Today we were back in our original coup to finish collecting the last of the small hazel rods.
Our volunteers didn’t look particularly surprised when the flint tools appeared again, we are wondering whether the excitement of using them is wearing off.
The effects of hazel coppice on a copper axe
Over the last couple of days we have also been experimenting with copper and bronze axes, the buildings at Durrington Walls that we are reconstructing were built at the end of the Neolithic era. It soon became apparent that these axes with their sharp metal edges are more efficient at cutting wood and, given the chance, most of our volunteers preferred them.
This is our last day in this coup as we now have enough hazel rods to build with and it is amazing to think that a week ago you couldn’t see across the coup!
A Neolithic industrial landscape – coppiced hazel waiting to be taken to Old Sarum
It is the start of our second week of coppicing and the enthusiasm was still evident when our volunteers arrived this morning, maybe the sunshine helped.
We continued where we left off last week, looking for larger rods to use in the main structure of the buildings.
Today, however, we intended to harvest the majority of the hazel with the flint axes and adzes that we have, which meant that we only used the bow saws and lopers to remove the shoots and branches on each rod (brash). This allowed us to gain a huge amount of practical experience using flint tools and also find their limitations, they don’t cut through wood quite as easily as steel tools! They tend to peel the wood along its fibres rather than cutting through which means that it takes considerably more blows to remove a hazel rod.
Hafted axes ready for use
When you have spent a day of using these tools you certainly don’t need to visit the gym!
The project begins for real!
After a long time in planning we are finally in the woods with enthusiastic volunteers. With the weather forecast predicting rain by lunchtime fifteen volunteers arrived at a muddy Garston Woods
near Sixpenny Handley, Dorset. The wood is managed by the RSPB and has been regularly coppiced for around 400 years!
Our enthusiastic volunteers!
Over a hot cup of tea the project outline was discussed, tool safety talks given and then work could begin. With each volunteer being assigned a pair of loppers and a bow saw, they were quickly off harvesting hazel rods from the stools (the base of a coppiced) in our coup (the area of wood that is being felled). The cut rods were then divided into large and small diameters, tied into bundles and then stacked, ready for transporting to Old Sarum.
By lunchtime drops of rain were beginning to fall but undeterred we carried on cutting and dragging until the end of the afternoon, when the rain properly arrived. After an rewarding day we are on track to have the harvesting phase finished in a couple of weeks.
Volunteers coppicing in the woods