands have sat unmanaged for well over half a century, which allows a dense and shaded canopy to form (as seen in the photos... it was a sunny day!); this reduces tree vitality, and has a detrimental impact on the woodland ecosystem and its species.
Following a successful five year re-coppicing trial at Bencroft, we are starting to gradually reintroduce the same traditional coppicing techniques that were used over a century ago. Coupe 1 will be coppiced this winter, followed by 19 further coupes (compartments) to be cut across the woodland over the next 20 years.
Coppicing will involve cutting the vast majority of hornbeam in the coupe to 'stubb' level. Whilst this may look drastic initially, hornbeam responds well to being coppiced and will flush with new growth; this even prolongs the life of the tree well beyond its natural lifespan. Furthermore, it provides welcome open space for woodland plants and animals to inhabit. The tall oak ‘standard’ trees will be left to maintain wildlife habitat.
This work is the next stage of restoration as programmed in the Greenspace Action Plan 2019-24 for Broxbourne and Bencroft Woods. The coppicing work is being funded through a DEFRA Countryside Stewardship agreement together with income generated from the sale of hornbeam products.
The CRoW facebook page and e-Newsletter will keep you up to date with the progress of the works and how the habitat regenerates over the coming months.