Here in South Brent we are fortunate to live surrounded by fields, hedges, and trees. The Hedges and Woodland group aims to help sustain local wildlife habitats, to make better use of potential woodfuel and enjoy ourselves in the process. We continue learning and developing our skills, and our group is evolving over time.

We have had training from the Devon Rural Skills Trust, and collaborate with the Woodland Trust and some local landowners.

We are open to new people, and to new ideas and our current programme is listed at the bottom of this page.

 

Our Activities

Penstave Copse and coppicing

Coppicing is an ancient woodland management technique that takes advantage of regrowth after felling. Traditionally coppiced wood had thousands of uses and is still used today for firewood, charcoal, hurdle fencing, gates and plant supports, furniture, cutlery and other household wares.

Coppicing benefits wildlife by producing habitat piles and allowing light to reach the ground flora. SSB Hedges and Woodland Group is a partner in the management of Penstave Copse (Woodland Trust). Coppicing will continue each winter on a 20 year rotation according to the site management plan.

We seek to increase traditional management of local woodlands and are always keen to hear from local landowners.

 

 

Hedging or ‘steeping’

Hedgelaying, or steeping as it is known in Devon, is the traditional way to manage hedgerows for stock-proofing and benefits wildlife by encouraging a flush of new growth and providing varied habitat.

Steeping involves partially cutting woody stems so that they can be laid horizontally. Living bark is carefully left connecting the stem to its base to allow sap to rise and allow continued growth.

Woodfuel

The wood harvested comes from our coppicing and hedgelaying activities and consists of hardwood species such as oak, hazel, sycamore, ash and holly. Tree trunks and large branches are processed by a hydraulic wood processor and seasoned for two years at the Marsh composting site. Smaller branches are often overlooked for firewood but nevertheless burn well. The group borrows a wood ‘chunker’ which enables us to process the smaller wood into convenient sized chunks which are bagged up.

The group shares the firewood extracted from hedges or from coppicing amongst themselves and any surplus is sold at The Marsh.

Get involved

When?

Throughout the winter, from October to the end of February this sub-group of SSB meets on a fortnightly basis. Currently, we have a ‘steward’ system, where we rotate responsibility, and the steward will offer instruction and/or team-up a beginner with a more experienced person.

Where?

The venue changes and lifts are arranged for each session,
E-mail woodgroup@sustainablesouthbrent.org.uk for details.

How?

We have tools, waterproof hi-viz jackets, first-aid kit, and a risk assessment is completed on each outing.

It is best to wear warm and fairly tough clothing. A hat, boots and gardening gloves or gauntlets are advisable to keep warm and protected. Bring a hot drink and food if working all day.

There are a variety of jobs suitable for all skills and abilities. Everyone is welcome but children must come with a responsible adult.

Occasionally chainsaw work will be necessary but this is never carried out during a public session. A fully trained, certificated and insured person carries out this work before or after our sessions.

Other activities

We occasionally organise woodland activity days for families, visits to interesting local woodlands, hedging competitions and other groups.

 

Wood Fairs

The SSB Hedges and Woodland Group organised its first wood fair in 2014. Since then we have been working in partnership with the Hillyfield and helped them to organise the Woodland Olympics as well as putting on the 2017 South Brent Wood Fair:

50 stallholders, speakers, performers and activity leaders attracted up to a thousand visitors. There was something for everybody from fine furniture to axe hewing, from beautiful handmade guitars to basketry, from rocket logs to charcoal kilns, and from pole lathes to shave horses, with opportunities for visitors to have a go at some of the practical demonstrations and there was a range of craft activities for children. Music, storytelling and poetry provided entertainment; while a programme of talks addressed sustainable wood fuel, woodland ecology and the economics of making a living from forestry and woodwork.

How our group started

SSB earliest public meeting in 2007 resulted in a number of people expressing points about Trees and Woodlands. This was mainly directed at Woodfuel potential and Woodland use for recreation, traditional craft and Forest School type education. The group has in the past been involved in tree planting/seed collecting and organising visits to local Woodlands.

In 2013 Dartmoor Circle put together a ‘toolkit’ and obtained funding to inspire the formation of a number of new Woodfuel from Hedges groups in South Devon. The toolkit contained a template agreement between landowner and group, tree ID guides and practical information about tree management, as well as covering issues such as insurance.

Later that year SSB obtained Awards for All funding, some of which was used to support the new group by buying in expert tuition from Devon Rural Skills Trust, and to purchase billhooks, saws, loppers, hatchets, and more. It also helped fund the highly successful Wood Fair in 2014 (see above).

Membership

Members pay £5 a year to help cover the costs of insurance and wood processing.

 

Links

Devon Hedge Group 

Hedgelink

Devon Rural Skills Trust 

Organic Research Centre
 ‘A guide to harvesting woodfuel from hedges’