Glossary of Woodland Terms
When new volunteers start working in the wood on a regular basis it becomes clear that established workers appear to be using an alternative language which poses a dilemma. We do not want to indulge in unnecessary jargon, which tends to be exclusive, but equally we want to use the traditional language of the coppicing and woodland craft industries. In some ways it is as important to keep the language alive, as it is to maintain the crafts themselves. With this in mind it was agreed that a glossary of woodland terms would be prepared.
This list of terms is no doubt incomplete. If any of our readers have any additional words or phrases which they would like added please contact us.
A maker of Bavins.
Bavin (pronounced Bah’vn)
“A bundle of brushwood or light underwood, such as is used in bakers’ ovens, differing from a faggot in being bound with only one withe or band instead of two”3. A statute of 1542 stipulated the dimensions of bavins, 3 feet long and 24 inches in circumference.4
Bavins were also produced for the navy. These were generally cut from furze for the graving of wooden hulls. This involved burning a quick hot fire under the hull to melt the tar before scraping the bottom and retarring.
Beadle1, Beetle2, Bittle1
A roughly formed mallet. Often crafted from thorn tree or knotty ash, both of which are resistant to splitting.
An eight-foot long, straight rod used in the cultivation of climbing plants, especially runner beans. Traditionally cut from coppiced hazel.
A shelter formed by placing vertical rods around the circumference and bending them overhead to provide and enclosed structure, which is then covered with waterproof material. Mike Abbot had one built of sufficient size to accommodate his wedding reception!
Traditional broom made from birch twigs and an ash handle. This is the type of broom witches are often depicted flying on! The broom should be used in a sideways swishing motion.
The traditional tool for cutting coppice. The basic design is a long straight blade with a hooked end. However there are many regional variations. Some have a secondary blade on the top edge. A long hook is particularly useful when riving hazel rods for hurdle making.
A largely romanticised word for people who traditionally made turned chair parts in a woodland setting from green wood7. At the beginning of the twentieth centuary “a bodger received only 5s (25p) for each gross (144) of legs plus the appropriate number of stretchers(108). To earn a decent living wage of 12s. 6d. (62p) per week meant they had to make a total of 756 turned parts.” (Hill 1994). The bodger would make the turned parts of the chair and sell them on to a dealer, but rarely finish the manufacture of the chair. This may be the origin of the modern use of the word, indicating an individual who never finishes a task properly.
A structure or device. See Cleaving Brake and Saving Brake.
Broom Clisher, Broom Dasher, Broom Squire, 1
A person who makes or sells brooms, faggots etc.
A three legged device used for tying bundles of birch top together in the process of making besom brooms.
A person who lays hedges.
Working woods are divided up for management purposes. Each plot is a cant or coup. Cants are usually defined by rides or cant ditches. In Tottington Wood North the cants are recognised by an alphabetical code. This makes management planning and surveying much easier.
Ditches which divide cants within a piece of woodland. These ditches are not necessarily part of the drainage system within the wood.
The controlled splitting or riving of wood along its length using principles of leverage and wedging; cutting tools are minimally required in this process.
Another name for a froe.
Cleaving Brake (Break)8
A device for holding wood whilst it is being cleft. A range of styles exist, but the general principle is of two parallel bars one acting as a fulcrum and the other as a restraining piece.
An ancient form of woodland management dating back to Neolithic times (4000 BC), and used continuously since then. It consists of cutting trees back to ground level and allowing them to regrow. The resulting rods have a wide variety of uses. The cyclical cutting of the stool does not harm the tree, on the contrary it prolongs its life, often well beyond the species’ natural span.
A measure of cut wood. A cord is a stack of wood 4’(1.2m.) high by 4’(1.2m.) deep and 8’(2.4m.) wide making a total of 128cu. ft. (3.6m3.)
One of the Sussex names for a kissing gate.
Cutting tool with a blade supported between two handles, often associated with the shaving horse. The drawknife is used to shave small quantities of wood in a motion that pulls the blade towards the operator’s midriff; although this sounds extremely dangerous in practice it is not so alarming.
Long rods of hazel used to bind the tops of the stakes in a length of layed hedge. Sometimes called Heathers.
A bundle of sticks much like a very long faggot, usually 8-10 feet long and tied in three places. Facines are regularly used in river defences. Facines were cut from Tottington Wood to build the levee along the River Adur. Facines were also used to stabilise military earthworks and to enable armies to cross ditches with relative ease.
A superior form of bavin generally bound with two ties and traditionally used as a fuel in ovens etc.
Another name for a froe.
Young underwood. From the Saxon fyrth meaning grove.
Froe, Frow1, 2, 6
A cleaving tool formed by a long blade and a long handle set at right angles. The tool is used in the cleaving of wood. The sharp edge is at the bottom of the blade, and it is introduced into the wood by a sharp wallop from the beadle.
