One and half years ago I started following the story on a single ancient ash coppice stool. In January 2011 it caught my attention in a woodland because someone had written, on one of its freshly-cut limb stumps, the following:

“This was one our best loved trees.  We are sad that you have cut it down”

Anon., January 2011

What interested me was the lack of understanding by a member of the public about woodland management in general, and specifically about coppicing. After all, coppiced woodlands provide some of the richest wildlife habitats in British forests, and an ash Fraxinus excelsior stool like this one would have split in two if its limbs had been left to grow any larger. So, in my view, the cutting of the old coppice stool was a very positive activity. I have since been returning regularly to look at the coppice stool:- you can see the story and photos here.

On my last visit in May 2012, I was sad that some of the regrowth on the top of the stump had been damaged, partly by browsing deer and mostly it seemed by children using it as something to climb over; it does after all have a fascinating shape. Further down on the sides of the old stool there were more encouraging signs of regrowth. Let’s hope that these escape any damage.

Ancient ash coppice stool regenerates
The ancient ash coppice stool in May 2012, showing signs of regrowth all along its flanks (2012)

Read more about the story of this ancient ash coppice stool

Gabriel Hemery


  1. Great blog and wonderful photos. But oh dear. Someone was “sad” that the tree was cut, and it is “sad” that the regrowth is poor, or harmed by natural grazing, (shame the wolves are missing from our nature though!) or children. I wonder if the tree could not have been left standing? Coppicing is hardly a natural system, even if it does create artificial biodiversity? Let’s relax and stop overmanaging the forests of England? Let the wildwood return?

  2. Its certainly exposed to playful children being on what looks like a path through the woods. Maybe a series of educational lessons would go some way to engendering a sense of respect for the fragile woodland species, even coppiced stumps.
    With the poor weather we have been having recently its no wonder the tree is only growing very slowly. But the main point you made about deer browsing off new growth is a problem across the entire UK with the population explosion of deer of all types. Unfortunately the film ‘Bambi has a lot to answer for because unless a natural predator (wolf) or a serious cull is administered soon we will lose a lot more than just our woodlands.
    I am no advocate of blood sports nor the annual grouse shoots, hare coursing or fox hunts but sometimes you just have to do things that are distasteful for the greater good of the natural landscape. Fox hunting and hare coursing not being for that greater good in my view.
    When the act of coppicing ends up providing tasty lunches for the deer population everywhere it goes to show just how much we have screwed up the balance of nature and the old heirachy of predator-prey relationships by our hunting and destroying all that is green and pleasant.
    An interesting fact was revealed when they re-introduced Grey Wolves back into Yellowstone National Park. Prior to this event the great fire had wiped out a lot of top growth and everyone was fearful that it was the end of the forests there. They were wrong because wildfires are generally a good thing in the wild because they clear out the dead growth and disease leaving the forests to regenerate fresh and clean.
    Unfortunately because the natural orders of predator-prey had been destroyed by hunters and cattle ranchers years before the Elk (moose) had free range and were browsing the new growth of Aspen as soon as it emerged. This was a serious issue as the Aspen was formerly a widespread tree and the only ones surviving were the mature stands that had escaped the firestorm.
    Along came the Wolf reintroduction and within a few short years the Aspen showed positive signs of regeneration along with the reappearance of Beavers, otter, and a raft of associated mammals that had long since left the park. It appears that the wolves hunted the Elk as they would normally do and kept them confined to different areas where the Elk had better views of the surroundings and therefore better chances of survival.
    So maybe its time to re-introduce the European Wolf back to the UK?
    I bet that makes a few folk choke on their cornflakes. 🙂

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