Coppicing – not always what it’s cracked up to be.

Lack of photos warning.

Unfortunately coppicing is not always simply laying into grotty old coppice stools with a Stihl, slipping around, getting the saw stuck, hauling logs and covering levelled stools with hazel brash against deer.  Oh no my children, sometimes it gets dirty.

It hadn’t rained for quite some time and the ground has been drying up nicely.  Then today, coppice Tuesday, the heavens let down their gentle balm in bucketfuls.  Just coinciding with my having brought the trailer home ready to take out that hazel I cut last week.  Well crash on, I thought, not been raining so long yet.

The terrain in Wood Nook coppice is shallowly buried limestone.  Limestone has two properties, when it gets wet it gets slippery in spades.  I think this maybe because it dissolves in rain and becomes very smooth, must also absorb rain a bit I reckon.  Probably because it absorbs water so well, the quality of the soil on limestone, certainly in The Dales, at least, is pretty poor, that is thin.  Water drains away quickly, often into subterranean rivers and caves (good for the tourists and cave rescue folk).  So Wood Nook track up to the top of the coppice is short, steep, curving, littered with outcrop limestone boulders, narrow and in places has a thin layer of soil, read mud.

Went for it, got up last week with just the Land Rover.  Engaged low box and diff lock, crawled up the first section, then took a run at the curve leading onto the top. Nah!  Not going up.  Put the handbrake on – slid back down! Hum, nowhere to turn round, and can’t go forwards.  Got out, had a look, got back in, backed back (as we say around here).  My backing is still pretty bad, but I always get there in the end.  The trouble here was, if I started getting the line wrong I couldn’t go forwards to correct it and try again.  Inevitably I ended up with the trailer pointing into the coppice I cut three years ago, at rather a jaunty angle.  Got out, took a look.  Hah I could cut that corner.  Just kick that old rotten brash out of the way.  Damn, there’s a badly cut stool about a foot high in the middle of it, right in line for catching the underneath of the trailer.  Saw out, rev, rev, rev.  Bit slow, thought I always sharpened the saw ready for next time, not this time – idiot.  So got the stool lowered eventually and shifted all the brash, plus an uninvited stump ball that had turned up on its own.  Ready to run further back, and either turn or abandon the trailer, must at least get the Land Rover out to get home.

Dear Reader, do you remember it’s raining?  By now it is soaking through my chainsaw trousers, my mac, my waistcoat and shirt.  Feet feel dry though, and forgot to put gloves on so they are still dry.  Hands are getting a little muddy though.

Climb back in, try to reverse with the hand brake on. (Really – Ed)  Back, back, back.  Trailer folds into an elegant jack knife, still can’t go forwards, despite laying little sticks horizontal (You’re too optimistic – Ed).  Get shut of the trailer, it’s far enough out of the way now to get away in the LR.  Unhitch, feels a bit light  with no load on, I wonder.  Pulls a bit on the jockey wheel (weighs about a ton though).  Back in the cab.  Forward, no, check hand brake off, yes, no go, line up wheels in a straight line, oh yes!  Escape in sight, at least in the motorised section of the train.  Pity to have to leave the trailer though, don’t really need it immediately, plenty of logs at home.  Hang on though, did I put those straps back in yet?  Out, round to the passenger side, flip the seat forwards, nah, just the blue ratchet strap, hum, might work.  Fastened the strap round the trailer hitch and onto the ball of the LR (sounds quick, took two goes to get in the right position).  Now this did seem optimistic to me.  The trailer was pointing away from the back of LR by about 120 degrees. maybe more.  Could I pull it round.  Have a go.  Worked like a dream.  Get out, duh, need to back up to get the strap off, Back up, park right on the strap.  Back in , back up, back out.  Strap off.  Back in. Back back.  Back out. Hole in one – ball right under the hitch.  Down the rest of the slippery slidey track – forwards, luxury.  Loaded up with some easier logs, and back to base.

More water.  Moved the grind stone to The Bodgery a couple of days ago and installed a water dripping tin.



It is really cool to have fresh water running over the stone rather than the mud from the bath.  Try it!  I always thought it looked a bit silly.  I even have an easy drip control – a tack sitting in the hole that I can wiggle about.

Much drier at the bench.

bench work


4 thoughts on “Coppicing – not always what it’s cracked up to be.

  1. An epic tale, Richard. Tolkien would be proud. Congrats for getting out of that tight spot! I like the grinding wheel arrangement as well. Is it foot-powered or powered by your LR?

  2. Love the getting stuck story. Sounds like one of my escapades! That’s a canny idea for your grindwheel, might have to copy that one… when I get a grindwheel. Looks like your apron is coming along.

    • Hi Jon, bet it’s better reading about getting stuck that it was on the day, but Hell, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I’m going to complicate the stool by carving the other flower from the wall cupboard. Eventually it will all be assembled as a sit upon.

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