"We don’t care about the cold, we’ll keep on coppicing no matter what the weather is.”

Now that the colder, darker days of the winter months are in the distant past and spring has become summer, participants on Milestones have been celebrating some of the fantastic conservation projects completed over the winter and enjoying observing the fruits of their labour.

At the beginning of the academic year, the idea of coming out with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and cutting down trees was a little perplexing for some of our groups, “Isn’t cutting down trees bad for the environment?” asked a number of students whilst being introduced to coppicing. Before they knew they were being introduced to billhooks, bow saws and loppers in preparation for the coppicing season to begin.

Milestone Project coppicing at Green Lane wood and Biss wood

Coppicing is the traditional method of managing woodland where certain species of trees such as hazel, willow and ash are cut at the base or stool and are allowed to regrow. This is done on a rotation with small areas of woodland being cut each year and being recut at intervals typically every 7-20 years, depending on the species.

Historically coppicing has been carried out in Britain for thousands of years, producing a crop of poles for which there was a wide range of markets. These days the demand for coppiced timber is much lower and only a small fraction of woodland remains actively coppiced, however it remains a popular conservation practice for the benefits it offers to wildlife. The increased amounts of light and the varied age structure of the vegetation increases biodiversity by creating the perfect conditions for many plants, insects and birds requiring very open woodland habitats.

Milestone Project putting up deer fencing at Green Lane wood and Biss wood

Over the winter months participants have been involved in a number of coppicing projects where they have learnt how to used tools safely and then gone on to coppice 1521 m2 of woodland, erect 360m of deer fencing, lay 240m of dead hedging and check and repair a further 317 m of deer fencing. Furthermore, they have chosen to use the coppiced material to make mallets, spatulas, walking sticks, stools and hurdles.

“Wow, it looks so magical down there.”

It’s only over the last two months that we have really begun to see the benefit of our hard work; walking through Biss Wood nature reserve and Green Lane Nature Park on a sun-drenched morning reveals an oasis of flourishing wildflowers, butterflies, bees and birdsong.

Having the opportunity to offer our participant’s access to Milestones throughout all four seasons allows them to witness the positive impact and identify changes they have made on the natural environment but also in themselves.

Milestones Project coppicing at Green Lane Wood and Biss wood

“I don’t want to leave, I want to stay all day and do this.”

Milestones Project at Green Lane wood and biss wood

We have been able to see the positive impact of their work on the environment and over this winter have seen over 50 participants learn a plethora of new skills from practical skills in tool use, tree identification and fencing construction, to improved communication, confidence and physical and mental wellbeing.

Alongside this, we have been able to award these participants with accreditations in ‘coppicing and tool use’ which will go on to enhance their employability.

Our Bright Future

  • Our Bright Future is an ambitious and innovative partnership led by The Wildlife Trusts which brings together the youth and environmental sectors.
  • This £33 million programme funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund is formed of 31 projects across the UK.
  • Each project is helping young people aged 11-24 gain vital skills and experience and improve their wellbeing. At the same time, they act as catalysts for delivering change in their local environment and community; whilst contributing to a greener economy.

Big Lottery Fund

  • The Big Lottery Fund is the largest funder of community activity in the UK. We put people in the lead to improve their lives and communities, often through small, local projects.
  • We are responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. In 2016/17 we awarded £712.7 million and supported more than 13,814 projects across the UK for health, education, environment and charitable purposes.
  • Since June 2004 we have awarded £8.5 billion to projects that change the lives of millions of people

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust would like to express its gratitude and thanks to Wiltshire Community Foundation for the generous donation of £5,000 towards tools and clothing.