Return of traditional woodland management set to restore famous hotspot for endangered songbirds - The National Trust

Man in protective clothing including hardhat & ear defenders uses a chainsaw on a tree trunk in the middle of a clearing, some cut logs are off to one side.
Coppicing works taking place at Sutton Hoo (credit: National Trust Images & Darren Olley)

The National Trust is hoping to amplify one of nature’s most beautiful sounds in the woods at Sutton Hoo, the famous Anglo-Saxon burial site in Suffolk and star of the 2021 Netflix film The Dig, by dramatically improving conditions and habitats for nightingales and other songbirds.

The conservation charity is aiming to diversify wildlife habitats on the site by reintroducing the traditional woodland management technique of coppicing, which dates back to the Stone Age and involves the repeated cutting of trees to their base to encourage fast new growth.

Famous for their distinctive song and immortalised in literature as a symbol of love and the arrival of spring, nightingales have seen a staggering population decline of 90 per cent in the last 50 years and are now being listed among the UK’s most threatened birds, featuring on the UK red list of conservation.

Jonathan Plews, National Trust Ranger at Sutton Hoo, explains the benefits of reintroducing this traditional technique: “Coppicing has so many benefits for nature. Not only can coppicing help trees to live longer, but it also lets more light and warmth onto the woodland floor, allowing a wider range of woodland flowers such as wood anemone, primrose and red campion to thrive. Different species benefit from different levels of light, so having areas at all stages of tree growth supports a wide variety of wildlife, including many rare species of birds.”

Nightingale nests can usually be found at or just above ground level as this small, secretive bird raises its young in the shelter of thick scrubby habitat. However, these vital habitats have been in decline due to an increase in deer populations, differences in land use and changes to woodland management practices over the centuries.

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Posted On: 28/02/2023

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