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The Cleft Stick, Spring 2019 Issue


NCFed News
Letter from the Chair
Website Update
NCFed charcoal bags ready to go
National Coppice Week
NCFed Insurance
NCFed appoints new Communications Officer
Media & Marketing Sub-Committee(MAMSC)
News from around the Regions
Rockingham Forest Coppice Group
East Anglia Coppice Network
Cornwall Coppice Group
Hampshire Coppice Group
Apprenticeship Catchup
News from Dorset
Articles & Discussion
Charcoal and Cheese
To Burn or not to Burn?
Myths of Epping Forest
Cutting - Up or Down?
On a mission - to teach broom making
Does Independent Assurance of Charcoal Matter?
Willow, Devil’s-Bit Scabious, the Moors and the Marsh Fritillary
NCFed Gathering & AGM 2019
Charfest 2019
European Charcoal Burners Gathering
Green Scythe Fair
Bodgers Ball
Regular Features
A pint with....
Terry's Top Tips
From the Bookshelf
Tried & tested
Photo competition
Celebrating Success

NCFed News

Welcome to your new look Cleft Stick Newsletter Spring 2019 Issue

The newsletter will be published twice yearly, with additional bulletins and notices being sent as and when throughout the year. The layout and styling are still in the early stages of development. When the new NCFed website (see below) goes live, the styling of the two will be harmonised. If you have ideas of features or content type you'd like to see in here then please let us know.

This is YOUR newsletter, so as well as containing all that is going on within NCFed itself, we need YOUR contributions from around the UK. The next issue date is 31st October 2019, so please get your contributions to me well in time by sending them, with photos, to

If you currently get the Cleft Stick via your group rep, you can subscribe on the website and get it directly if you'd prefer.
Thanks and happy reading,
Dave Jackson (Cleft Stick Editor)
and the MAMSC team
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Letter from the Chair

Hello everyone,

Welcome to the long-awaited spring edition of the Cleft Stick, the biannual newsletter of NCFed. It’s been a while coming, thanks for being patient. Happy reading.

Firstly, for anyone I’ve not met before, my name is Toby Allen and 6 months ago I was nominated as the Chair of NCFed. My wife and I run a small coppice business in Herefordshire, cutting chestnut for fencing, alongside providing low impact forestry services, mobile sawmilling and selling firewood. My passion is identifying and removing the barriers to managing British woodlands. Climate change is the biggest issue our society faces. As individuals, it is hard to see what we can do to halt the environmental destruction of the planet, yet trees and woodlands must be a part of a sustainable future. Coppice systems are wonderfully efficient at capturing carbon, with multiple benefits to society, biodiversity and the economy. It’s an exciting time to be working in the forest industries, and being part of a national coppice network is more important than ever. Our motivation for cutting trees may vary, as does the scale we operate at, the techniques we use and products we make, yet these differences are the strength of NCFed. By welcoming all those with a love of coppice we can learn a lot from each other.

The fact NCFed exists is a brilliant accomplishment, and a credit to the people who worked hard to conceive and build the organisation we have today. Through local groups, we cover most of the country. From the feedback you’ve given us, it’s now time to make the most of our network, and from May 1st Suz Williams will be our communications officer. Send Suz your news to share on Social Media, if you’ve a surplus to sell, an event to promote, or want to show examples of good practice this network is there for you. Use it and enjoy.

Being a member of our network means more than just sitting back and waiting for things to happen. It’s your organisation, help make it what you want it to be! Your feedback also asked for a clear pathway to achieving our core values; bringing together coppice workers, promoting the benefits of coppice management and promoting good practice. At the last directors' meeting we agreed a vision for the next 5 years. The next meetings will be focusing on the strategy to making the vision a reality. Taking responsibility for making things happen empowers us all, ask your reps how you can get involved, share your ideas on social media, organise events and make links with your neighbouring groups.

Coppice sits within a bigger picture of woodland and forest management, over the next few months I’ll be contacting like minded organisations to ask how we can work together on the key issues we have in common. Keep an eye on the trade press!

Finally; remember coppicing has a long history and can be part of a solution to a worldwide problem, but the future relies on us.

Toby Allen
Chair, NCFed
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Website Rebuild

You may have noticed that the NCFed website is down for essential maintenance. It has been subject to hacking for a number of years which and it has been seriously compromised. The best way to eradicate these problems is to rebuild it from scratch. So please bear with us whilst Glenn Hadley (webmaster) carries out this essential work in his 'spare' time!
(Dave Jackson)
Calling all happy snappers!
The NCFed website is currently being updated and we’re on the lookout for a supply of good quality photographs that can be used to brighten up its pages. Photos of coppice, coppicing, crafting and any other related topics would be most welcome and all images used will be credited. If you have anything that you think might fit the bill then please email them to along with your name and where and when the photo was taken. If you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions on how the website could be improved then please include these in your email too!
(Glenn Hadley)
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NCFed Charcoal Bags ready to go

The new NCFed charcoal bags are ready to order from Selway Packaging. Both sizes should be in stock by the time you read this, the large bags being 740mm long, the small bags being 530mm. Both will cost 32p plus vat and carriage. Contact Paula Hunt at Selways on 01189 462333 to order. Please make sure you specify that you want the NCFed bags to ensure you do not get the old Coppice Association bags by mistake! Selways have agreed that I can bring a batch of bags to the next NCFed Gathering & AGM for distribution there as well. Happy charcoal making.
(Dave Jackson)
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National Coppice Week


I guess we all know what we do and why we do it: cut poles, process wood, make bits and pieces, sell stuff, sharpen, drink a beer. Then it’s autumn and it all starts again. Simple. And that’s why, I suspect, some of us do it. 
But does the rest of the world have even the slightest notion of what it’s all about? I’m surprised sometimes by questions asked by customers who have taken the trouble to find me on line, found me in the real world, parted with cash and liberally distributed green algae on cream leather upholstery. 

