First Coppicing in Vicarage Grove for 80 years

Coppicing is an ancient woodland management technique that was once used to ensure regular supplies of timber and firewood. Trees are cut close to the ground on a regular cycle. They regrow from dormant buds at the base of the stump (known as the stool) to create dense stands of multi-stemmed trees. The new stems grow back faster to provide a sustainable timber supply rather than harvesting more mature, thicker branches.

Traditionally, the long straight poles produced by coppicing would have been used for fencing, building and in the garden as bean poles.

These days, coppicing is primarily a way of improving the health and biodiversity of a woodland area by opening it up to the sunlight and allowing a wider range of plants to flourish.

In Vicarage Grove, the Wenhaston Commons Group carried out some very small scale coppicing in the 1990’s, but the last large scale coppicing was carried out just after the Second World War.

Visitors will notice that we are currently experimenting with a small area or ‘coupe’ to monitor the rate of regrowth and see what other woodland plants emerge from seed that has laid dormant for many years. Because the young shoots are very palatable to deer and hares a protective dead hedge of cut holly has been woven around the perimeter.

The AONB volunteers made a really good job of making the dead hedge using holly that they had cut on their last visit.

Dead hedge in place around the trees to be coppiced.

Then, in early February, a Blyth Woods work party coppiced the trees in the enclosure, cut the wood into manageable lengths, ( 4 ft is the traditional length) and stacked it. The cut stumps were covered with crashing from the trees to give further protection from any deer or hare that pushed through the Holly.

Summer activities in Grove Woods

We continued with our programme of cutting and raking off the grass in the meadow areas and rides which will encourage the growth of other plants. The yellow rattle that was spread about as seed last year has been successful and there are now several patches of it in Malster’s Little Field and Grove Piece. Yellow rattle should help to reduce the grass and that will leave space for other plants to flourish. The ragged robin plants raised from local seed and planted in some of the damper areas also bloomed well and they will hopefully have seeded themselves to increase the number of plants next year. We hope the piles of cut grass will invite grass snakes and others to live in the area.

The central ride that crosses Grove Piece had a wonderful display of vetch, birds foot trefoil, marsh thistle and other plants from seeds in the green hay collected in Reydon Wood the previous year and spread in Grove Piece. Since we first started working in Grove Piece in 2017 we have been steadily adding to the lists of flora and fauna to be found there. In July this year we ran a Bioblitz and picnic for the Friends of Blyth Woods. This was an enjoyable social event, and also added a variety of species to the lists. The day started well with a first record for Grove Woods, an Essex Skipper butterfly that managed to get itself caught under the gazebo as it was being erected!  Other notable records included 12 species of butterflies, two species of pond snails and an unusual alga, Fragile Stonewort (Chara globularis). The stoneworts are a group of algae that get their name because most of them build an external skeleton from calcium carbonate. Fragile Stonewort is known from only a handful of other sites in Suffolk, including ponds at Broad Oak farm in Bramfield. The stonewort in the Malster’s pond was first noticed by botanist Dorothy Casey when she carried out a plant survey in Grove Woods which added more plants to our records, including a several new grasses.

The school tree nursery was in need of repair so we approached Kings Landscaping in Halesworth and they kindly donated bark for the tree nursery paths and sold us the other materials at a reduced price. The school now has three new beds and the fourth will be completed when we have taken out the young trees for planting with the top class in December. There was more bark than we needed for that job so we used the rest to make a bark area in Vicarage Grove where we hope fungi may grow. So far this year it has been too dry for lots of fungi.

 After bark spreading we were treated to watching Alan ring three barn owl chicks. The barn owl box we erected in Grove Woods obviously suited them very well. 

Alan Miller once again carried out a Breeding Bird survey in Grove Woods, click here to see the detailed results. 

Friends Bioblitz and Picnic 2022

Ragged Robin

Picnic and Bioblitz for the Friends of Blyth Woods

Sunday 10th July, 3 pm to 5, meet in Grove Piece at 3 pm

Come and join us for another session exploring the natural riches of Grove Woods.

In the Bioblitz last year we recorded

41 species of flowering plants, 4 grasses, rushes and sedges, 6 aquatic plants and 12 trees and shrubs 6 butterflies, 3 dragonflies, 9 terrestrial insects and 5 aquatic insects 1 amphibian, 1 crustacean and 1 bird.

all in one hour.

Let’s try to add lots of new species this year!

We will provide identification sheets and books, collecting equipment and…….

a picnic tea at about 4 pm

Blyth Woods AGM

7pm Thursday 7th April 2022 at Wenhaston Village Hall 

Short business meeting

Wenhaston Wildlife 2020/21 , presentation by Alan Miller


Wild Wenhaston Forum

Working together for the benefit of our environment

We hope to work out how we can best help the environment and encourage species diversity. Local environmental groups and interested individuals have been invited so it should be a chance to chat to each other and share ideas.

for further details: 

Winter Work parties 2021/22

The winter work parties kicked off with some planting and some removing. Back in the spring a shake of a few local ragged robin seed heads produced many seedlings and some were planted on the west side of the pond edge in Malster’s Little Field. We hope to establish an area of wetland flora in the soggy edge of the pond.

 In Vicarage Grove the success of holly growth had to be curbed in order to encourage the germination of ground flora and other saplings that needed light. Areas of holly were removed by pulling or digging out small rooted plants and cutting back more mature growth. There is a lot of holly in the wood and we do not aim to remove all of it, it provides valuable roosting sites for birds and the berries are a food source. The brashings were gathered up into a loose dead hedge along the edge of the wood perhaps helping to deter Muntjac deer from entering and providing shelter and food source to a variety of insects and small mammals.

A group of six volunteers from the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offered to work in the wood and we allocated them a patch of holly to clear. They worked hard all day and made such an impact on the holly clearance creating a neat and substantial dead hedge on the perimeter. We are very grateful for their support and we would love to take up their offer of more help next year. Another bonus for us was that we gained a new volunteer from the group at our regular work parties. 

We have been fortunate to receive a large number of trees this year from the Tree Wardens Scheme and Woodland Trust as well as the Conservation Volunteers. The trees have been planted in the northern end of Grove Woods to thicken up a scrub area and to fill in a depleted hedge and in Grove Piece dead trees were replaced and the scrub areas defining the edges of the natural regeneration were added to. Some standalone trees were planted in the natural regeneration area on the eastern side where regeneration has been absent or slower. In the main we have planted trees found in the immediate locality however there are some additions of varieties to broaden the variety and to experiment with trees that can tolerate climate change. In Malster’s little Field the boundary hedge planted by the school had dead trees replaced and in places the hedge was made thicker. More trees were planted into the coppicing area scrub varieties were planted between standalone trees.

We planted five more fruit trees in the community orchard at Merton Wood and also replaced the section of hedge that was removed by adjacent developers. We look forward to the autumn and a bit of scrumping!