Coppicing

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What is coppicing and why do we do it?

The management of our parks takes place all year round, and the winter months are the perfect time for coppicing. We understand it may seem odd to many that we would be cutting back the many plants that are spread across Milton Keynes’ green space, but please rest assured; it’s a key part of our land management. If you want to better understand what coppicing is and why we do it, read our quick guide below. 

Coppicing - what is it?

Coppicing is the traditional process of cutting back of certain woody plants to just above ground level (usually 100-200mm). Lots of plants are suitable for coppicing, including laurel, hazel, dogwood, rose and willow. For various reasons, it’s been part of land management for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Traditionally it would have been undertaken to provide local communities such things as firewood, charcoal, fencing or building materials and foliage for livestock.

Why do we need to do it?

Coppicing helps rejuvenate and prolong the life of individual plants and encourages regrowth. This process supports plant health by opening up the ground to other plants, including herbaceous grasses, wild flowers etc., which is important for a varied green space. It also helps to eliminate pests and diseases and helps remove fungi or bacteria that, for example, attack the plants stems.

Furthermore, it is important to ensure the city’s roads, footpaths and redways are safe for people to use. Coppicing helps maintain the site lines and lines of vision.


How does it affect the plant?

The winter period is when shrubs and other plants go into their dormant period. It is at this time the plants store nutrients and sugars safely in the roots, which sustains them over the winter but is also offers an energy source for the coming growing season. It is during this dormant period that it is best to cut or coppice the plants generally at 100-200mm above ground level. When spring arrives, the plants will start to regrow, often quite rapidly. Such coppicing activity helps rejuvenate and prolong the life of individual plants.

Shrub species such as Willow and red and yellow stemmed Dogwoods that we frequently see across the city are often grown for their stunning winter colours. If left to grow year upon year, in the harsh clay and made up soils of Milton Keynes they can over extend themselves and lose their vitality and strong colouring. This is detrimental to the plant, especially as the clay dries out in the summer - the shrubs can start to weaken and die, as the roots cannot maintain the rest of the plant with water etc. Coppicing helps prevent this unwanted scenario.

You may see our landscaping team coppicing in our parks over the winter months – if you’ve got any questions, do ask them or get in touch with us by phone, email or on our social media @theparkstrust. 

Frequently asked questions about our operational work:


  • Tree Thinning

    Find out why we cut down some trees across Milton Keynes to protect the long-term health of our parks and green spaces and improve them for generations to come.

    Learn more...
  • Woodland Management

    We have adopted some ancient techniques in our woodland management, such as coppicing, which benefits wildlife and woodland plants.

    Learn more...
  • Cricket Bat Willows

    Did you know we commercially grow willow trees to be manufactured into cricket bats which are used in international games?

    Learn more...

Discover our parks

  • Blackhorse Wood

    Facilities:

    • Toilets
    • Barbecue Area
    • Café
    • Play Area
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    Blackhorse Wood is located off Wolverton Road, close to Stonepit Field and Great Linford Manor Park. The woodland has developed over the past forty years or so on former paddocks that straddled the embankment of the old Wolverton to Newport Pagnell railway line, which ceased being used in the 1960s and now forms the Milton Keynes Railway Walk (adopted foot/horse/cycle path).

    Refreshments

  • Stonepit Field

    Facilities:

    • Toilets
    • Barbecue Area
    • Café
    • Play Area
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    Stonepit Field is the location for many events including wildflower walks and fossil hunts. It is also a great place for dog walking.

    Refreshments
    Refreshments are available from the nearby Black Horse pub.

  • Howe Park Wood

    Facilities:

    • Toilets
    • Barbecue Area
    • Café
    • Play Area
    Howe Park Wood - park.jpg

    Howe Park is probably the woodland mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086. Parts of it may be rare surviving fragments of the 'wildwood' that covered the whole of lowland Britain after the last Ice Age, 6-11,000 years ago.

    Refreshments
    There is a Café at Howe Park Wood ran by Grounds. The café is operating a takeaway only service until further notice.

  • The Toot

    Facilities:

    • Toilets
    • Barbecue Area
    • Café
    • Play Area
    The Toot Park.jpg

    This small pasture area at Shenley Church End is a scheduled ancient monument because in 1239 AD it was a moated motte and bailey castle, home to the family of Hugh, Earl of Chester. The motte and bailey castle consisted of an earth-built mound (the motte) normally topped with a timber tower, standing in a flat fortified enclosure (the bailey). Please note the toot can be hard to access at different times of the year due to the motte around it.

    Refreshments
    There are no facilities on site but there are a range of pubs and shops in Shenley Church End about 10 minutes’ walk away to the east.

  • We have received the Green Flag Award for our entire network of parks for the fourth year in a row!
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