“So do you replant the trees every year?” This question from a fairly well-informed customer made me think there’s a need for National Coppice Week. Whilst what we do is pretty straightforward, it is out of the experience of most people including potential customers, politicians and people working in the media. They are the target of National Coppice Week. If it happens.
The plan so far has been knocked around by directors and reps nationally and is this:
Members of affiliated NCFed groups pledge to organise events to take place between 12 & 20 October. 

Events might be anything that will do something to get some even vaguely coppice related information over to those potential customers and influencers. Other allied organisations are cajoled into getting involved by running events too. A campaign of publicity begins in the early summer leading to the launch of the National Coppice Week at the NCFed Gathering on 12/13 October. Simple.
Well not quite! NCFed can only consider running with this if enough of you pledge events. If you are in an affiliated group, your group rep has already received an email asking for events. You should receive details soon. There will also be information on the NCFed website if you missed it or aren’t a member.

The deadline for event outlines is 17th May.

At this stage we just need:
Name, nature, location and date of your proposed event. Even if details aren’t certain send us what you’ve got now. But only do that if it’s really going to happen.
So get thinking, get chatting to friends, colleagues or anyone else who might be able to help. Send all your events to me, Guy Lambourne at

Between us we can let people know how simple our lives are; it’s bound to make them jealous!
(Guy Lambourne)
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NCFed Insurance

Have you moved your business insurance over to the NCFed scheme at Beech Tree Insurance?
Many have and saved money in the process. One major benefit is the free Employer's Liability cover, which if you employ anyone or simply ever work with volunteers, is a must.

Information will be on the website when it is up and running again, or call Beech Tree Insurance on 01245 505313 and say you want the NCFed Coppice  Insurance Scheme.
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NCFed Communications Officer Appointed

It is with great pleasure that I will be taking on the role of ‘Communications Officer’ for NCFed this year. If I'm honest we’re still working out exactly what that means... but be assured you will be getting to know me very well over the next few months as I badger you for all your great news and photos.

The coppicing network is vast and varied and we hope that we can bring together all the elements to create a unified network of coppice workers. It is a great industry and it really deserve to be put on the map in a substantial way so with your help we will also be reaching a larger audience to get more people buying your products!

We live in an ‘age of the image’ so taking photos of your daily activities or products will be very beneficial to letting people know what we’re up to and also keep each other informed of coppicing practices across the country.

We hope that having a central hub for sharing news, tips and tricks and debates will be of great benefit to everyone involved and so over the next few months, as well as asking for your general news, I will also be asking specific questions related to our industry. There is always more to learn and I hope that we can develop a space for us to find out new things or pass on valuable knowledge.

As an apprentice I’ve only been a part of this industry for 9 months, working with mentors across the country, but I’ve already got the coppicing bug and look forward to creating stronger connections and collaborations.

Suz Williams, East Anglian Coppice Network Member.

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Media and Marketing Sub Committee (MAMSC)

A (light hearted) insight into the inner workings of an NCFed sub-committee

MAMSC was set up (born from discussions at the 2018 weekend gathering in Hampshire) to promote NCFed to the wider world.

For some time, promoting and informing about the National Coppice Federation (NCFed) has been an issue and remains so :-

'' a bit like trying to herd cats '' some might say!

Various strategies have been tried, including setting up a Facebook page, the CLEFT STICK DESK. This was to gather ‘’copy’’ which randomly appears on social media. Editing a news letter turns out to be a little problematic. The use of this was curtailed in April 2017 in favour of a committee, and MAMSC was born in October 2018.

The scope of the internet and multimedia including television, presents a challenge on many levels. This can lead to confusion, suspicion and many missed opportunities. Disseminating information effectively to our members, associated groups and individuals is considered paramount.


Various individuals with disparate abilities regularly are in contact, between eating and sleeping, developing a combined approach to the challenges thrown up by the changing world. Any member, group or individual is more than welcome to contribute.

MAMSC are always on the lookout for input from members either ‘’full time’’ or on an ad hoc basis. MAMSC holds skype discussions as and when required on multiple topics. Most recently being, reinstating regular CLEFT STICK issues - and here it is!.

MAMSC has discussed one of the Country File slots which featured women hedge layers. It was agreed that quite a powerful message about hedge laying was achieved which we know led to valuable new hedge laying contracts for some contractors. There have been several discussions with particular reference to women and their profile within this organisation and Industry. Recently there was discussion focused on charcoal production, wood fuel and TV programmes, which featured NCFed representatives (albeit briefly in the final cut) and Grown in Britain’s Dougal Driver.

Country File / Gardeners’ World / Jamie’s Kitchen and other TV programmes have in the past, featured many individuals and crafts from our industry. We agree that a greater publicity impact should be achieved, with NCFed being the main feature. It could for example cover women in our industry, whilst also getting the message across about Coppicing & Coppice Industries.

