A traditional approach to woodland management
To create, develop and manage our woodlands and plantations we use a combination of traditional thinning and coppicing on the trees and shrubs. This approach is broadly similar to the historic way woodlands were traditionally managed in lowland England. Known as 'coppice with standards', it is a system which creates a visually diverse and healthy landscape comprising of widely spaced trees of varying age and height with a shrub or coppice layer of variety and colour underneath.
The tall dominating trees found in plantations are periodically thinned out. This usually happens when they start competing for the same light and like ‘seeds in a tray’ all start pushing up looking for more light, without necessarily putting on any stem strength. At this same time, they will start to starve the under canopy and ground flora of light, which is vital for their survival.
As we carry out tree thinnings, we look to remove diseased trees or trees that are structurally weak and might fail or collapse in the future. We also look to maintain and encourage a diversity of species. This helps safeguards plantations or the woodlands from future attack from pests or disease e.g. Chalara or Ash Dieback, which could be disastrous in in mono-cultures.
Shrub species that can be found within woodlands, plantations or ‘stand-alone’ shrub beds are often coppiced on an appropriate cycle. Coppicing is a process where the shrub (or tree) is cut above the ground and is allowed to grow back. In a woodland scenario, the resulting re-growth will form a strong shrub layer beneath the tree canopy. Coppicing of shrubs will also maintain plant health, which is vital in the harsh clay soils that the plants often find themselves in, as these soils have often been disturbed and compressed during the build stage of Milton Keynes. Copping generally also encourages the plant to retain vigour, without over extending themselves, thus saving plants from weakening or dying. Coppicing will help the root systems cater for the rest of the plant by allowing them to provide the necessary amount of water and nutrients for the plant to survive. Plants are often coppiced to maintain colour or flowering strength; plants such as the red or yellow Dogwoods are coppiced to retain a strong and vivid stem colour, which is most prevalent in young stems and was part of the original design objectives. Coppicing is also carried out to maintain sight lines along footpaths or around bends or to roads.
You can already see what an attractive environment such techniques create by visiting Linford Wood, Shenley Wood or Howe Park Wood, where we have been using this traditional approach for several decades. The results are a healthy landscape for both our leisure and enjoyment and for the rich wildlife which thrives within the trees canopy and the undergrowth.