challenges of urban coppicing

Burnt fence. Grrr!

We turned up at Brackenbed in North Halifax on Tuesday to a bunch of deer in one of our coppice falls. Their white bums flashed as they scarpered. We HAD fenced the area with some lovely lightweight plastic deer mesh – easy to use, much cheaper than wire and much less grim. But fifty yards of the fence was no longer there, it was melted into strangely attractive patterns on the ground. We’ve had to repair vandalism at the site a couple of times already, but it wasn’t too bad: the odd snapped fence post, a few saplings pulled out of the ground. We thought they’d get bored before we did. But when a big stretch of fence gets burnt down, it looks less feasible to buy and erect more fence, and more, and more.

We’re in a pretty tight bind: we don’t want to use fencing, but deer are everywhere. We were moving these falls at Brackenbed towards good quality hazel coppice, but deer love young, succulent hazel shoots. And fencing is really the only effective way to keep the deer away for the first few years. We don’t want to invest in wire fencing and it wouldn’t be appropriate on such a busy site anyway. Dead hedging would be great, but there’s not enough material. So basically there’s no way we can turn this youthful woodland into an awesome hazel coppice.

This summer we will watch and observe, and see which species of tree the deer don’t eat. If there’s enough of them, then we may continue coppicing here for a mixed firewood crop. If the deer munch most stuff, then we’ll just have to abandon the site. We’ll keep on posting news and photos of what grows and what doesn’t.

Massive thanks to all the dog walkers and locals at Brackenbed who have stopped for a chat and been really supportive – it means a lot to us that most people like what we’re doing. Shame about the few idiots who don’t.

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