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Trees and Hedges

Woodland management

In earlier times the woods were always a source of firewood for villagers, and the trees were coppiced and pollarded to this end (Coppicing is cutting trees such as hazel down to the ground and allowing them to sprout again. Pollarding is cutting off the lower branches to provide browsing for animals and firewood). Many examples of coppiced hazel can be seen in Woodeaton Wood, which is the only substantial woodland accessible to the general public.

In the wake of the Second World War woodland was often managed to make money for the owner. The woods which had been used for recreation by the first Lord Tweedsmuir were considered as a possible way of raising revenue for the estate.

An assessment of the work needed on the woodland in Elsfield was made in 1946, a joint venture between Lord Tweedsmuir (the second Lord Tweedsmuir, Johnny, son of John Buchan) and Christ Church. The letter from Christ Church discusses who shall supervise the work: it is suggested that Mr G.G. Brown’s offer to do that be accepted and that there is too much work for one worker. Because of the neglect of the woods, where nothing has been felled since 1919, it will take at least two men, backed up from time to time with a bigger gang, to make the woodland profitable again. The Christ Church treasurer suggests that Lord Tweedsmuir takes onto his payroll the two men to work on both Christ Church woodland and his own, with Christ Church reimbursing Lord Tweedsmuir for the hours spent working on the college’s behalf. The proceeds, firewood and poles, would belong to whoever owned the land. Mr Brown, though offering to do the work for nothing, should be paid.

The scheme suggested shows the care with which woodland management was approached. There are 77.802 acres of woods in four blocks and Lord Tweedsmuir owns another 40 acres of his own. This would occupy two men working two-thirds of their time for Christ Church.

There should be a five year coppice. They would first of all make all fences cattle proof. They would clear out the main ditches, cut coppice in Pennywell, leaving all promising young hard woods to grow into forest trees. They would do the same in Long Wood and the top of Long Wood. They would fell and prepare for planting the top end of Woodeaton Wood, and cut coppicing and take out half the large oaks from the bottom of Long Wood, choosing those with the shortest boles and worst crowns. They would do the same at the bottom of Woodeaton Wood.

They note that any action should be timed to take place in the early autumn following the first really good fall of acorns, to keep the ground shaded so as to prevent the growth of weeds until there is a fall of acorns, in order to give a clear start to the young oak trees.

They suggest ordering in November 1946 enough trees to plant up 15 acres, half the site, and suggest two year oaks, one year ash, one year sycamore, one year larch, two year Norway pine, one year Scots pine and one year Lawson cypress. The Landowners Forestry Co-operative Society of Scotland is suggested as a source for the larch and Scots pine, and Magdalen might be able to supply the ash trees from Lincolnshire.

Unfortunately we do not know if this scheme was implemented. We do know that in 1953 Lord Tweedsmuir employed on a very part-time basis Alf Sumner, who lived in Beckley, to look after Noke Wood, since there is a letter from Alf rebuking his lordship for not planting trees in the autumn but delaying till the Spring when the ground was too dry. Alf also tried to negotiate longer hours, but was told this was not possible as his lordship could not afford. Alf did have the use of the wood, however, going shooting there and cutting wood for his own use, and relations were very cordial between the two, the Tweedsmuirs sending chocolates and hampers of food at Christmas, which were well received by the Sumners.

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