A TEAM of foresters has regenerated over 50 acres of neglected Cornish woodland using an ancient method – while boosting biodiversity and creating a sustainable source of firewood.  

Working Woodlands Cornwall CIC is seeing the benefits of seven years of management at Devichoys Wood, as new habitats for wildlife and more trees begin to emerge.  

Positioned between Truro and Falmouth and dating back to at least the 1650s, Devichoys Wood is owned by Cornwall Wildlife Trust. The woodland is home to a variety of trees, including sessile oaks, beech, and holly trees.

Working Woodlands Cornwall has been coppicing in the area since 2016 – a technique that involves felling trees at their base, to encourage new stems to shoot from the stump.

Falmouth Packet: Sylvie Hill in Devichoys WoodSylvie Hill in Devichoys Wood (Image: Supplied)

Dating back to the Stone Age, this woodland management technique was once an important source of firewood and timber.

“Devichoys Wood is an ancient semi-natural woodland that has an endless record of this kind of management, so it’s really exciting to bring it back,” said Grace Finnie, a woodland consultant at Working Woodlands Cornwall.

“Managing the woodland boosts the life and vigor of the woods and gives it more potential to be an amazing habitat. If you cut different sections, it creates a mosaic of different tree ages, bringing light into the woods that might not have hit the floor for 80 years." 

This helps more trees spring up from the ground, bringing greater potential for carbon capture and varies the biodiversity of the wood. Coppicing can also facilitate wildlife corridors, which connect species such as bees, butterflies, and frogs that might have previously been separated by trees.   

Trees felled serve a double purpose, as they are also used as a sustainable supply of local firewood. Working Woodlands Cornwall supplies firewood to customers within 10 miles of Devichoys Wood, in areas such as Falmouth, Helston, Truro, and Redruth.  

The community interest company’s wider work, which includes writing woodland management plans and providing advice and training for other foresters, has helped improve over 370 acres of Cornish woodland.  

The team also runs workshops on the history of Devichoys Wood, as well as introductions for people wanting to learn about agroforestry. Several of these sessions are run by Finnie and are for participants who identify as women or gender marginalised. 

Falmouth Packet: Devichoys WoodDevichoys Wood (Image: Supplied)

Finnie, who joined Working Woodlands Cornwall team as an apprentice in 2021, is now a skilled chainsaw operator, qualified tractor driver and trainee woodland consultant.    

“We want our sessions to be an open space for people wanting to see what it’s like to work in the woods, that’s not intimidating. Many women like the idea of using a chainsaw or different hand tools and can find it really empowering.” 

She added that coppicing is a way to feel rooted to Cornwall’s past.  

“Sometimes you imagine what the workers would have been like, how would they have eaten their lunch? They obviously wouldn’t have used chainsaws, they would have used hand tools, but you feel quite connected to the history of the wood.” 

To stay up to date about Working Woodlands Cornwall’s upcoming sessions please visit workingwoodlandscornwall.com/courses-and-events/ or email workingwoodlandscornwall@gmail.com