We are also working on a rolling diary of events linked to the NCFed website such including:
National Beanpole Week
Bodger’s Ball
Grown in Britain Week
NATIONAL COPPICE WEEK in October (see separate article).

This has been a major discussion item at our meetings and was discussed and approved at the recent NCfed Directors and Reps meeting, 13th April 2019, Greenwood Centre, Coalbrookdale (Nice place, well worth a visit if you’ve not been).

Please be aware we are not media publishing experts. We continually need to explore our strengths and engage with others and exploit expertise.

Rob Newby
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News from around the Regions

Rockingham Forest Coppice Group Update

We’ve had a nice success from sharing a few large orders. After selling 20 bundles of binders I then sent the customer to another member  from whom he purchased his entire stock of binders.
Here at Rutland Water we’ve had great success using security fence panels to prevent deer from entering last year's coup resulting in great regeneration from the hazel. This combined with shooting is starting to show some positive progress when undertaking deer impact assessments. We’ve hosted a number of training sessions by the Deer Initiative for local woodland owners, farmers and woodland workers, looking at deer impact assessments.   
We’ve also started to supply our local allotments with beanpoles, hopefully securing a guaranteed market for the next couple of years. If it proves successful we hope to be able to call on other members to help increase volume.

Stoke Wood
During our spring meeting we had a walk around Stoke Wood near Desborough. Keith Walkling and Chris Howe gave us the history of the site and talked through its current management. We had a look at the past and current deer fencing and discussed advantages and disadvantages of various fencing options. We also discussed various considerations when re-stocking coups, such as whip size, guard size, competition of adjacent stools, when to cut new plantings and the time it takes for new plantings to become productive.
(Paul Trevor)
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East Anglian Coppice Network Update

Although we have nearly 40 people on the mailing list, it’s a challenge to bring them together for a meeting, in large part because of the distances involved. Covering six counties was always going to be tricky. Still, the 200 mile round trip to our AGM Wrong’s Covert, just north of Norwich, earlier in April was well worth the effort. Kathy Harris, the wood’s owner and manager, uses her wood as a venue to work with excluded children and I found it and her quite inspirational. Also at the AGM we decided as a group, to fund one or two tickets to the NCFed Gathering from subs. This is a response to comments from members that the Gathering is a significant expense to impoverished coppice workers. The group got together last August for a session on besom and rake making, led by Andy Basham and Paul Vodden. Both enjoyable and informative; it would be good to see at least one similar session this year.

Paul, the group’s founder has been saying from day one that the group covers too large an area to be practical. He’s quite right but we coppicers are pretty thin on the ground in what is the least wooded part of the UK. So it may be a while before we start to splinter. Watch this space.

Guy Lambourne
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Cornwall Coppice Group goings on....

Working Woodlands Cornwall are forging ahead with a solar kiln to dry their oak coppice firewood and once that's up and running we will be working on a local scale apprenticeship scheme for budding woodland workers. They've held a few workshops and talks over the last year for farmers and smallholders to learn more about sustainable woodland management and a popular open day to get the public into the woods and seeing what coppicing is!

Pentiddy woods continue to cut the hazel and sweet chestnut they planted around 15 years ago producing rods and poles of species that are hard to get in Cornwall! Their long term volunteers assisting and learning with a view to a more woody way of life!

Other members are cutting anything from 0.3ha to 0.03 ha with quite a few members working their own woods that are ash heavy plantings circa 20 years old.

We've not yet seen ash dieback on a major scale so far but it is as far as Truro at least and we're expecting to see a big change in the next 2 or 3 years.
The FC are apparently looking to target chestnut with Phytophthora this year so we expect to hear of more statutory felling orders etc...

Cornwall Council are currently putting together a tree canopy action plan to improve/increase tree cover (woods, hedges, orchards, street trees) in our relatively poorly wooded county.

Cornwall Woodmeet, an evening long conference for Cornwall's woodland industries gets better each year. Organised by the Duchy, Cornwall Council and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), it brings together a good crowd with speakers from the Forestry Commission (FC) and a whole host of other woodland bods and goes a good way to getting us out of the woods and seeing who's doing what!

The Cornwall Red Squirrel Project have been trapping and shooting greys on the Lizard Peninsula for a few years now and finally have some reds to breed from. They are looking to release them in 4 year's time.

The AONB have come up with a management plan to aid direction in the AONB areas. It supports coppicing and woodland management in general and has been a useful source for clauses to include in funding applications and the like!
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Hampshire Coppice Group

We had our recent AGM in a treehouse classroom at the Countryside Education Trust at Beaulieu in the New Forest. Their Education  Officer Anna is a coppice group member.

I had put forward a proposal that we change our group name. I realised, after reading the report 'Women In Coppice' produced by the discussion group at last Year's NCFed Gathering and AGM, that names have the power to influence. It was a close vote split 14 to 14 and the chair had the final vote and we are now Hampshire Coppice Group.

Membership is steady with 85 this year compared to 86 and 85 for the last two years. We always have a small turnover with a few drifting away and a few new members. This year we had 5 new with three of those joining at last year's Gathering/AGM here in Hampshire.

Toni Brannon

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Apprenticeship Catchup

This issue we hear from Suz Williams, who you may already have read will also be NCFed's new Communications Officer.

