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Cutting the hazel at Castor Hanglands       Feb 2023


We have been cutting the hazel in our frist coupe which was cleared 8 years ago. The hazel provides long poles; some of these can be woven to make hurdles.

Come and work in the woods            Jan 2023

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Many of you may be familiar with the national nature reserve at Castor Hanglands, between Helpston and Ailsworth, with varied habitats of ancient woodland, heathland, scrub and ponds. John Clare spoke in his poems of his journeys through Ailsworth Heath and the woodlands nearby. You may not realise however that this corner of our area contains the site of a local scheme to restore traditional woodland management utilising historic skills and practices that were once common across all old woodlands. Nene Coppicing and Crafts has for the past nine years had an agreement with the reserve’s managers- Natural England, to restore the ancient practice of hazel coppice rotation in part of the woods. Traditionally the multi-stemmed hazel was grown in dense plots or ‘coupes’ and then cut down to near ground level every seven or so years. Cutting occurred on a rotation so that each year one coupe was ready to be ‘coppiced’ or harvested. The hazel rods could then be used for bean poles, stakes and binders for fencing, to make hurdles (the traditional woven fencing panels), or many other products. At the Hanglands we are now ready to ‘coppice’ our first coupe which was cleared and restocked some eight years ago. Over the winter months, we plan to cut back the hazel and sort it for use in making products we can sell. Any waste wood can be then burned in our charcoal kilns to make high-grade charcoal for sale. All the proceeds are used to support the group’s activities. We can also use the hazel as the raw material for the woodland crafts we are relearning. We can turn the roundwood on a pole-lathe or shape wood with a drawknife on the shave horse, both traditional methods of wood working used by the ‘bodgers’. Once a coupe has been cleared the sun can reach the woodland floor and the woodland flowers which have lain dormant for many years can regenerate in the cleared space. The process of coppicing thus benefits the biodiversity of flora and fauna in the woodland. Why not come and join us.? We meet at the Hanglands every Thursday morning. Although physical work is involved it can be adapted to what most people can manage and there is guidance on how to use the tools •Learn about the traditional ways our forebears managed the woodland. •Pick up the skills of working with green wood to make useful products. •Help the woodland to regenerate to improve its natural diversity. •Spend many a happy hour working with a friendly group of like- minded folk and sharing our tea and coffee breaks round the fire! •Simply enjoy the quietness of the wonderful woodland location. Interested? Contact us at or via the ‘Contacts’ page on this site.

New osier beds at Sacrewell Farm           April 2022


Over the winter we have been preparing and planting a new osier bed at Sacrewell Farm. You can find it in the field behind the mill pond where 1642 Field Sports are situated. An osier bed is a plantation of willow for use in basketry and other woven products. The willow was traditionally known as withies, sallow or osier. On a small plot of about 12m square we have planted about 1200 cuttings, 120 for each of 10 different varieties suitable for basket making. The plants have been cut from last year’s growth of willow on other local osier beds. The plants, otherwise known as setts, are about 12” (30cm) long and are simply pushed into the soil to root and grow Willow is typically harvested every year during the winter months to produce flexible withies suitable for basket making. Each plant can produce between 5 and 30 rods each year. Varieties planted:- Salix purpurea “Dicky Meadows” Salix Triandra “Black Maul” Salix Alba Vitellina x Fragilis “Flanders Red” Salix purpurea “Dark Dicks” Salix rubra “Harrisons” Salix purpurea “Le Bleu” Salix purpurea “Green Dicks” Salix purpurea “Brittany Green” Salix purpurea “Brittany Blue” Salix purpurea “Packing Twine”

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