Sweet Chestnut & Coppicing
Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa)
Sweet Chestnut is a natural, sustainable, resource that grows freely in the southern counties of England and likes virtually any type of soil from clay to flint. It flourishes in drought as well as heavy rain, so long as the soil is well drained, and grows without the use of pesticides . The products from the Sweet Chestnut tree can truly be described as eco or environmentally friendly.
Sweet Chestnut produces very useful timber.
Apart from the obvious fencing uses the timber can also be harvested for
- walking sticks
- tree stakes,
- bean poles,
- shingles for roofing (many churches in southern counties have chestnut shingles)
Coppicing: the act of cutting trees such as Sweet Chestnut or Hazel
Coppicing is a harvest; we are harvesting sweet chestnut timber. Far from devastating the forest (as those who feel cutting any tree is a crime would have us believe), coppicing encourages new growth and is hugely beneficial to wildlife and a host of plants, moths and insects.
Bluebells run riot after fresh cutting and, combined with mature Oak and Ash ‘standards’ (these are trees which are left, maybe four to six cycles of coppicing, until old enough for sawn logs), chestnut coppicing produces a wonderful woodscape and superb woodland husbandry.
The Coppicing Cycle
Sweet Chestnut is best cut during the winter months from late October till the end of March (“the cutting season”). This is known as “winter-cut” chestnut. This “winter-cut ” wood lasts longer than wood cut in the summer months because there is more sap in the wood during the summer . April to September is the growing season and new shoots will put on up to 10 feet of growth in those 6 months.
We aim to cut our Sweet Chestnut every 15 years. All the Sweet Chestnut we cut grows within 12 miles of Haslemere and would have been planted some 80 to 100 years ago. Each tree may well have been coppiced (cut) seven times since it was planted.
Sweet Chestnut, Sustainability , Carbon Sinks and Carbon Footprints
If you’ve thought of planting a tree to offset carbon consumption, then it’s worth remembering that it is not your only option. Buying local sweet chestnut products makes a real difference too because every time we coppice, the new chestnut growth starts absorbing CO2 almost immediately – there’s no need for us to replant trees.
So, next time you need a post, a fence or a pergola pole, a walking stick or roofing shingles for your shed, buy local Sweet Chestnut timber instead of treated softwood. No tree will have been permanently cut down to make your items and the wood will not have been transported many hundreds of miles by sea or by road.
The cutting of chestnut coppice creates a fantastic carbon sink. This traditional craft is environmentally sustainable, low impact and keeps our rural communities thriving by employing local forestry workers. Oh and we don’t use chemicals or pesticides on the chestnut – neither in the woods nor on the fencing itself. A truly “green” wood .