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Saturday, 26 January 2019


Roe Deer numbers are at their highest level in the Country for at least 1,000 years. Until about 20 years ago they hadn't been seen in the upper valley for centuries and at one time were nearly extinct in England.
Their present numbers make the practice of coppicing a difficult activity when all regrowth is constantly nibbled back. Piling brash on cut stumps does help to a certain extent but not for long.

Fencing an area of land is expensive and time consuming; it is also ineffective as the Deer always find a way in. Of course when they are in it is almost impossible to get them out! In effect you are creating a perfect inclosure where deer can happily browse.

So how to manage woodlands when thinning out the trees and expecting them to coppice is a frustrating failure?
Pollarding could be done as it is a practice that goes back into the mists of time and probably predates coppicing.

It has the advantage of being better for wildlife and all regrowth is above the browsing height of deer. The trunk increases in girth each year, providing many vertical habitats for wildlife not available on coppice. The cycle of cutting regrowth from the bolling opens up the woodland floor to sunlight, benefitting flowers and butterflies.

One has to query why it is totally out of fashion. There is a lot of misunderstanding of the practice but it could be part of any woodland management plan.

By cutting a pollard Oak the sapwood is rejuvenated and dormant adventitious buds are stimulated into growth.

Second photo showing Hawthorn hedge just layed and since then all the thorny brash has been piled alongside to keep the Deer from browsing new growth.

                     Recently cut pollards first done about 30 years ago and now in their 3rd cycle

Newly laid Hawthorn Hedge, ideal for birds.


  1. I "pollarded" a lime tree every winter for about 30 years for some neighbours. It always came back healthy and strong. I know proper pollarding is done at longer intervals, but it shows that no harm comes from hard pruning.

    I've seen that method you describe to protect coppice shoots done in the Lake District near Ulverston. They made a small "wigwam" of cut branches over the stump, with smaller branches piled over.

  2. Hi Steve, as you have found, Lime trees respond very well to pollarding and that is one of the reasons so many were planted on roadsides. Most were at one time managed this way but now the preference is to fell them and plant species that make their surroundings look like Lillyput.
    Wych Elm is also an excellent species for yearly pruning.

  3. I've also read somewhere limes were planted in long avenues near country houses, partly for shade in summer, but also very deliberately to get a harvest of dry leaves in autumn. These were a vital part of the hotbed system during the great age of gardening at the big houses. They were needed to mix in and slow down the fermentation of the horse litter, which on its own raised the temperature too high. This way they produced melons and pineapples, etc without burning any fuel, just the slow gentle heat of compost beds which were dug out and spread on the gardens once a year.