Woodland Traditions

Why are we trying to support ‘traditional’ woodland management?

Just some of the traditional items produced as part of the woodland industry
Just some of the traditional items produced as part of the woodland industry

Traditional woodland management; whether using horses for hauling logs, coppicing trees or producing charcoal is labour intensive, but the techniques remain some of the most effective ways of managing woodland in upland areas like those found in the South Pennines. Management benefits in terms of increasing natural regeneration, changing the age structure woodlands and increasing ground flora are vast. Moreover, traditional woodland management techniques represent low impact, low carbon methods of extraction, causing little damage to any potential archaeological remains preserved within the woodland.

Watch the above video about Hywel Lewis’ traditional charcoal burn in North Dean Woods to find out more about the production of charcoal using coppiced wood.

Types of Woodland Management


From the middle ages , ancient woodland was managed for ‘coppice’ or for ‘coppice with standards’. Coppice woods trees are cut down periodically to the ground to what is called a ‘stools’ from which grew ‘stems’ or ‘spring’. These stems provided everything from broom handles to charcoal. Those trees which were not coppiced grew long and straight (the ‘standards’) – became mature and were cropped for timber.


Pollarding involved the cutting of limbs from higher up in the tree to encourage new growth.  Being left for a longer period of time than coppicing the straight poles when cut, could be used in the construction of fences, buildings and even boats.  A further benefit of pollarding was that any grazing animals would be unable to reach and eat the new shoots.

Woodland People: old and new

Photo courtesy of Professor Ian Rotherham: Traditional besom maker or broom squire from the 1930s
Hywel demonstrating carving a spoon – one of the woodland crafts celebrated in the new project.

Woodland Trades

Families living and working in and around woodlands across the South Pennines might have been seen making a living in the following activities:

woodland jobs

As well as these, people were involved in charcoal production, white coal production, clog making, bodging, tan-bark merchants, potash production and basketry to name but a few. Woodlands were a place, important for peoples livelihood.

Did you know : the terms ‘top-dog’ and ‘under-dog’ relate to the sawyers who worked felled trees across what were known as saw-pits using a two man saw; one on the top of the pit – the other at the bottom.
Coal also played an important part in the history of the South Pennine woodlands. Its combustion was the main source of atmospheric pollution which allowed only species tolerant of these conditions to survive. The mill owners planted mostly beech and sycamore as they knew these could withstand pollution and exposure. Neither is native to the area. Beech was also used in the production of bobbins for the textile industry, an industry that had a huge impact on the South Pennines.