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Coppicing trees to produce firewood

Coppicing trees to produce firewood

Many species of tree found in England can be coppiced. This involves regularly cutting the tree down to a stump called a stool. Multiple new shoots (known as poles) regrow from the stool. The cutting is done on cycle so to keep a consistent supply you need to plan ahead and have sets of trees which you cut each year. The interval between cutting depends on the species of tree. One of the advantages of coppicing is that you do not need to replant the trees every time you cut.

Many types of deciduous tree can be coppiced: Alder, Ash, Beech, Birch (3-4 year cycle), Hazel (7 year cycle), Hornbeam, Oak (50 year cycle), Sycamore Sweet Chestnut (15-20 year cycle), Willow but Sweet Chestnut, Hazel (7 year cycle), and Hornbeam are the most commonly coppiced tree species currently. The trees are cut during the winter before the sap has risen, and the branches are all cut low to the ground. By repeatedly cutting the trees their lifespan can be greatly increased.

The new growth that results usually curves out a little from the stool, is fairly straight and manageable, and can grow very fast. Because the wood from coppicing is relatively small it also takes less time than large logs to season and you should easily be able to season it over one summer. Coppiced firewood can be burnt in a wood stove and is ideal for use in gasification / batch boilers - these boilers have very larger fireboxes which can take long length logs. You fill up the firebox and the boiler burns the fuel transferring the heat to a heat storage or accumulator tank for use when needed.

Coppicing is a very old woodland management technique and you have probably seen coppiced sections of woodland on walks even if you were not aware of it. Not only is coppicing a good way to create sustainable firewood, it is also good for wildlife and biodiversity. In a coppiced woodland you will tend to have some standard trees (like Oak, Ash, Beech) which are left to grow as normal intermingled with coppiced trees at various stages of coppicing. This creates a patchwork of conditions in the woodland, each suitable for different sets of plants and animals.