Coppicing: An Introduction

Coppicing: An Introduction

Coppicing is a woodland management method in which the wood from a tree is harvested by cutting a suitable tree near ground level.  It subsequently regrows over a period of years without needing to be replanted. This technique is different from pollarding, in which branches are cut at, or above, head height, leaving the possibility of grazing underneath the growing branches.


Coppicing is done on rotation: small areas of a woodland are cut each year in sequence leaving the areas not being cut to grow on for between 15 and 20 years for chestnut, and about 7 years for hazel. When an area of coppice is cut, it is all cut down, and creates a clearing. This periodic coppicing encourages the individual trees to live for up to hundreds of years. If the coppice cycle is managed correctly it can increase biodiversity in the woodland because of the beneficial effects of varying light levels reaching the woodland floor, and the range of different aged trees and stools in the woodland.


The best time to coppice chestnut is well after the autumn leaf fall when the sap has gone down, and certainly well before the sap rises in the spring.

The basic procedure for coppicing chestnut is as follows:

  • Clear out all leaves and other debris around the base of the stool.
  • Cut and clear away any dead or dying stems.
  • Progressively cut each stem starting with the most accessible sections and working in to the centre of the stool. Ideally one cut should be made about 1-2 inches above where the branch grows out of the stool. That cut should be angled some 15 to 20 degrees from horizontal with the lowest point facing outwards from the centre of the stool.
  • In some cases it maybe necessary to make a first cut higher and then trim back as above.

Remember to:

  • Fell away from the wind and fell all the poles in one direction.
  • Make sure you are working upwind of any campfire
  • Always leave a fire in a safe condition when leaving the woodland.

A coppiced stool showing some regrowthOnce cut, the poles produced are usually processed to some extent in the woodland: they are often cut to length, and perhaps de-barked. In many cases the coppicer will process further and create spiles (stakes or strong fencing posts), or will split the chestnut into various sizes for fencing. Some even make hurdles for keeping sheep in pens.

An approximate guide the diameter of felled coppice for further processing is:

  • Lathes: 1” to 1½”
  • Tree stakes: 1½” to 2”
  • Fencing Stakes: 2” to 3”
  • Straining posts: 4” to 5”
  • Post and Rails for cleaving: 6” to 8”

In the UK the main trees that are coppiced are sweet chestnut, hazel and hornbeam. Chestnut has traditionally been used for fencing whereas hazel is more likely to have been used for thatching, hedge-laying spars and hurdle making. Hornbeam was used for charcoal making.

Historically chestnut coppice growing has been strongest in the south East of England, especially Kent and East Sussex. Although it is said that the Romans introduced it, there is some evidence that coppicing was practised in England in Neolithic times. There are many areas of the UK where hazel and hornbeam have been grown, but the Midlands and Devon still have much hazel woodland useful for the remaining thatchers.


how can we conserve coppice ?


17 January, 2017


I would like to ask your advice about growing trees to coppice for firewood. I wonder could you spare a few minutes to read my plan and let me know if I am going about it the right way?

My plan is to plant 7 rows of 4 hazel tree and coppice on a 7 year cycle (I don’t expect to burn only wood, I hope it will supplement coal and briquettes). I have chosen hazel as I have read that it burns well when dry and coppices well (I have read that willow grows much faster but burns poorly). I suggest planting them with about 3 metres apart.

In order to encourage multiple stools to grow, rather than one large trunk, should I cut the trees back to about 10cm from the ground after a year or two? Or will multiple stools grow from the beginning? I notice you have a few different hazel trees for sale on your website, could you recommend one suitable for my project?

Does my plan make sense to you and could you recommend any changes – different trees, spacings, cycle length, anything else? I feel like I should plant the trees within the next few weeks in order to gain a year.

Kind Regards,
Cormac de Fréin


16 January, 2017

[…] charcoal is also more environmentally friendly than that of other charcoals – the technique of coppicing means you can grill and sear away without worrying too much about how your fuel was […]

Good Afternoon I’m the head grounds man at a university and we are looking to plant a small coppice for our students to understand the art of woodland maintenance and the importance of bio-diversity.
We are also looking to encourage local schools to run woodland schools on our main campus, any advice would be very helpful.

Kind regards



1 April, 2016

Your 1500 trees could be coppiced this coming winter. You don’t want the tree to be too old for the first cut, they need to still have the energy of a youngster i.e. not be a mature tree. The timing of the subsequent cuts will partly depend on the species and what you’re looking to do with the wood e.g. Hornbeam can be coppiced after 15-20 years where as Hazel after just 7-10.


4 August, 2015

My 1500 trees from the Morewoods scheme have been in 4 years now, mixed Ash, Wild Cherry, Maple, Oak, Hornbeam and Hazel. The Cherry in particular are growing spectacularly, many over 15ft and splitting their 100mm protective sleeves.
But at what size do I make the first cut to start the coppicing process? I am looking for woodburner fuel from these trees.

mark Ashford

8 June, 2015

[…] …..though nearer Higham Farm it was mostly Chestnut Coppice. […]

Hi John – the general recommendation is for around 1000 per hectare, or 1 tree in 10m2, though taking into account likely failures I’d plant them a little closer. That will also help the new shoots to grow straight up rather than sideways. Great to hear of someone planting a new area to coppice!

