My Story

Finding a place to belong

'Coppicing Works' conservation effort focuses on restoring ancient woodland to benefit wildlife.

With a love of the outdoors and a passion to make a difference, my aim is to enhance 10 acres of ancient woodland in the heart of the weald AONB.

By establishing a network of aerial & dead hedge corridors interspersed with ponds and scrub I want to encourage whatever wildlife has clung on to bounce back with a vengeance.

I avoid pesticides and move everything by wheel barrow to minimise carbon emissions/fuel consumption. So there are lots of dead hedges and not a chipper in sight and a few aching muscles. No pain no gain.


The early years

Habitat management for wildlife

The first year focused upon:

  • Removing tree guards

  • Putting in the 1st 2010 pond

  • Starting to clear the fly tipped rubbish dump

  • Chainsaw crosscutting training

Years 2 and 3 were spent:

  • Employing foresters to thin and put up fencing in order to learn from them

  • Putting up lots of nest boxes

  • Hand clearing the fly tipping with care as piles of roof insulation sandwiched between layers of asbestos seems like home to newts, insects and even bees. This provided lots of opportunities to study what I found

  • November 2012 the fly tipping was all gone and a 15m x 9m pond went in.



  • May 2012 I had to stop the tidying to listen to an LBJ (little brown job) singing. It was a nightingale! (I have now heard they return to where they are born so if the management improves sufficiently I hope to get them back to breed)

  • The 2012 pond is very popular with newts. The young eft/tadpoles are so tiny they can easily get caught in dog hairs. So please keep your dogs out of wildlife ponds

Some positive signs


  • A pile of branches & twigs being defended by a robin; another a place to bask for a small grass snake;

  • The Schwegler 3 hole best boxes, bought through Jacobi Jayne in particular are a massive hit with lots of bird species (and guaranteed for 25 years)

  • A small number of bats have moved into the bat boxes overlooking the deer fenced area so I bought some more.

  • The first sparrowhawk

  • A tawny owl flies silently past me in the gloom

  • The 2010 pond is full of newts breeding and their tiny offspring looking up from the shallows. The first dragon flies and damsel flies breeding

  • Wild flowers sewn in 2011 start to flower and are attracting bees

Taking action

Habitat management for wildlife

Rough outlines of a management plan:

  • Choosing an area or ride to focus on

  • Improving drainage along tracks and making repairs along the public footpath

  • Thinning focused on getting light in where most needed i.e. where the ancient coppice stools were about to give up the ghost

  • Use wood chip or dead hedge to create beetle banks 

Wildlife Recording:

  • Watching the ponds become magnets for wildlife

  • Monitoring bird box occupancy and populations stabilising

  • Installing 'terraqua' coir mats and native pond plants into the ponds to provide newt habitat

Thought turn to Sustainability:

  • Offset outlays with selling a few logs. Ideally sell locally or deliver between woodland (Danehill), home (Hove) and work (Crawley)

  • Chipping vs dead hedge experiment

  • Putting a website together to reduce advertising costs

Learning what works:

  • Dead hedging provides habitat for everything small. I start seeing things moving along the twig highways encouraging me to put in more

  • Placing logs along the boundary banks to retain moisture. The ferns and fungi start to increase in abundance.

And what doesn't work:

  • Planting hedging without improving the soil condition first

  • Not having stores of water to keep young hedging going through summer

  • Not having either enough light for coppice regowth or deer proof shelters


Now and Next

Habitat management for wildlife

Summer Calendar: (Complete)

  • Pond survey (2010 pond score:46; 2012 pond score 25)

  • Use the spoil from 2012 pond mixed with soil improver to prepare the boundary bank soil ready for winter hedgerow planting (Complete)

  • Repairing boundary banks to keep in water ready for the next drought


Autumn Calendar:

  • Install the barn owl boxes and raptor basket (Complete)

  • Covering log piles with tarpaulins (to keep the worst of the rain off)

  • Chopping up 2 year seasoned logs & bagging up ready for sale

  • Improving soil structure in preparation for more hedging


Winter Calendar:

  • Log sales

  • Feeding the birds with suet as well as mealworms

  • Opening up the next corridor (for light, raptors and bats)

  • Hedgerow planting (3rd time lucky)


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Spring Calendar:

  • Bluebell walk for log customers (Saturday 11th April TBC)

  • BTO bird survey (May/June)

  • Butterfly conservation / SWT walk - Members only

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