So, it's official, I've finished my first coppicing season, and what a season it has been. I’ve been out there in the rain and wind and snow enjoying every minute of it. Okay, so it's a novelty at the moment, but it's still been a fantastic alternative to city life.

My coppicing apprenticeship started in August and since then I've been travelling around the country working with some wonderful, well seasoned coppice workers who have been showing me all the different aspect of the business.

Although the ‘Journey-man’ style of learning was not part of the original apprenticeship I think that this has worked out fantastically. It seems that everyone has their particular strength or way of doing things, and I've been able to choose what is right for me. It has also meant that I’ve been able to be flexible with my time and quickly get stuckin to spending time co-managing a coppice restoration project in South Oxfordshire.

I also decided to throw myself in the deep end and organise my first volunteer coppicing day this February. It was held at the Greenbroom Growers Cooperative and we were keen to get as many local people involved as possible. In the end we managed to get the local scout group involved and they loved it! The scout leader said that it was the best event she’d been to with the scouts, ever! All the kids engaged really well and went home with all their fingers, which was great.

My passion has been ignited around the issue of getting the importance of coppicing and managing British woodlands into the public eye and I have lots of plans simmering away to get the message out there.

Now that the cutting season is over I’m looking forward to making some stuff with all these sticks I now have and putting on more community woodland activities.
(Suz Williams)

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News from Dorset

Dorset Coppice Group held its annual Wood Fair on 6th April, where members were invited to exhibit their work. In a nod to the Dorset 'hiring fairs' (mentioned in several of Thomas Hardy's novels), the Group also held several craft competitions; hurdle making, spar making & chestnut post cleaving.  Competitions such as these were often held at the hiring fairs to give rural workers the opportunity to display their talent to prospective employers.  Darren Hammerton won the hurdle making competition (for the 2nd year in a row), yours truly (Peter Jameson) won the chestnut post cleaving competition and Rod Miller won the spar making (so 2 out of 3 for Dorset wasn't too bad!). In addition to the competitions, we also welcomed Toby Hoad who was on hand to demonstrate timber extraction with his beautiful French Comtois horses, Fleur & Celine.

Away from the Wood Fair, the Group continues to thrive. We have an active membership and hold regular events at our off-grid classroom near Blandford Forum. We run monthly courses on a variety of woodland & coppice based crafts and have recently had good turnouts for people wishing to learn hedgelaying and willow basket making.  Our volunteers have finished cutting our coupe of hazel for this season and it's currently a riot of bluebells, wild garlic and wood anemones. If you wish to find out more about the Group or to join (you don't have to be Dorset based!), please take a look at our website:

PS Jameson
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Articles & Discussion

Charcoal and Cheese

You don’t expect these two words to go together but they do.

Around this time last year, I was approached by Martin Moyden of Moydens Hand Made Cheese to supply him with charcoal as he wanted to use it for one of the cheeses that he produces, called Ironbridge.

Martin came over to my wood in Telford to see for himself the charcoal making process. After explaining the process, how the wood was in a coppice rotation and that the charcoal was made from the timber harvest, we then got on with the charcoal making. I carried out a burn the previous day, which was bagged up ready for Martin to take away. This would be the charcoal that he would later grind down to dust and coat the truckles of cheese with.

As I had never heard of charcoal being used in this way for cheese making, Martin explained the reason why,

“We use the charcoal to help ripen the cheese evenly. Previously the cheese would sometimes go really ripe and soft whereas other times the cheese would still be very firm and not ripen. The charcoal helps us to achieve a more consistent cheese which our customers are loving.”


I was later invited to Market Drayton to see the cheese making process and taste the Ironbridge, which is a delicious mild creamy blue cheese. Of course, while I was there it would have been rude of me not to sample all the other fine cheeses he produces.

To Find out more about Martin's cheese you can visit his website

Mark Eccleston
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To Burn or not to Burn

That is the question??  A discussion??

"It is an offence to burn waste on land in the open, except under and in accordance with a Waste Management 3 Licence granted in terms of Sections 33 and 35 of the Environmental Protection Act. The offence described does not apply to the activities listed below, provided they have been registered with SEPA (Scotland) and EA (England and Wales) before the activities take place. Notification can be by phone or, preferably, by letter." (See: iii)
Frequently we are presented with cheery photographs of flaming piles of brash or pans set over fires to provide drinks and a meal for trusty woodland types.
Shortly to be followed by concerned environmentalists, wishing to preserve vast quantities of dead wood for invertebrate habitat, hedgehogs etc.
We are then presented with the worrying discussion about air quality and linking this to wood smoke and the continued use of wood burners. (See: i )
We are Coppicers! We work in woodland to derive an income from our efforts.
We sell what we cut and develop markets for our produce. (See: ii)
Time is money and so the management of brash/waste is an issue.
What is considered waste varies as pretty much everything we cut, has a use and consequently a value or cost. Rather than burning brash, I would suggest it can be formed into dead hedges or winnrows (vii), which can have the effect of changing the movements of grazing animals or keeping the public informed of where activity is taking place. Brash can be used to maintain free flowing water courses. Piles of unwanted brash will reduce to almost nothing in a couple of years. (See: iv)

‘’Burning waste in the open can cause air, land and water pollution and so needs to be controlled to limit this risk. You should find alternative methods of waste management wherever possible.’’ (See: vi)

We should also consider the legality of burning and also:-
Fires destroy the underlying roots , mycelium and soil structure,
Intrinsically this changes the nature of the woodland environment.
(This is of course what we set out to do in a good way?)

