SLU update – Woodmanship

This week our module on the Sustainable Land Use course is Woodland, and joining Patrick in teaching is Mike Gardner. The teaching is a complete contrast from the last fortnight and Mike has introduced a totally new dynamic. His comments about killing squirrels and shooting deer (both a major pest in a managed woodland setting) were a little bit of a shock to many after the very much fluffy bunny attitude of the previous two weeks with Jo. It just made me laugh!

So far the material has been really interesting, but if I’m honest, much of the stuff on growing trees for timber I’m unlikely to ever use. The material on coppicing and agroforestry has given me lots to think about.

For those who don’t already know, coppicing is the cutting down of deciduous trees at the base to encourage new growth. This will produce multi stems, which can be periodically harvested. Pollarding is the same process, but higher up the tree.

Agroforestry is the practice of growing trees along with another crop. The permaculture techniques of alley cropping and forest gardening are both excellent examples of agroforestry. At the moment I don’t see a forest garden as being something we’ll be implementing at Casalinho e Escabelado, but alley cropping gets my mind sparking. I’m one of only a handful of those on the course who isn’t interested in planting a forest garden, but also one of the few with any practical experience of managing a reasonable sized plot of land. It makes me wonder how much the two are linked! More on agroforestry, if you’re interested, from the Agroforestry Research Trust. They sell plants as well as publishing the Agroforestry News journal.

Coincidentally, Mike knows some of the same people that we do back in Portugal. Small world!

Mike’s website is His timber framing projects are amazing, including this kitchen barn conversion here in Portugal. I probably shouldn’t be reproducing his photo, but as it’s a bit of free advertising I’m sure he won’t mind 😉 Must find out where it is …





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