Pole 5

Coppicing, dead and laid hedges

Coppicing and the creation of dead hedges and laid (living) hedges are traditional woodland management techniques that have various benefits for the trees, wildlife and people.

Coppicing is the regular cutting of trees near their base to encourage new stems to grow from the stump. This can provide a sustainable source of timber and firewood, as well as improving the health and longevity of the trees. Coppicing also allows more light to reach the woodland floor, to stimulate the growth of a diverse range of plants and flowers. These in turn attract insects, birds and mammals, creating a rich and varied habitat for wildlife. The woodland in Forster Memorial Park has many copses of hazel trees that were coppiced regularly in the past. Did you know that the word ‘copse’ is a 16th century shortening of ‘coppice’? ‘Coppice’ came from Old French ‘copeiz’, based on medieval Latin colpus ‘a blow’.

Dead hedges are fences made from the branches and twigs that are left over after coppicing. They are useful for keeping the coppice tidy and to create barriers that protect selected areas of woodlands from trampling. During the project volunteers built many dead hedges around the park. Look out for them as you walk around.

Hedgelaying is another traditional management technique that has been practised for centuries. It is the process of cutting partway through a standing tree or shrub, and then bending and positioning (laying or layering) the stem to form a barrier. The laid trees/shrubs are still alive and continue growing to create a thick and living barrier.

Both dead and live hedges are extremely valuable for wildlife. They provide shelter and food for many animals, such as hedgehogs, mice, voles, birds and insects and act as corridors for wildlife to move between different areas of the woodland.

This trail was created as part of the Ancient Woodland Restoration project delivered by Lewisham Council in partnership with the Friends of Forster Memorial Park in 2023-24. The aim of the project was to improve the park both for biodiversity and the local community.

The project was part of the second round of the Rewild London Fund supported by the Mayor of London, in partnership with the London Wildlife Trust.

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