Coppicing

I’m full of semi-wild ideas. I may as well share them all with you. Some of them may even come to something.

I’ve long had an idea for a consolidated network of coppices in Britain, including hazel, sweet chestnut, ash, willow and oak coppices, which could provide the British Isles with the materials to make some mass products that are currently made out of plastic. See the following link for a basic description of coppicing: Coppicing basics

This coppicing network (.co.uk? .org?) would serve many purposes. Fundamentally it would help conserve and promote biodiversity. Research indicates that there are many ancient coppices that have fallen into neglect in this country, since the latter half of the twentieth century. Accurate data on this is hard to come by. Such coppices would benefit from regeneration, from a wildlife as well as a human productivity perspective.  My proposed network would also consciously include the smallest land-owners and forestry enterprises, and encourage the planting of more coppice, as part of biodiverse, mixed habitat woodlands, managed according to a balance of conservation, agroforestry and Permaculture principles. Thus, mixed land-use livelihoods would be supported by the proposed network. In mixed food and timber forest gardens, non-native species providing harder wood could also be integrated (I’m thinking of bamboo, particularly).

My proposed network would only work in close partnership with a team of producers of products that people actually want, on a large scale, in conjunction with a team of creative marketers, including social media marketers. Sometimes the managers of the coppices would also be producers and marketers. Specifically, I think there is scope for developing coppice wood products to replace common products that are currently made from plastic i.e. oil. Standard predictions show that oil as a global resource will became more scarce and expensive over the coming decades.

Here are a few common products used globally, that are currently often made out of plastic (oil). I used the following website for most of these: Polyplastics ; lighting stands, blinds, pan handles, chopping boards, mixing spoons, storage containers, toothbrush handles, hairbrush handles, soap holders, disposable razors. My question is, could these products be made out of coppiced wood native to temperate zones (particularly the UK)? Obviously some of them can be (and have been) made from bamboo.

I understand that it would be no small task to produce and distribute and market products made from materials farmed by a diversity of small- and large-scale growers, and difficult to replace products in the marketplace that have been made from plastic for so long (such as toothbrush handles). I share ideas like this in the hope that someone with more knowledge than me, but with just as much enthusiasm and diligence and vision, might develop the ideas into something productive on the ground.

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I had a great day the other day coppicing in a patch of hazel in mid Devon, and passing on the skills. It was a cold November day, sunny with showers. My muscles were given a workout from the hand sawing (I didn’t personally use the chainsaw although there was one on site). My mental health benefited from the light, and the knowledge that I was helping the biodiversity in that particular woodland. There is relatively little woodland cover left in the UK. With what is left being in isolated pockets, human intervention in the form of re-instating and propagating semi-wild coppices to provide different heights of woodland canopy, and woodland edge habitats, could help ensure that biodiversity is maximised. Any development of sustainable coppice products that reduce our dependence on plastic, would be a bonus.

I’m really interested in hearing from anyone who has any thoughts on my ideas. How could this be developed? Please comment below, and ‘follow’ my blog to get my posts weekly to your inbox. Thanks.