Oak Coppicing

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 Oak bark as an element of the landscape

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Oak shrubs are char­ac­ter­is­tic because of their young age and their mul­ti­ple stem stocks. Today only a few of these shrubs are used in forestry. Spe­cial inter­ven­tions and care are nec­es­sary to let those shrubs mutate to high stem trees.

Up from the mid­dle of the 18th cen­tu­ry until nowa­days Lux­em­bourg was cov­ered by large parts of oak shrubs used for leather tan­ning. Most of these low oak woods are to be found in the north­ern part of Lux­em­bourg, called Eis­léck, but in Ern­ster there is also one of these woods called “Warschent”, wit­ness of the ancient wood­land man­age­ment.

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Par­ing with the help of the “cop­pic­ing knife”

On the con­trary of a nor­mal wood where main­ly high sin­gle trunk trees are grow­ing, these low height oak shrubs show the typ­i­cal woody plant mul­ti­ple stems and its man­age­ment rep­re­sents a spe­cial forestry strat­e­gy, between agri­cul­ture and sivi­cul­ture. In their first years, those woods had been used main­ly for their fruits (for exam­ple buck­wheat).

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The barks were trans­port­ed to the tan­nery, packed in 25 kg bun­dles

In order to pre­serve ani­mal skins and for the leather pro­duc­tion, oak barks, rich in tan­nin, were peeled off from 15 to 30 years old low oak shrubs , whose mul­ti­ple stems con­tin­ued to grow in order to be cut down and peeled again 15 years lat­er.

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To pare and to slit the bark they used the “Lohschleißer”, the spoon, the tip and the ax

The oak shrubs in Ern­ster are rep­re­sent­ing nat­u­ral­ly grown veg­e­ta­tion, as the ones in the Eis­léck are main­ly cul­ti­vat­ed. Even if the shrub forestry had already been used for the fire­wood sup­ply dur­ing the Mid­dle Ages, its hey-day came only lat­er on with the leather pro­duc­tion. In Ern­ster this form of forestry had only been run by the farm­ers as a kind of sup­ple­men­tary side­line (“Warschent” only 20 to 25 ha). The regres­sion of the cop­pic­ing in Lux­em­bourg start­ed with the devel­op­ing influ­ence of import­ed tan­ning agents and lat­er on with the syn­thet­ic tan­ning sub­stances replac­ing the nat­ur­al bark extracts.

An de Waelen”

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A Neolith­ic hatch­et and an arrow­head

At the north-east bor­der of the Grünewald there is a small clear­ing called “An de Wae­len”. Dur­ing the last few mil­len­ni­ums hunters and fish­er­men always again vis­it­ed this loca­tion, as it prob­a­bly had ever been a kind of sea­son­al lair, or maybe also a work­shop place, as some arrow­heads and blade frag­ments have been found there. The dis­cov­er­ies are proved to belong to 3 dif­fer­ent Stone Age peri­ods: Palae­olith­ic, Mesolith­ic and Neolith­ic. Rea­sons for the “pop­u­lar­i­ty” of this place could have been its hol­low like posi­tion, pro­tect­ed by winds and rains, as well as the pres­ence of a spring and a small riv­er, attract­ing all kinds of game.

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