Dorset Coppice Group

Bonsley Wood CPD

Director Phil Easton recently attended a CPD at Bonsley Wood, learning the art of Coppice making;

"I spent a fascinating day with the Dorset Coppicing Group at the Living Classroom in Bonsley Wood not far from our offices. 

There were approximately 50 people attending the day. 

We split up in to 8 groups and each of us was able to participate in four activities for an hour and a half each. 

I started with coppicing which is fascinating. We learned how to choose which boughs to cut and which to leave and what different sizes of wood would have been used for. If they were not straight they would go for firewood. Thicker straight pieces can be used for furniture making, thin pieces become walking sticks or used in hurdle making. Long thin pieces can be bent down to the ground with the bark scratched off and pegged into fresh soil to root and make new boles. 

Although these are ancient practices, they are still relevant today. 

Then it was on to hurdle making. This is a real art form and very labour intensive, it takes at least two and a half hours to make one hurdle. You have to select and then split each Hazel stem. You use a sharp bill hook but as you are splitting the Hazel, you have to keep the direction of the split down the middle of the branch. This is easy to do with practice but it is slow and painstaking work. 

After a break for a BBQ lunch, it was on to rustic furniture making. In conjunction with a couple of enthusiastic young ladies, we worked on a garden bench just using Hazel branches. Although the end product looked a little rickety, it was certainly very comfortable. 

We finished the afternoon with hedge laying. We were laying Hazel but it is possible to lay other hedge plants. This is a slow process which is why hedge layers charge about £12 per metre. Every branch and stem has to be carefully assessed and because they are inevitably of different sizes, they are treated in different ways. 

The day rushed by and I learnt so much. This is a marvellous experience I would recommend to anyone with an interest in the countryside."