The prevalence of Hornbeam in the Great Wood sets it apart from many other Hertfordshire woods. It is recognised by its greyish-brown bark, which is smooth but with swirling flutes:

It propagates and regenerates easily and was traditionally managed by pollarding and coppicing. In the Great Wood, some variants on these can be found. Some trees were cut to their bases (possibly to eliminate them), but the resulting coppice then regrew to produce large mature trees all issuing from the same base. In other cases, pollarding was carried out at a lower level than the normal ‘above cattle grazing height’ – sometimes dubbed ‘collarding’.

A typical area of coppiced hornbeam:

Ancient traditionally pollarded hornbeams in the adjacent School Camp area:

Hornbeam regrown to mature size from a single base:

A ‘collarded’ hornbeam:

A typical Great Wood view: a dense mix of hornbeam and oak shading out any ground cover.

The row of hornbeam pollards along the boundary with the School Camp is described here.

Hornbeam leaves: dark green and shiny

More Hornbeam images in this gallery:

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