Hazel economics in woodland management and restoration

Hazel is a resilient coppice species, common in older or ancient woodlands across the region. Its abundance reflects its historic importance in the local economy, and its widespread former use. Today however, where timber is being grown in a silvicultural system of coppice with standards, hazel is a poor species choice. Because it grows to a height of about 5 meters, standard trees growing within the coppice matrix will branch out above this level, creating low canopies, short timber lengths, and wasting the vertical development of the standard tree.

And although there are still some uses for hazel today, its relative lack of demand can present an economic cost to woodland restoration. This is especially the case where its short rotation has been abandoned, resulting in fewer useful well formed rods. Where felling gangs or contractors are working for volume, coppicing of hazel unfortunately represents a net cost. Cutting hazel is a light and quiet activity and is sometimes best done by the end user coming to collect his or her own material. Because the two operations are relatively incompatible, they are best done at different times.

To try to reduce waste and cost, areas of hazel are offered to users and makers of hazel products at no cost. There is often a considerable firewood content in older stools, so that along with selected rods, two products are harvested at once. Coppicing is carried out prior to felling and extraction operations, leaving a suitably cleared understorey. If winter access is difficult due to wet rides and tracks, material may be stored till conditions dry out. Contact Clive if you are interested in cutting areas of hazel in various woodlands around Essex and Suffolk.