Rob Newby 
References :
  2.   NB This is where the 30% comes from??
  3. Burning Properties of Wood (FS315001) (PDF)
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Myths of the Forest
Tim Little & Pete Byfield

It’s a well-known fact that most of the older trees in Epping Forest are pollards. Stretching back into Anglo-Saxon times, pollarding was universal under a system that has been called wood-pasture. Fuel wood was lopped, supposedly on a cycle of around 14 years, well out of reach from cattle and deer grazing on the rough pasture below. Before this regime became established, the Forest was lime wildwood.

Pollarded beech and hornbeam hold a majority amongst these forest stands, although beech generally dominates the higher ground, with hornbeam more frequent on the lower, heavier soils. Many are overstood and subsequently losing large limbs, however those currently responsible for the Forest – The Corporation of London – have been carrying out sensitive reductions and repollarding works for some years now. These silvicultural activities have been carried out in conjunction with a careful programme of habitat restoration – with an emphasis toward restoring areas of traditional wood-pasture. The pollarded trees vary greatly in age, with countless specimens hundreds of years old. The significance of these is reflected in many parts of the Forest holding Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status. Perhaps however some of these trees are not as they seem and possibly older and therefore more significant than we think.

When observing more closely, and especially in the northern parts of the forest, various, intriguing forms of these trees occur. Clusters of pollarded stems – at a glance, maiden trees - occur in lozenge or oval-shaped formations. Some groups of stems have even escaped the cutting at height, so characteristic elsewhere. There are, literally, thousands of these clusters to be found in Epping Forest and the only likely explanation, in all but a small percentage of aberrant examples, is genetically identical clonal groups. In other words, it appears there has been a prolonged and effective cycle of coppicing in many areas of the Forest for a considerable time!

When these practices ceased however is open to discussion, although the full article proposes a rationale for the transition from coppicing, as a common practice, to pollarding. Investigating further, Pete Byfield studied the leaf-break phenomenon in both beech and hornbeam groups, whilst Tim Little sought to find if stems from a suspected beech clonal group, shared specific genetic markers. The former study comprised extensive observations, in St Thomas’s Quarters showing that, as hypothesised, these groups of beech broke into leaf simultaneously, especially when contrasted with surrounding groups. To evidence this, a drone was used in a neighbouring area, Dulsmead Hollow; a mysterious area of outstanding, beech clusters, most of which are pollards. The images obtained show this seemingly concurrent leaf-break quite clearly. The latter investigation focused in on an area also around Dulsmead Hollow. Here, a particular group of beech, also exhibiting synchronous leaf-break, were shown to be genetically distinct from neighbouring groups of the same species. Together these investigations gave a strong inference toward groups of beech like these, being derived from ancient coppice stools, some perhaps over 1,500 years old. In addition, various written sources make reference to evidence of coppicing in Epping Forest. In
recent time, the late Ken Hoy has pondered at the significance of these multi-stemmed trees.
Another is Thomas Fowell Buxton, a man with a previous history of managing parts of Epping Forest. He was unequivocal: Epping Forest pollards were derived from coppice.

Seemingly then, the current received wisdom that Epping Forest was historically managed as wood-pasture in the strictest sense, warrants fresh discussion. Perhaps most interestingly, are large parts of this landscape, between two river valleys near London, home to some of the country’s oldest trees?

To read the full article ...
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Up or Down?

This is the question! When using hand tools when coppicing, particularly with a billhook, do you cut the rod in an upward movement or downward? Recently, whilst scrolling through Facebook posts on the ‘Hedgelaying and Coppicing’ group, I came across a post by Elizabeth June showing bundles of cut stakes and binders. The post read:

“Cutting was billhooks. Not a chainsaw touches this coppice. Produced 15 bundles of stakes, 17 bundles of binders in four hours not a bad day and time for tea and biscuits”.

This intrigued me. As a coppice worker that enjoys the peace and quiet of the woodland, I enjoy cutting by  hand  (although  usually  with  a Silky saw). Having always  believed  that  cutting with the billhook was done upwards (a technique I had tried with mixed results), I thought I would pose a question and see if I   could  learn   any   pointers. So I asked   if  the   cuts   were   made upwards. I  was surprised to get a reply that they were cut downwards so, after a few more questions and answers, it transpired that this coppicer and her father have coppiced this way for many, many years. They had found in their coppice that doing it this way led to far better regrowth than if they had cut it with a chainsaw. So now I was keen to have a go myself! I also thought I would ask the question on another Facebook page. Well, the response was a total mixed bag - some for up, some for down - there was some great answers to the question.  Here are a few of them:

Roundhouse Richard Hobbs     -Seen it done both ways, me downward 
Steve Faulkner     - As I have an aversion for blades heading towards me, down and away
Richard Loader     - I always cut upwards mainly to avoid cutting it too much Earth and grubby stools. 
Michael Short     - Both, up for outer rods down for the inner ones to avoid high stubs. 
David Dunk      -  Would  definitely agree  up to  get a  better  cut  and shape   to  the   stool  when cutting chestnut or other multi stem stools with an axe you learn to swing an axe both left and right handed to cut the stub properly and shape the stub. Can be very affective when you get the hang of it. 
Angus Jardine      - defo upwards the heel of the axe or the back of hook should touch the ground so nothing is left more than 2 inches tall the top should be left with a clean, polished, cut side sheds water if you cut down the stool will be left split and open like a book try it. A downward cut is called a hag cut it’s rough and only used to mark places for sale (hag ways).

