Corylus avellana (Hazel)
Other Names: Common Hazel
Description: The species is generally seen as a multi stemmed shrub due to coppicing but it is possible it to grow into a small tree, reaching heights of 12m though this is very rare. It is very noticeable in late winter/early spring for its profusion of “Lamb tail” like yellow catkins which appear before the leaves. It has smooth, often shinny grey-brown bark. In late summer it produces a profusion of large edible nuts.
Uses: Coppiced hazel wood has been very useful over the centuries as it is flexible and can be twisted or knotted. It has been used for hurdles (fences), tools, weapons, thatching spars, fishing net stakes and furniture. “Cob” nuts are edible and tasty and were grown specifically for eating until the early 1900’s. It is often used now for charcoal production.
Conservation Value: Hazel is often referred to as the “Conservation saviour” due to its great value to a wide variety of species. Its leaves provide food for many species of caterpillar of moths including the Large Emerald, Small White Wave and Barred Umber. Coppiced hazel provides shelter for many bird species including the Nightjar, Yellow Hammer, Willow Warbler and Nightingale. Hazel nuts provide a key food source for the very rare Dormouse (sometimes known at the Hazel dormouse) to help gain weight before hibernation. The different heights of coppiced hazel “Stools” attract many different species of insects, which in turn attract many species of bats.
Preferred Locations: Clay, chalk, sand or loam soils in full or partial shade. Often found as understorey in mature woodlands, as scrub or in hedgerows.
Size: When coppiced and mature, between 2.5m and 4, with up to a 4m canopy spread.
Time to reach full height: 10 years but is often coppiced before this on a rotation of 5 to7 years.
Lifespan: Up to 80 years as a single tree but several hundred years if coppiced.
Castanea sativa (Sweet Chestnut)
Other Names: Spanish Chestnut, Chestnut
Description: A large, long lived deciduous tree first introduced by the Romans for its edible nuts. The bark is a dark grey-purple colour but develops deep fissures with age that twist around the trunk which can reach an impressive 2m girth. Bright green leaves are oblong shaped with sharply serrated edges and have a waxy look. Nuts are contained within a heavily spiked husk.
Uses: Sweet Chestnut timber is similar to Oak but is lighter and easier to work. When young it has a straight grain which makes it useful for making furniture. It is often coppices and the resulting poles can be used to make “Paling” fences. Chestnut is also quite resistant to rotting and so can be used in wet environments. The most common use would probably be the roasting of the nuts at Christmas and the Roman ground the nut to make a course flour.
Conservation Value: The flowers are a useful source of nectar for bees and insects and a large range of micro moths feed on the leaves.
Preferred Locations: This tree prefers sand or loam soils that are well drained. It also prefers a full sun location.
Size: The oldest trees can reach a height of 35m with a canopy of 8m to 10m.
Time to reach full height: At least 50 years.
Lifespan: Amazingly up to 700 years.