We have residency as volunteers at Sacrewell Farm and Country Centre in
Thornhaugh Peterborough. On several days each week we demonstrate a range of heritage crafts and encourage the public to have a go at using a variety of tools, natural materials and techniques passed down the generations. We grow and weave our own willow, creating items ranging from bird feeders, dragonflies and Christmas decorations, to garden obelisks, large baskets and
Our green woodworking skills enable us to create hand crafted bowls, spoons, stools and much more. When we have sheep fleeces we demonstrate using the peg loom to make rugs, hangings and seat covers.
We are enthusiastic about our work and love to share our knowledge and skills with others. We are very keen to involved children of all ages and always plan to have at least one child orientated activity on offer.
We run courses in willow weaving, green woodworking, leather work and peg loom creations throughout the year.
Hazel coppicing, charcoal production and woodland crafts at Castor Hanglands
Our major activity at Castor Hanglands has been the restoration of traditional rotational hazel coppicing in the woodland. We also produce good quality charcoal for sale and practice other woodland crafts. We are all volunteers, working together and learning new skills in a wonderful setting.
Reviving a traditional way of working
The woodland is within a national nature reserve managed by Natural England. Much of the
woodland was coppiced in the traditional way but fell into disuse in the last century. We now have an agreement with Natural England to restore that traditional way of working in a particular part of the wood.
Each year we take over a small area called a ‘coupe’ where we ’coppice’ or cut down almost to
ground level the multi-stemmed hazel stools, which have grown too large, together with a number
of unwanted trees that have ‘invaded’ over time. We ensure that we keep a number of the larger trees, or ’standards’ to provide some shade or cover. We also plant new hazel saplings in the spaces created between the older stools. The following year we move on to the next adjoining coupe.
Restoring a woodland habitat
Clearing an area in this way also benefits plants and wildlife as the increased light brought into the
coupe provides a valuable habitat that allows woodland plants and the insects to re-establish
themselves over time.
Traditional woodland crafts
This year we will return to our first coupe that we ‘coppiced’ seven years ago. We will then ‘coppice’ or harvest the hazel rods that have grown up and will be about ½ “to 1” thick. These we can then use for a variety of products, including the manufacture of stakes and binders for hedging, the
making of traditional hazel hurdles for fencing and a wide range of other craft products.
Making useful saleable products
Any waste wood is burned in our two charcoal kilns to produce charcoal which we can sell at various outlets. This is a popular product because of its high quality due to the hardwood that we use. Any profits made are passed back to our group for the cost of tools equipment and training.
We are learning all the time, but we are proud to be reviving traditional woodland methods that will preserve some ancient crafts as well as providing new natural habitats within the woodland. The system is a ‘rotation’ and renews itself over time. It will only need willing hands to coppice the hazel
for it to continue for years to come.
The wood is a wonderful place to work – come and join us to learn new skills and work with others with shared aims to conserve traditional skills while preserving a part of our natural heritage
Nene Coppicing and Crafts was originally set up to help maintain Bretton Woods and
develop craft projects using materials from the woods. The crafts have moved to Castor
Hanglands and Sacrewell Farm. Due to ash die-back disease, the council has to keep the
woods safe by felling dangerous trees near paths and roads. Most are large and cause
disruption and damage when felled. We clear up, make log piles, keep paths cleared,
remove litter and generally try to make the woods a pleasant place to spend time in. We also
do some planting and layering at the right time of year.