Well, now I see that coppicing and green woodworking is an individual choice and what may work for one, may not work for another.  So, in short, totally confused!  
Next season will be an eye-opener with lots to try!

David Ewers (Dorset Coppice Group)
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I’m on a mission.... to teach Broom making

Many crafts and the skills that go with them are in decline. The besom broom, humble as it is, is still the best thing for sweeping leaves, clearing worm dirts and helping get moss out of lawns. Witches have sworn by them for years!  Unfortunately, there are few of us left that make them commercially. The Heritage Crafts Association list a mere 7 of us and I think most of us are well into the gray haired stage of life. Hence I’m on a mission to spread the skills.
It all started following discussions with Mary Lewis from the Heritage Crafts Association (HCA) and then me being offered some chestnut coppice by the RSPB at Pulborough Brooks (great for handle material) then an offer to sell brooms in the RSPB shop. The idea started to take root. I then made clear my objective for the RSPB was to get the staff and volunteers making brooms for their shop from their own materials – so far only positive responses – Great.
From another direction a conservation group in Chaley Heath, East Sussex came to me asking to learn how to make brooms. Then, as if a higher power was pulling strings, I was talking to staff from the Southdown National Park Authority (SDNPA) who are interested in bringing heathland skills back to the national park. In the space of less than 2 months I have 3 groups ready and willing to take up the challenge of learning broom making. Hopefully, from the training some will continue and take it up more seriously to help satisfy a very real growth in demand that I am seeing.
I ran a session with the Chaley Heath Conservation Group in January gathering materials for both Brooms and pimps. We had a team of around 12 people cutting birch on Chaley Common then stripping the side shoots before finally bundling the materials ready for storage during seasoning. The following picture shows some of the team hard work getting stuck in to the tasks.
We all had a great day and the team went on to having a follow up day the next weekend. I understand that handle material has also been sourced and is now also seasoning. In July, some of the team are coming to me to learn how to make a broom or three in readiness for them using their material under their own steam where I will act as a mentor when they first get going to ensure they feel comfortable with their new skills.
I will take a slightly different approach with the RSPB team where I will get them making before they gather materials for the following year. The SDNPA are planning on organising workshop sessions then showcasing their newly learnt broom making skills at a ‘Secrets of the Heath’ show they organise in September. I will again be there mentoring to help overcome problems which may arise. Again, like the RSPB, the session will be followed by materials gathering sessions so SDNPA staff and volunteers have their own materials for the following year.
My mission to spread skills may be in the early stages but is already demonstrating that there are people willing to learn. It only takes a little effort to start opening doors.
Chris Letchford
Broom Squire
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Does Independent Assurance of Charcoal Matter? 

It is estimated that over 90% of the charcoal we use is imported from outside the UK, much of it from Africa and the sub-continent and yet our woods have the growing capacity to replace all of this with local sustainable renewable supplies.

There are many barriers to expanding UK production at the scale required to substitute all of the imports but there is one thing we can do. We can assure the existing homegrown supplies as sustainable and legally sourced and 100% from the UK in order that it is a preferred purchase by the public.

Grown in Britain respects the genuine good intentions of self-branded local charcoal produced by National Coppice Federation members up and down the country. What we are more suspicious of, is the use of the union jack on mass produced charcoal, particularly in supermarkets and on garage forecourts. The only way to fight back is to give the public a clear, independent assurance mark to look for much like Fairtrade, Organic and Red Tractor on foodstuffs.

The response to Grown in Britain assured charcoal being featured on an episode of Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast on the 18th January 2019, has shown that customers do care about where charcoal comes from and so there is an opportunity to influence buying choices as the BBQ season ‘heats up’.

CEO of Grown in Britain, Dougal Driver, who spoke at last year’s National Coppice Federation's Weekend Gathering and AGM in Hampshire, used the Channel 4 programme platform to explain to the public how the management of our woodlands for charcoal can lead to many benefits for people and wildlife. He now urges charcoal makers and coppice workers to consider obtaining a Grown in Britain licence so that the logo becomes the trusted mark of homegrown charcoal and beats back the pretenders.

If you want to find out more and join the growing number of members who have become GiB assured contact . Once through the process, you will be added to the well-publicised list of licensed suppliers and you can use the independent assurance GiB mark to fight imports.



Grown in Britain is an independent not for profit organisation that supports the UK’s wonderful woodlands and promotes British grown forest products. For more information go to

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Willow, Devil’s-Bit Scabious, the Moors and the Marsh Fritillary

I have been helping to make fascines recently. Nothing particularly exciting about that except for the feel good story that links saving the marsh fritillary and the moors.
My colleague Iain Turner, of Wealden Heartwood Enterprises Ltd ( secured an order for several hundred grey willow fascines, plus hundreds of willow stakes to hold them in place.

Fascines are traditionally used in the repair and stabilisation of eroded river banks. They are staked into the river bed next to the eroded bank and by slowing the water current silt and stones collect in them. Gradually nature takes over and bankside vegetation takes root as the fascines rot away. I have seen an unstable bank reclaimed after one flood season by the use of quite small diameter fascines. However, the fascines specified for the Exmoor Mires Project had to be made from native grey willow with dimensions of around 3 metres long by around 40 centimetres diameter. The fascines will be used to block drainage and erosion channels on Exmoor with the aim of restoring the peatland and reducing incidence of flash flooding. The moors act as a giant sponge, absorbing and releasing rain water in a controlled manner, and at the same time improving water quality by holding back sediment that would run off, and cause the streams and rivers to become more prone to flooding.

