Two days ago we drove back into our village after a hike (within a 10km radius) and were horrified to see some tree surgeons cutting down all the willows on our side of the Lot. This self-righteousness continued over the following days and I made sarky observations about the French desire for visual control of the environment - pollarded trees, the Tuileries etc, versus an English (not British!) regard for the ‘natural’ - parodying yet empathising with C18th Edmund Burke who contrasted the ‘natural’ evolution of English law and contemporary aesthetic crazes such as the Picturesque with the abrupt changes occuring in post-Revolutionary France.
However, today the tree fellers reached the line of willows in front of our house and these disappeared within a couple of hours. There followed two realisations, firstly, we now had a much better view of the Lot and secondly, photos of the view from Easter 2012 didn’t show any trees along the river bank.
Conclusion; I think the willows just get coppiced every ten years and this has nothing to do with French public space, love of military parades, or the Tuileries.
Instead of theorising, will just enjoy the new (old) view.
Bretons are into radical pollarding too.
There is a grain of truth though in Burke’s distinction between the UK case-law-based legal system and the Continental statute-based system.
I remember many years ago how sad I was to return to our village for another holiday to find that the very tall trees, on the river bank next to our petanque piste, were no more. Just the stumps remained.
I said nothing, not my place, but was amazed at how quickly the replacements, or regrowth, reached a similar height. A very few years, not decades.
Coppicing is a very ancient art and hazel has been coppiced inthis way and the wood used to make hurdlles and charcoal.
Willow has also been grown and coppiced to make baskets as well.
Locally here, trees on some river banks aren’t just coppiced, they are cut down at as low a point as possible because they are destabilising the banks. I know that trees can actually act to stabilise banks but in a town it can be very different… (They still grow again very rapidly though )
Hazel hurdles are actually used to reinforce banks and prevent soil, erosion.
Good idea! Not seen them here but then I am notoriously unobservant! The banks of our local river are built up (stone walls) in places as it goes through the town so it’s important to remove things growing in the walls. Buddleia are a menace for example.
Hurdles are mainly used on agricultural land with rivers flowing through, but it just goes to show how adaptable these old products are.
In the woods above Ennerdale Water, I found many very old holly trees that were last coppiced several centuries ago by charcoal smelters. Many people don’t realise just how much industry there was around the Lakes in mediaeval times. There’s a good account of this site at;-
More recently, the Forestry Dept of U of Cumbria did a lot of research on the suitability of various fast-growing willows for low-carbon biomass energy production.
The trees in our village are being chipped on the spot (very noisily!) so they might be used for something similar. Meanwhile, on a rather more lo-tech level, I went out last night with a large pair of pruning shears and returned with about twenty stout, two metre long, willow bean poles…