Bluebell shoots had surged up strongly since I last saw this small wood a month ago. I love the way they lift leaves as they rise, as if they caught them by surprise.
The tree cover was a blanket against the sharp wind that swept the hill. Bill Acworth’s plan was to leave understorey on the north side of the coppice section, so that the open areas would become more of a sun trap that a wind tunnel. The wood’s internal microclimate is more important than you might expect for the butterflies that he wishes to conserve.
As the volunteers were finishing off the coupe, it was time learn how to pleach hazel. This is a way to generate new hazel trees for free. (Exploiting the tree’s talent in vegetative propagation.) With a hazel crop you want a rather dense colony of stools – perhaps 1 every 3 strides – it’s one of the key factors in getting the ‘spring’ to grow upward and straight. In rushing to compete for sunlight, the hazel shoots are more likely to provide poles rather than walking sticks for wizards.
Just as hazel sends up new shoots from below the soil, one vital aspect to success with the pleached hazel rod is to peg it into a shallow earth trench. In soil the branch has the right environment to take root and begin a new tree.