A source was found on a moorland that was being encroached by the invasive grey willow. The moorland area chosen is conservation grazed to keep the culm grassland open and keep invasive species such as birch and willow in check. However, the willow had started to dominate in places so this was the perfect donor site for the fascine materials. This is where the increasingly rare marsh fritillary enters the story. In Devon this butterfly relies solely on the devil's-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) as its main food source.

However, although this plant likes our damp, tussocky moorland areas it cannot tolerate tree shade.
Now I can close this virtuous circle: the Exmoor Mires Project requires grey willow fascines, the marsh fritillary requires moorland clear of grey willow; put the two together and they help each other. Brilliant. It has been a privilege to play a minor part in these projects. Well done to all the organisations and individuals concerned.

Adrian Thomas
You can read about the Exmoor Mires Project here:
And on the marsh fritillary here:
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The 2019 NCFed Weekend Gathering & AGM

The date and venue of the next Gathering are fixed, and it's set to be another great weekend. As usual, booking will be available through the new website when it goes live. A full itinerary along with booking procedures will be distributed in a Cleft Stick Bulletin as soon as details are made available.

Put the dates in your diary
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Charfest 9-12 August 2019

In a break from tradition, this year's Charfest will be upping roots and moving west to the county of Dorset.  Charfest is a festival of charcoal burning that has been run by Alan & Jo Waters on the West Dean Estate for the past 8 years.  This year Alan has handed on the baton and the event will be hosted by Dorset Coppice Group at their Bonsley Wood site, just west of Blandford Forum.

The event, held over the St Alexander's Day weekend (9th - 12th August), will continue to centre around a traditional charcoal earthburn, which will need constant tending for the whole weekend.  We are pleased to say that James Hookway will also be in attendance, demonstrating his Hookway Retort, whilst the Carbon Compost Company will be demonstrating and talking about their Exeter Retort.  We will also be firing a ring kiln, so this is a unique opportunity to see several forms of charcoal production together in one place.
We will be offering weekend camping tickets for those wanting to see the whole earthburn from start to finish, but we will also be opening the venue up on the Saturday to anyone who wants to come along, learn more about the British charcoal industry and meet some of its proponents.  If you would like to be informed when camping tickets go on sale, please email an expression of interest to

(Pete Etheridge)
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European Charcoal Burners Gathering

A delegation of UK charcoal burners will be attending the European gathering this August  in Hardehausen and Giershagen, Germany.  Held every two years, this pan-European event brings together charcoal burners, wood colliers, and charbonniers from across the European continent to share skills, knowledge and celebrate our shared heritage.  For those of us from the UK, it's a unique opportunity to see truly large earthburns in progress and learn some of the techniques that we have sadly lost in this country.  It's a nice reminder that, despite the current political climate, the appreciation for woodmanship and traditional rural crafts is able to transcend country border. (Pete Etheridge)
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The Green Scythe Fair returns this year on Sunday 9th June, when the grass is at its lushest and the scythes will be peened to perfection for the 2019 Southwest Scything Championships.
For more information and to get your tickets now before they sell out, go to
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The Bodgers Ball 2019

The Association of Pole Lathe Turners and Green Woodworkers are holding  their annual Bodgers Ball again in May and this year it’s  in Cambridgeshire. Don’t forget you do need to be a member of APTGW to be able to buy a ticket!
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Regular Features

A pint with......

Could you interview a coppice character over a pint (or two) for the next issue of the Cleft Stick?
Please get in touch with your ideas.
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Terry's Top Tips....

Ideas  and tips from the woods and workshop

Working with green oak and sweet chestnut? In the ideal world make sure you’re using stainless steel fixings otherwise the high tannin content found in these timbers will attack the steel and you’ll end up with unsightly rust stains on the wood. If the client’s budget or the size of the item being built dictates,  then folks will often use galvanised fittings... make sure that in  this instance they are  hot dipped, as opposed to electro- galvanised for maximum durability.

If you’re working with larch, cedar or douglas fir then you really should be using stainless steel at all times as the nature of the natural  resins in larch and acids in cedar/douglas fir  is such that it will corrode non-stainless steel fittings over time.

Do you ever use a nail gun on any outside projects? A word of warning that caught out  old Terry here! So intent was he, for once,  on stopping for a proper tea break (when he was lured inside  his clients house by the prospect of a fat slice of home made lemon drizzle cake) that he left his partly used  box of 1100 paper collated nails outside exposed to the elements.

A heavy rain shower ensued but the penny didn’t click in Terry’s grey cell department that he calls his brain! Half an hour later he wanders out to find  one saturated box and some 900 “un-collated”  nails. The only good thing is that they can still be used .. not with a nail gun anymore but  with that old fashion thing they call a hammer!

If you have any top tips for the next issue, please send them in.
Your name doesn't have to be Terry!

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From the bookshelf....

Reviews of new and old favourites

“ Woodsman” by Ben Law 


First published in 2013 ( but still in print) this is a delightful, absorbing book about Ben’s  years in his, now very  famous 100 acre Prickly Nut Wood in Sussex.

