LlyG members blog – Hands on learning at Coppicewood’s woodland skills course

Posted on June 10, 2015 by

Coppicewood College runs an in depth 6 month woodland skills course, which has been attended by LlyG members over the years. In this guest blog Kirsten Manley, Director of Coetiroed Dyfi Woodlands and LlyG members give’s a glowing personal insight into this highly informative and enjoyable course.

This week I returned to Cwm Plysgog Wood in Cilgerran, Cardigan, to complete my woodcraft project I began whilst on my 6 month Woodland Skills Course with Coppicewood College. The training ended at the beginning of April, yet I continue to receive support from my tutors Nick Barnes, Barbara Goodwin and Martin Aughton.

Why choose the 6 month Woodland Skills Course?

The course offers a rich curriculum which develops knowledge and understanding about broadleaf trees, how to identify them and their uses once coppiced. It is structured in way that allows for students to build on their current skills and to develop new ones in how to decide which trees to coppice and how these can be coppiced in a safe and effective manner.

Within the course there are also 3 four day long immersive experiences in coppicing, hedge laying and green woodcraft skills. This allows students to hone their skills and empowers them to consider the economic gain for implementing them outside of the course.

When does the course run?

The course runs for two days a week on a Wednesday and a Thursday which allows time in between newly learnt skills to begin practicing on your own site. It begins in October and ends in April with the 3 four day long coppicing, hedge laying and green woodcraft skills spread evenly throughout.

Coppicewood College also offer a volunteer day every Wednesday where you have the opportunity to visit the site prior to the course and meet the tutors while being guided by the lovely Sue and Roddy in charcoal making.

Who is the course for?

The seven participants completing the course came from a wide range of backgrounds: medical research, information technology, crane operation, dance, community engagement and mathematics. Most of these folk had recently purchased a woodland, plan to work in woodlands owned by others or had a woodland surrounding their home or, in my case, had begun the process of engaging in the development of a community woodland group.

Each of us attended with the aim of ensuring we developed the skills for sustainable woodland management. What each of us received was inspirational and attentive tutoring which catered for each of our individual needs and objectives whilst consistently reinforcing our understanding of woodland management with sustainability as the key message.

All participants left the course feeling empowered to manage their woodland in a sustainable way and with a better understanding of how to use the coppiced wood as products for economic gain, thus extending the ethos of sustainability into communities surrounding our woodlands.

What did I learn?

The introduction to woodcraft techniques prior to heading out to the coppice plot allowed me to become familiar with the tools needed for coppicing in a safe and repetitive way. Thus once on the coppice plot, I was able to transfer my experience of the tools to fell trees appropriately. Smaller trees were targeted at first and later I learnt how to fell the larger trees using larger axes and a two man saw. I learnt how to tie safe knots which was introduced prior to a demonstration of how to direct the fall of a tree and after all the trees were down I experienced how to layer hazel saplings to increase the amount of hazel trees on the coppice plot.

It was also evident throughout my time working on the coppice plot that this method of woodland management has a lasting impact on biodiversity. The plots that had been coppiced over the past 8 years teamed with flora and useful tree growth for future coppicing. Today during my lunch break, I walked to through the wood and found an abundance of bees, birds, insects and evidence of field mice in action!

Learning how to lay a hedge has already provided me with some income within my local community and I have supported other community groups in developing their hedge laying skills. I will be suggesting the new community woodland group set up a retort to create local charcoal for local people.

In addition to this, I found the social aspects of this style of management interesting. The pace was slower, people were more mindful of their actions and it was evident that people had a general sense of well-being at the end of the day. During our tea and lunch breaks, either around the fire or warm and toasty in the workshop, there was much laughter and banter which always lifted our spirits. It dawned on me that this style of management leaves room for quiet reflection, interesting conversation and a sense of achievement at the end of the day. What better way to support any community engagement?!

How will my new skills be used?

I work for a Llais y Goedwig associated member group, Coetiroedd Dyfi Woodlands, who hope to contribute to the new Community Woodland Management Programme for Coed Ty Gwyn in Forge. By offering our skills in coppicing to the newly established community woodland group we aim to guide and support the community in sustainable woodland management and bring in a small income which will fund further management of the site.

As we now have two coppice workers qualified through Coppicewood College, the group will be able to apply for permission from NRW to co-manage Coed Ty Gwyn and demonstrate the necessary skills for sensitive sustainable woodland management. This will not only benefit the wildlife on the site, but also develop the community’s skills in coppicing and producing products which will provide an economic return which will contribute to the future management of the site.

Overall impression of the Woodland Skills Course?

Excellent! Just do it!

If you would like to experience the multiple benefits of the 6 month Woodcraft Skills Course for yourself, contact the College’s secretary Roddy Campell at coppicewood01@aol.com



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