National Beanpole Week
07 Apr 2008
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First Ever ‘National Beanpole Week’ to be Launched on Saturday 19th April
Organisers aim to help reverse the drastic decline of Britain’s coppiced woodlands
‘By using hazel beansticks you are buying local, buying sustainable and buying beautiful’ – Monty Don
Britain’s first ever National Beanpole Week will be held between 19th and 27th April 2008. It will celebrate native coppiced woodland and the ancient tradition of coppicing, together with the beanpoles and other excellent products made from eco-friendly coppiced wood.
The week, which is being run by the Small Woods Association, will be launched at a free Beanpole Festival at the Green Wood Centre near Ironbridge in Shropshire, on Saturday 19th April between 11am and 4pm. Other special events will be held nationwide.
Coppiced woodland is very important because it is a source of sustainably produced wood and provides a unique and valuable habitat for animals and plants such as dormice, warblers, nightingales, wood violets and primroses. In addition, the production and use of coppiced wood supports hundreds of jobs in the countryside and keeps many ancient skills and traditions alive.
‘When we use products made from coppiced wood, such as hazel beanpoles, we help protect the environment, wildlife and our ancient traditions,’ said Judy Walker, Executive Director of the Small Woods Association.
People in Britain have been using products made from coppiced wood for thousands of years. However, despite their impressive quality, these products have been largely displaced by alternatives, like imported bamboo beanpoles. As a result, the amount of managed coppiced woodland in Britain has fallen by around 90% during the 20th century, from around 230,000 hectares in 1905 to an estimated 23,000 hectares in 1997.
National Beanpole Week aims to help reverse this drastic decline by increasing the demand for products made from coppiced wood. Organisers are calling on everyone to do their bit to support Britain’s coppiced woodlands by going along to a special Beanpole Week event, or simply by buying hazel beanpoles made from coppiced wood.
‘Hazel poles make the best and most handsome beanpoles for any garden or allotment. They are also part of an ancient tradition of sustainable production in coppice woodlands which are one of the great wildlife treasures of Britain. By using hazel beansticks you are buying local, buying sustainable and buying beautiful,’ said celebrity gardener Monty Don, in support of National Beanpole Week.
Coppicing is an ancient method of sustainable woodland management. The most commonly coppiced trees are hazel, alder, ash, birch, oak, field maple, hornbeam, small-leaved lime, sweet chestnut, sycamore and wych elm.
Coppiced trees are harvested by having their stems cut down close to ground level. When new shoots emerge, they are allowed to grow for a few years before being harvested again.
This growing and harvesting process is ongoing and can continue on the same tree for many hundreds of years. Coppicing usually extends the growing life of trees – the oldest trees in woodland are often the coppiced ones. Woodland near Westonbirt in Gloucestershire includes a coppiced lime tree which is 48ft in diameter and at least 2000 years old.
In order to be of maximum benefit to the countryside, coppiced woodland needs to be carefully managed.
‘The ongoing management of coppiced woodland is really important because if they’re not maintained, coppiced woodlands become derelict and less valuable to the countryside and environment in general,’ said Richard Thomason, a project manager with the Small Woods Association.
Coppicing is good for the environment because it is an eco-friendly, sustainable way of producing wood.
‘Products made from coppiced wood are often produced and sold locally – reducing the need to transport them over long distances, which causes pollution,’ said coppice worker, Rebecca Oaks.
‘So you can be kinder to the planet and cut your polluting ‘beanpole miles’ when you buy locally grown hazel beanpoles instead of alternatives which have been shipped over from the other side of the world,’ she added.
Wildlife benefits from coppicing because managed coppiced woodland provides a rich habitat for plants and animals, including endangered dormice.
The countryside benefits because coppicing keeps ancient skills and traditions alive and supports rural employment. Coppiced woods provide work for a broad range of rural craftsmen and women, including beanpole, hurdle, spar and charcoal makers.
‘There are now over 500 coppice workers in Britain and their numbers are increasing each year, so if you want a living, working countryside then supporting local coppice workers by buying their products is a must,’ said Paul Hill-Tout, Director of Forestry Commission England.
To find out more about National Beanpole Week, and discover where you can go to a special event or buy hazel beanpoles and other products made from coppiced wood, visit www.greenwoodcentre.org.uk, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01952 432769.
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