Ben’s takes us from his very first night he slept there in the woods up to a futuristic last chapter in the book about an imaginary scenario of no oil in the year 2037 - very topical in the light of the recent David Attenborough programme on climate change.

His  book covers the  trials, tribulations and triumphs of his involvement in the 100 acre Prickly Nut Wood.

Chapter titles, such as “Woodland Immersion”, “Finding the Craftsman Within”, “The Need for Shelter” etc clearly  give the reader an idea what’s to be found within each chapter. 

There are extracts from his diary inserted through out his book. They  do not dominate the chapters but merely add an interesting insight into what he was thinking of and going through at that particular point in time.

This book would appeal to  lovers of nature and  woodlands, woodland owners, coppicers, green woodworkers and craftsmen and to those passionate about our planet.
(Tim Roskell)

“Shaving Horses, Lap Shaves and other Woodland Vices” by Sean Hellman.


When the forward of a book reads “.... the most comprehensive collection of designs and plans of shave horses for the green woodworker to be published”  and then you read the forward is by Ben Law, you know it must be good! And boy, this book doesn’t disappoint.


Superbly illustrated with colour stage by stage “how to” pictures, simple sketches and diagrams and descriptive text there is something in here for everyone, no matter what your creative leaning may be!


The book is  not just about shave horses and all the variations you can make for  the different crafts( e.g. bowl horse, spoon horse, folding horse etc). It also covers, with in the twelve chapters and 128 pages, such items as  sourcing timber from the woodlands, tool sharpening,  joint making, using a draw knife, Health and Safety etc.


Definitely one to add to your library! Available from:

(Tim Roskell)
If you would like to review a book for the feature please send your review, along with photo(s) to
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Tried & tested....

The Robin Wood Carving Axe    
A recent birthday seemed like a good enough excuse to treat myself to a new axe. Now, I own several axes - from a bushcraft axe I take away on camping trips, to a Kent pattern Elwell axe that I use for hedgelaying, to a large felling axe and splitting mauls. What I have been lacking, however, was a small carving axe that I could use for roughing out spoon and bowl blanks for carving/turning.

I’ve long admired Robin Wood’s passion for traditional crafts, not to mention his ability to turn bowls on a pole lathe. When I noticed that he (along with his daughter JoJo and apprentice Zac) had brought out a carving axe, I decided this would be an ideal solution.

I placed the order online on a Tuesday afternoon and was amazed when the parcel arrived the very next day. It arrived in a small cardboard box (none of the wasted packaging you often get with online orders) and it was refreshing to find no plastic wrapping or padding. It certainly ticked my environmental needs. The axe also arrived with a beautifully illustrated small booklet which outlines Wood Tools’ ethos and background. Along with the axe, I had also ordered the leather cover (a bargain at £10 when purchased with the axe), meaning the total came to £49.

The first thing I noticed was the razor sharp edge. This axe arrives ready to use – a blessing in our increasingly busy world where you may not have the time to grind an edge on to your tool before putting it to use. Whilst I haven’t had time to properly put the axe through its paces yet, I have roughed out a couple of spoon blanks and split a little kindling. To begin with I was a little nervous about putting too much welly behind it, as it is quite a diminutive axe compared to the ones I am used to using for hedgelaying etc. I needn’t have worried though (as Robin Wood demonstrates here: I quickly discovered that you can really throw this axe into work and it feels solid and controlled throughout. The axe head is also shaped so that you can easily ‘choke it’ when required, allowing for some really detailed axe work.

All in all, despite not having used it extensively yet, I would recommend this axe to anyone looking for a reasonably priced quality tool. I look forward to using it far more this coming summer.
Pete Etheridge (Dorset Coppice Group)
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Photo Competition

We are launching a photo competition with the winning photo and four runners up being celebrated in the Cleft Stick.

The theme will be 'Coppice Crafts in Action'

The judging will be carried out by an independent panel, none of whom will be allowed to enter!

So please get snapping and send your entries to
Deadline for entries: 30th September 2019

Please note:
All submissions to the photo competition may be used in future NCFed publicity and marketing materials. The photographer will be credited.
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Celebrating Success

Many congratulations to Toni Brannon and Neil Mapes for their recent awards from the Heritage Crafts Association.

The HCA/Marsh Volunteer of the Year Award went to Toni Brannon for years of dedication to coppicing and woodland crafts, both as membership secretary of the Hampshire Coppice Group and as committee member of the National Coppice Federation since its inception in 2013. Toni won the award for her role in raising awareness of coppicing and for the contribution she has made to improving training opportunities for coppice workers and woodland craft practitioners across the UK.

HCA/Marsh Trainer of the Year is Neill Mapes of the Small Woods Association (SWA). In his role first as a volunteer and then as SWA’s Heritage Crafts Officer, Neill has trained and mentored many thousands of enthusiasts, volunteers, SWA members and the general public in a wide range of crafts, including rake making, bowl turning, broom making, pole lathe turning, currach and coracle making. He leads the teaching of crafts skills at the Greenwood Centre in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, and has an enthusiastic following on social media, which he uses to share his skills.

Please let us know of anyone who's success should be recognised in this section
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If you hear of anyone passing that was well known and/or respected either locally or nationally in the coppicing world, then please send us an obituary (with a photogragh) to let the wider coppice and woodland community know.

Send to
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