Management

Most ancient woodland in the UK has been managed in some way by humans for hundreds (in some cases possibly thousands) of years. Two traditional techniques are coppicing (harvesting wood by cutting trees back to ground level) and pollarding (harvesting wood at about human head height to prevent new shoots being eaten by grazing species such as deer). Both techniques encourage new growth while allowing the sustainable production of timber and other woodland produce. During the 20th century, use of such traditional management techniques has declined while there has been an increase in large-scale mechanised forestry. These changes in management methods resulted in changes to ancient woodland habitats, and a loss of ancient woodland to forestry. Pollarding is a pruning system in which the upper branches of a tree are removed, promoting a dense head of foliage and branches. It has been common in Europe since medieval times and is practised today in urban areas worldwide, primarily to maintain trees at a predetermined height.[1] Traditionally, trees were pollarded for one of two reasons: for fodder to feed livestock, or for wood. Fodder pollards produced "pollard hay", which was used as livestock feed; they were pruned at intervals of two to six years so their leafy material would be most abundant. Wood pollards were pruned at longer intervals of eight to 15 years, a pruning cycle that tended to produce upright poles favored for fence rails and posts, as well as boat construction. One consequence of pollarding is pollarded trees tend to live longer than unpollarded specimens because they are maintained in a partially juvenile state, and they do not have the weight and windage of the top part of the tree.[2] Older pollards often become hollow, so can be difficult to age accurately. Pollards tend to grow slo

ly, with narrower growth rings in the years immediately after cutting. As in coppicing, the tradition of pollarding is to encourage the tree to produce new growth on a regular basis to maintain a supply of new wood for various purposes, particularly for fuel. In some areas, dried leafy branches are stored as winter fodder for stock. Depending upon the use of the cut material, the length of time between cutting will vary from one year for tree hay or withies, to five years or more for larger timber. Sometimes, only some of the regrown stems may be cut in a season this is thought to reduce the chances of death of the tree when recutting long-neglected pollards. Pollarding was preferred over coppicing in wood-pastures and other grazed areas, because animals would browse the regrowth from coppice stools. Historically, the right to pollard or "lop" was often granted to local people for fuel on common land or in royal forests; this was part of the right of Estover.[3] An incidental effect of pollarding in woodland is the encouragement of underbrush growth due to increased levels of light reaching the woodland floor. This can increase species diversity. However, in woodland where pollarding was once common but has now ceased, the opposite effect occurs, as the side and top shoots develop into trunk-sized branches. An example of this occurs in Epping Forest in London/Essex, UK, the majority of which was pollarded until the late 19th century. Here, light levels on the woodland floor are extremely low owing to the thick growth of the pollarded trees. Pollards cut at only about a metre or so above the ground are called stubs (or stubbs). These were often used as markers in coppice or other woodland. Stubs cannot be used where the trees are browsed by animals, as the regrowing shoots are below the browse line.