Ref: Caring for small woods by Ken Broad

Adam the Gardener

13 February, 2015

Hi, I have just purchased a small number (10) bare rooted Hazels (4 ft ) which I want to plant in order to coppice them in the future. I’m trying to find out how close to each other I can plant them, but haven’t had any success with Google searches. Can anyone advise please?

John Outhwaite

30 January, 2015

I have a very small parcel of land (0.05 ha) but want to plant a coppice for firewood for a woodburning stove. I don’t expect to be self sufficient but it will supplement other sources. As the amount of land is small I need a fairly short cycle (7 years tops) but want to avoid wood which has a bad press as firewood (e.g. Willow). Is it realistic to expect to get reasonable logs in a cycle time of less than 7 years (Birch, Ash?) and how would I get it established? I’m attracted to Hazel but if other woods make good logs and have a shorter cycle time I’d be swayed. I’m on clay with a good open aspect to the south and west and about 8 miles inland from the Sussex coast.

Brian Holdstock

11 January, 2015

Ros, Yes you can coppice the Ash and Cherry. I have coppiced trees as young as 3 years old. We are cutting some Hazel, Cherry Ash on a 6 year rotation.
Ideally you should wait and do the cutting when the leaves are off but you can cut as early as the beginning of September.

Phil Hopkinson

23 August, 2014

QWe have just bought a property with a small area of trees. 4 ancient sycamores, a beech and then 4 young ash and 4 young cherries. Is it possible to start coppicing the ash and cherry? These are single stem so no tradition of coppicing. When should I do the cutting if it is possible.


22 August, 2014

Jonah, I just wanted to mention that you are only 5 years late with coppicing. Hornbeam was traditionally coppiced every 15 to 25 years. So most will definately live. Goodluck, hornbeam is pretty hard to cut and your tools will have a hard time.


12 November, 2013

Mary if your still looking for some sticks we have some for sale and we are only down the road in taunton we have a facebook page if you like to have a look.Jonah when coppicin you have to cut all of the stool some will die yes but you can replace them by layering others in

westcountry charcoal

21 September, 2013

We have a wood that contains an area of hornbeam and are looking to revert it back to coppiced area. The only thing is that it is over 30 years since it was last coppiced and there is a concern that coppicing now (15 years too late) will result in many of the stools dying and us losing much of that area of hornbeam.. Our options are currently:

1 – Coppice everything and see what survives
2 – Coppice everything but cut higher up the stool (leaving more nutrients)
3 – Coppice but leave one trunk on each stool
4 – Don’t coppice the area at all

Any/All advice much appreciated.


2 September, 2013

am based In the south west of Uk in bristol


20 August, 2013

I am looking to purchase coppiced hazel, as long and straight as possible.. Does anyone have any good sources they can recommend?

Many thanks


20 August, 2013

[…] particularly in respect of the relative value of coppicing. You can read a bit about coppicing here http://www.woodlands.co.uk/blog/practical-guides/coppicing-an-introduction/ . In my view the jury is firmly out on the value of coppicing as a straightforward conservation […]


I have a largish flowering cherry which was planted by my father. It has produced a large number of saplings around its base and within ten or fifteen feet of the trunk which have started from the seeds that it has dropped. Today I am going to grub them up and transplant them in a lower field just leaving the original tree in position. Can I coppice these saplings to produce wood for the multi-fuel stove? I assume that I probably can even if they are not a traditional species for such a purpose. But how far above the deck should I cut them and at what time of year? Also, what would be the best species to plant for this purpose? The oil isn’t going to last forever, after all!



RIchard Hancock

20 March, 2013

I am just about to move to the NW of England and will have a couple of acres available. Is coppicing this area a feasible method of producing a sustainable source of wood for burning in a modern woodburner. If so, what would be the best species, the land is mildly acidic and wet but not waterlogged?


1 January, 2013

[…] modern times the demand for hazel wood is less than it used to be but people still maintain coppices of hazel and other species. Some of the coppicing is done by volunteers and it was with The […]

I live in Virginia, United States, and am having trouble finding information on getting started in coppicing.
Do I just pick a broadleafed tree of the right species and age, cut it off and wait for the rods to grow?
Are there any books on the subject you would particularly recommend?

Jay Templin

28 August, 2012

[…] facts about coppicing…  not the gobbeldygook written by me.. http://www.woodlands.co.uk/blog/practical-guides/coppicing-an-introduction/ and more […]

Thanks , Phil, for your comment. We have been without snowcover for 3 weeks now and I have just cut 10 stools of birch as a try out. Ordered the book Coppicing and Coppice Crafts: excellent!
Temperatures here can reach as low as minus 35 and the summers are short, but light so I will not be expecting 1 metre of growth. Its all very new to me, but I´m finding it very interesting. Thanks once again.
I hadn’t realised that the 42 acres I have were going to be so pleasurable. Since it is mostly conifer, I really thought that my options were very limited but I´m thinking again.

Matthew Tunn

29 April, 2012

Hi Matthew,
I coppiced a large area of Birch last year. There was about 1 metre of new growth this year. I have cut it as young as 4 years old. The stools I cut last year were about 30 years old. I would cut it once the leaves are off and before the end of March in England.
I am not sure about the weather and climate in Sweden.

Phil Hopkinson

12 April, 2012

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