Paul found and fell in love with Moreton Wood in Herefordshire and he bought it in 2004.
Together we started the process of returning it to its natural native tree and wild-flower habitats and began reinstating the ancient cycle of coppicing. It requires a massive amount of hard and gruelling work, but it is deeply, soul satisfyingly rewarding.
Now we have created a thriving traditional woodland-based business, making and selling products directly from the coppice. Using hand tools, horse power, chainsaws, battery technology, solar power, wood fuel and rain water harvesting, it is a truly sustainable enterprise, a joy to be a part of.
Trees have been coppiced in Britain as far back as the Stone Age.
The cycle of native woodland life repeated every year for thousands of years.
In the winter large areas of woodland were cut down and turned into useful, beautiful objects. Felling the trees left the ground open to the warmth and light of spring, causing wild-flowers to burst forth, seedling trees to emerge, and the stumps of the felled trees to break out into new growth. By early summer, the wild-flowers would have supported the life of thousands of insects, butterflies and moths so birds and small mammals could flourish and breed. An essential, continuous, sustainable, life supporting cycle that went on and on.
Then, during the 1960s and 70s, new thinking about woodlands came in and native trees were removed from many woodlands and replaced with foreign conifers. People also started replacing wooden objects, furniture and building materials with new plastic and concrete products.
A whole generation lost knowledge of the cycle of coppicing and woodland management. As a nation, we lost the understanding of how important it is to keep felling trees for our wildlife. Many wild-flowers became rare, and some butterflies and insect species died out. Our native woodlands lost their status as thriving, useful habitats and traditional skills and crafts disappeared.
But, as a nation, our love for trees and beautiful handmade wooden objects survives.
We love to celebrate our work by holding fun and informative wildlife events for the local community and others interested in Moreton Wood. Please sign up to our newsletter if you would like to hear about upcoming events in the wood.
We fell trees and Guinness the horse works hard to pull them out. No part of the tree goes to waste. Timber is processed into firewood or sawn timber for building. Small stems are bundled into beanpoles and pea-sticks and fencing materials. Straight, knot free timber is set aside for bowl turning and green wood workers. We leave wood on the ground to rot for beetle homes. Insects and birds love it if we leave them some standing dead trees.
There is little tree work in the woods during the summer. Instead we scythe the rides and glades, keeping them open for a variety of wild-flowers. Our woodland creative project brings artists into the woods at this beautiful time of year, making art in response to the woodland environment. We also turn our attention to designing and building beautiful, high quality bespoke garden buildings using the timber that was taken out in the winter. And of course the BBQ season is in full swing, so we are busy making charcoal.
Together we survey the coupes that have been felled. We take note of all the new tree seedlings coming through, the wild-flowers, the condition of the coppice stools, the amount of dead wood habitat on the ground and in the air.
As the birds leave their nests in autumn, it is safe to start felling trees and the coppicing cycle begins again. We begin felling timber and Guinness puts on his harness, ready to start his winter work. The weather gets colder and we deliver our seasoned firewood. Autumn is a great time for basket making as the sap is down and the branchy summer growth becomes flexible. We run wild basket making courses in the autumn as well as gate hurdle making.