The lengths of round wood from which sparres are cleft.
Wooden wedges, used for splitting large logs longitudinally.
A similar tool to a Billhook.
“The main upright stems (known as pleachers) are cut almost through near the ground on the opposite side of the face to the direction of lay and pushed over at an angle of approximately 35 degrees in the direction of the rising slope. Stakes of hazel or ash are driven into the hedge line every 40cm (16in) and the pleachers woven between. Binders or heathers of coppiced hazel, sweet chestnut or willow are then twisted around the top of the stakes to secure the pleachers. The cut stubs of the pleachers are trimmed to keep the stools from rotting. The gap at the end of a laid hedge is usually filled with unwanted pleachers cut from the hedge.” 13
Devices designed to provide portable temporary enclosure. In particular they were used in the folding of sheep. There are two main types of hurdle, the gate-hurdle and the wattle hurdle. The former is a morticed structure rather like a five-bar gate in appearance. Wattle-hurdles, as the name suggests are formed from hazel wattle, and have a more closed structure than a gate hurdle.
A metal drum used for the making of charcoal. Tottington Woodlanders have one located in the Southeast corner of the wood.
Gate which swings between two fixed points allowing only one person to pass at a time. There is one at the Sands Lane entrance to Tottington Wood.
A technique for propagating trees. It involves cutting a stem, part way through, near the base and then bending the stem down to lay on the ground. The stem is then pegged down and possibly earthed over. Eventually new trees will grow from the old stem. When the new tree is established the old stem can be cut away from the parent plant.
The best kind of faggots.
A large wooden hammer, similar in appearance to a sledgehammer. Used for driving in wedges, stakes and pegs. It can also be used for hitting a cleaving axe, and is less likely to damage metal tools than a sledge hammer.
A heavy log, six feet in length, with ten holes drilled in it.; used in the production of wattle hurdles. The upright stakes or sails are placed into the holes before the wattle is woven.
A fan shaped piece of top growth of hazel. Traditionally used to support peas.
The main upright stems in a hedgerow which are the parts bent over in a layed hedge
A traditional treadle lathe powered by a long springy pole. Tottington Woodlanders demonstrate them at many shows. Mike Abbot’s book is an ideal introductory text.
A ”Y” shaped stick used for supporting and guiding in a variety of situations. They are particularly useful for supporting the pole of the pole-lathe.
A particular configuration of teeth on a saw blade, which make it especially suitable for green woodworking. The teeth appear to have large arch shaped gaps periodically in their length. These gaps allow the wood to be removed more efficiently.
A coppiced stem.
Sails8 or Zales2
The upright stakes of a wattle hurdle.
Saving Brake (Break)
Any structure designed to store cut wood, usually out of contact with the ground.
A clamping device, which is straddled and operated with the feet.
A shaping axe with only one bevelled edge, the other side being completely flat. It operates on the same principle as a chisel, and is very effective at removing wood. This is the tool of choice when pointing stakes.
Sparrer or Sparrow1
This is the old Sussex name for the bent lengths of hazel used to hold thatch on a roof. They are rived from gads. In other parts of the country these pins are known by other terms; Spar in Dorset, Broches in Suffolk and Stakes or Spits in Wiltshire.
The multiple shoots from a single root stock as a result of coppicing a deciduous tree.
.A kissing gate.
Twibill1 also known as Twobill, Twivile, Dader, Tomyhawk8
A morticing knife. Used in the manufacture of gate hurdles.
A thin wand of coppiced wood used as a tie or bond in a variety of situations.
Wood Collier or Collyer
Individuals engaged in charcoal production. Charcoal was generally referred to as “small coals” to distinguish it from house coal which was known as “sea coal”.
1. Parish, W.D., (1981Ed. – First Pub. 1875) “A Dictionary of the Sussex Dialect and Collection of Provincialisms in use in the County of Sussex” Gardener’s Bexhill.
2. Tabor. R., (1994) “Traditional Woodland Crafts” Batsford.
3. Oxford English Dictionary,quoted in http://post.queensu.ca/cgi-bin/listerv/wa?A2=ind0504&L=marhst-l&F=&S=&P=18503
5. Abbott, M., (2002) “Living Wood – From buying a woodland to making a chair” Living Wood Books.
6. Abbott, M., (1991) “Green Woodwork –Working with wood the natural way” Guild of Master Craftsmen Pub.
7. Hill, J., (1994) “Jack Hill’s Country Chair Making” David & Charles.
8. Geriant Jenkins, J., (1965) “Traditional Country Craftsmen” Routledge & Kegan Paul.
10. Brooks, A., (1994) “Woodlands – A practical handbook” British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.
12. Arnold, J. (1968) “The Shell Book of Country Crafts” John Baker
14. Howkins, C. (1994) “Trees, Herbs & Charcoal Burners” Unwin Bros. Ltd.