The Ancient Art of Coppicing – Bristol’s Leigh Woods

The Greenwood Barn
The Greenwood Barn

The smell of woodsmoke and the sound of axes splitting wood and violins playing old Irish tunes drew families to the Green Barn in Leigh Woods, Bristol. IMG_0453

Craft workshops  gave people a try at some woodland skills.

 

Coppicing
Coppicing

Rypelwood Workers Co-op work to revive ancient skills of sustainable use of woodland products. Coppicing is a way of harvesting useful wood without killing the tree. It is cut and the stump re-sprouts multiple trunks.

Harvesting Coppicewood
Harvesting Coppicewood
Regrowth from Stump
Regrowth from Stump

 

 

The woodland is harvested in rotation,  and woodland flowers grow in the cleared sections.

Coppicing has been done for thousands of years and it is good for biodiversity.

Using a billhook to clean up beanpoles
Using a billhook to clean up beanpoles

 

Weaving a wattle wall
Weaving a wattle wall with coppice wood.

 

 

 

 

 

Carving Spoons
Carving Spoons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spoon carving was going well.  Learners shaped pieces of green wood with a small axe.  They hollowed out the bowl of the spoon with a curved knife.

Spoon Knives
Spoon Knives

 

Willow Basket Making
Willow Basket Making

Basketmaking involved big bundles of green willow shoots.

Weaving green willow, even beginners made a basket in an hour or two.

Finished basket
Finished basket
IMG_0406
Learning to weave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some people worked with bigger logs of  newly cut wood.

Green woodwork tools
Green woodwork tools
Splitting with a maul and mallet
Splitting with a maul and mallet

Workers with green wood use wedges, froes and  mauls to split along the grain, instead of sawing.  The wood fibres are not cut so it keeps its maximum strength.

An adze or a drawknife will shape and smooth the wood.  For garden gates and trelisses, the split pieces look good just as they are.

Garden gate from split wood
Garden gate from split wood

The early January sunset lit up the smoke from the fire and musicians gathered in the barn to play as the day ended.IMG_0471

Information: the Greeenwood Barn was built about 20 years ago using wood cut from the surrounding forest.  It is usually just a shelter for walkers but events like this take place from time to time.

Access is from the A369 Bristol – Portishead road.  Travelling from Bristol, pass through the traffic lights where the B3129 goes off to the left.  The barn is down a track on the right a short way after the lights.  Cars can be parked by the track and the barn is signposted down a footpath. There are mountain bike trails as well as footpaths running through the woods. The woods are beautiful at any time of year but paths can be muddy after rain.

Green woodworking tools are available from Bristol Design toolshop in Perry Road, Bristol.