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Rockingham Forest Blog

Valley of the Willow Brook in October

  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Church

Diary from Rawhaw Wood - 1: winter

Updated: Sep 22, 2023


Carolyn Church


Carolyn Church and Hugh Ross have lived and worked in Rawhaw Wood for many years, managing the coppiced hazel woodland in the traditional way to produce stakes and binders for hedge-laying, pea and bean sticks, rustic furniture and high quality charcoal. Here Carolyn's picture diary gives a taste of what winter is like in their wood.





27th September 2022.

The start of our Hazel coppice cutting season. Hugh and I have cut the area or "coupe" that we will be working this winter twice before, but it is still in need of some attention and restoration. We work most of the wood on a ten-year rotation but this coupe had been missed and hadn't been coppiced for sixteen years.

The photo shows the edge of the coupe" to be worked this winter, the Hazel is very dense and you can't see very far into the compartment.














6th October 2022

We hadn't cut far into the compartment when we had to clear lots of hazel stools from underneath a fallen Oak tree, the tree had been standing dead and slowly decaying for over thirty years, finally falling over in 2019.


There's a feral flock of Peafowl that have made their home in and around the wood and they like to use the Oak tree as a perch















13th October 2022

Leaf mining on a Hazel leaf.

These are made by a number of different tiny moths whose larvae make serpentine mines in the leaves of trees. There must be a lot of goodness in the leaf looking at the way the larva grows as it meanders through the inside of the leaf.





13th November 2022

Having cleared more of the Hazel coppice, the area is beginning to look more open. In the background is the fallen Oak tree, we got the trunk cut into rounds ready for next year's firewood, but left the crown for the peacock's and as a deadwood habitat.

The cut stumps in the foreground are known as stools, a stool is the base of a coppiced tree from which new shoots will emerge. The cut Hazel is lying down ready to be processed for products.


Knopper gall on an acorn, one of a number of different galls found on Oaks caused by the larva of Gall Wasps.

These are small ant-like insects and nearly all species cause the formation of galls especially on Oaks. The female lays her eggs in the plant and, when they hatch, the plant tissues swell up around the larva to form the galls. The larva then thrives on the nutritious growths.





20th November 2022

This picture shows part of the coupe that has already been coppiced and the Hazel still to be cut











12th December 2022

We haven't had any snow yet, but a few hard frosts.

We don't often have a fire in the wood as almost all of the brash we create goes into building our dead hedges.





20th December 2022

We have been seeing various fungi in the wood through the autumn and winter. We think we know some of them. In the first row there's Honey Fungus on an Oak root and Grey Coral Fungus. Then there's Golden Scalycap in the base of an old coppiced Ash , a Trooping Funnel, Purple Jelly on a fallen Field maple trunk and an early Scarlet Elf Cup

In the third row there's Chicken of the woods, on an oak trunk. But I don't know what the other fungi are, any ideas?


8th January 2022

Dead hedging. We build these hedges around the worked coupes as a barrier to protect the new Hazel regrowth from being browsed by deer.








Here is a dead hedge showing the regrowth from the previous winter's coppicing. The dead hedging is about 6ft tall. (Photo courtesy of Grown in Britain).







During the summer months when trees are able to photosynthesis they lay down stores of sugars and starch in their root systems where they are stored through the winter. Then come the spring when the sap begins to rise they release this stored energy to aid the tree in forming new leaves until they are able to photosynthesise again and repeat the cycle. If the new leaves are browsed by deer or rabbits it can seriously weaken the stool and the regrowth will not be good.


This close up of a dead hedge shows that we build them tightly so there are no gaps and stand the brash upright.













4th February 2023

The Peacocks have started displaying already! I know it's been mild weather but it's a bit early in the year for this to start.









15th February 2023.

Early morning mist with the sun shining through an old coppiced Field Maple.

We leave some intermediate canopy growing in the compartments, usually Field Maples , Sallows or Hawthorns.

















24th February 2023

We are getting near to the end of the area to be coppiced this winter. In the picture you can see the dead hedge in the background and also the Hazel growing in the compartment behind it.



There are lots of male catkins on the Hazel this year you can clearly see the yellow tinge to the tops of the trees. There are a lot of female flowers on the Hazel as well,. It could be a bumper year for nuts.




Hugh and Carolyn are partners in the Building the Links for Rockingham Forest project. You can find out more about their Hazel Woodland Products here. It is possible to visit the wood and sign up for their training courses later in 2023.







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