Worcestershire Record No. 25 November 2008 pp. 23-24


John Tilt (Reserve manager at Grafton Wood)

After the criticisms by the Forestry Commission officers of our earlier methods of monitoring animal damage to coppice re-growth a new system was devised. The criticisms were that our previous method only covered two coupes of those coppiced, and that it seemed too difficult for some forestry officers to understand. The new system is a simple transect, walking through each new coppice coupe inspecting all the stools encountered. The transect passes through fenced and unfenced areas and records woody species, their height, and the estimated percentage damage to stools both inside and outside the enclosure. The walk can easily be repeated as the coppice grows. (Detailed results are available and will be published after the survey has been running for several years)


Questions arising from the survey:

Have we still got a deer problem?
How serious is the problem?
How effective are the prevention methods we are taking?
What have we learnt from our various surveys?


We still a deer browsing problem with about 50% of un-fenced stools suffering browse damage.
The damage takes place in the first 2-3 years after coppicing.
The deer are very selective with their browsing favouring Ash - Field Maple, Hawthorn, and Oak. Aspen never browsed. Hazel was the most numerous (about 40%) coppice stool and was not affected too badly by browsing.
Oak and ash form the canopy and re-growth on stumps and stools are both badly affected by browsing. Oak very seldom regenerates at all. (This is so historically too).
The plastic mesh five-foot fencing has been effective in most cases in keeping deer from browsing within the enclosure. Some rabbit damage (one coupe only) as rabbits can bite their way through the plastic mesh
Low rabbit metal fencing was effective in coupe 9S but not effective in any other coupes as the deer simply jumped over it.
Piling brash over ash stools was quite effective in stopping the deer from browsing and allowing re-growth.
Shooting. The deer population at Grafton is currently the highest ever recorded (count of 20 Roe Deer in the adjacent fields). After one winter culling 14 deer were shot but the numbers are still increasing. It will take a long time before we see the effect of shooting on population.
The areas adjacent to main paths have less browsing. The areas hidden behind deer fenced plots are often severely grazed as deer like cover to feed.
Cutting the ash stools high has little or no effect on stopping browsing.

What should we do?

Keep shooting deer - once per month throughout winter
Fence part of freshly cut coupes with 150 metres with 5 foot fencing with wire rabbit proof fence at the bottom and plastic netting at the top (about 24 metres radius).
Do not leave areas of cover within new coppice plots - clear to the edge of the rides.
Fence or brash the large ash and oak stools.
Do some planting in low stool density areas.
Protectively fence key orchids and other uncommon plants.

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