Wednesday, 2 December 2009

November Blow Job

Our first visit for a while and the main job was to check what damage had been done by the recent storms. Fortunately only 2 trees down as far as we could see. The first, a young chestnut, was soon cleared from the path. The other was the large birch in the glade that I had ring barked last winter with the intent of providing standing deadwood but is now providing leaning deadwood. Over the summer the birch had continued to grow but its leaves were smaller than the other birches so I was expecting it to die off slowly, but the weather had other ideas. Lesson learnt; if ring barking birch only cut in less than an inch (this one was cut about 2”). The storms also took the tarp of the ‘kitchen’ bender but that just needed tying back on. The stream was more full than ever and there was so much flow that it couldn’t all fit under the bridge.

We also planted more trees (like last year, these came from Kent councils free tree scheme). Some went into extending the hedgerow we planted last year by the track and creating a short hedge at the end of the glade (which we intend to lay to keep it low so it doesn’t discourage the butterflies etc from entering the glade from the field edge). We also planted a trio of wild cherry near where the path enters the glade, and a trio of ash near the parking space. This time we provided the new trees (and last year’s survivors) with guards so hopefully they will survive the attention of rabbit and deer a bit better.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

August – Summers End

A chilled out time in the woods this month. Spending some of the time just sitting with the trees watching the world drift by with the clouds. Plus walking through the woods and reminding myself of what is there and how lucky I am to have this place. A new sighting in the wood this month (which I would have stepped on if it hadn’t moved at the last minute) was a grass snake sunning itself on the track. I also noticed a woodpecker hole in one of the oak standards that is now in space where the surrounding chestnut was coppiced last winter. A bit late in the season I did some work for the butterflies; cutting back the trees at the south end of the glade so that butterflies flying along the edge of the field/wood can now also fly into the glade. The bright green of summer starting to mellow, my thoughts turned to the coming winter (or ‘felling season’ as I’m starting to think of it) and where to concentrate my efforts. I’m thinking that instead of coppicing another half acre (which hopefully Silva Energy will do instead) I may spend time broadening the glade, cutting back some regrowth and maybe thinning chestnut from around the indigenous trees in the central area (leaving mainly oak, birch and the few rowan that are there).

Monday, 3 August 2009

July – Back at Last

After not being in the wood since early May, made up for it with 3 visits in July. Surprised to see just how much it had all grown up in just a couple of months. So the 1st job was to cut back the growth of some brambles and chestnut (that had been coppiced the year before) to re-clear the path from the parking place to the glade. Well, when I say glade, it was really a bracken forest and was starting to choke out some of the other plants that had only started to get established last summer. I did try bashing the bracken but it had grown too much, so the machete came into play and had a more significant impact. Also attacked some brambles in the glade with the loppers to start getting them under control there. The track had too much growth to drive up so the machete again saw some action hacking back the sedges that were hanging out over the track. Some of the trees planted last winter (Kent free tree scheme) were being crowded out so I also cut back around them to give them some light. Deer have also been having a munch, sometimes on these new trees and sometimes on new growth from coppice stools. One of these (an oak) has responded by growing a leaf as large as my hand (*wonders what largest oak leaf ever grown is*).
Was surprised to see what I though were ash trees were actually rowan and are now heavy with berry. The tree camps also had some work, the older one having a trim of the fresh chestnut growth that was crowding into it, the other having some more floor boards fixed on. There was also some maintenance work fixing the loo roof where a gap had appeared between two sheets of tarpaulin. The last visit of the month included a bonfire to tidy up the twiggy stuff that had been piled up from last winters coppicing.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


Started with some ‘proper work’ stacking all the remaining logs in the area coppiced last winter and also piling up the smaller stuff ready for burning (or leaving as habitat piles). Having done that it is now possible to get to the last few trees that need cutting into logs, but this didn’t get done as the tree camp was calling for attention. The floor boards that were split last time were nailed down and we split some more and fixed those too. The floor is now over half way across and it is now noticeable that one of the main supports is not quite level with the other; maybe it’ll be left rustic but it would be good if it were possible to reposition it without the whole lot falling down when I undid the fixing. The bluebells were in full bloom and the wood is beautiful.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Blooming April

This month saw a little work done splitting logs to make floor boards for the new tree camp, they will need some ‘fine tuning’ to get them to sit right, but it was good to do something other than coppicing after the winter months. The bluebells are now starting to flower and look lovely sharing the woodland floor with the wood anemones. Another few weeks the wood anemones will be gone and the bluebells will dominate the wood in all their full glory. The ferns along the gill are also putting on new growth as they prepare to move from spring to summer. By the new tree camp there is a single solitary cuckooplant, something I haven’t noticed in this wood before. Up the wayleave the work keeping part of it clear is paying dividends; there are primroses, violets and bugle in flower, and the orchids spotty leaves are looking healthy. It was a cloudy day so no butterflies were venturing out, but I plan to get along on a sunny day soon to chill out and just watch them flutter by. Last summers regrowth in the 1st area coppiced is now greening up and will soon look very different. The old dead leaves and decay of the past seasons are being transformed into the lush greenness of the future and I am now looking forward to summer; new season, new life.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

March – panning for gold

More processing of the coppiced wood, it feels like a slow process when you are only there once or twice a month. In addition to that, I also did a little work to let more light into the glade by felling a few small trees at the fenceline and ring-barking a mature birch at the south end of the glade. The intention is that as well as allowing more light it will also provide some standing deadwood for the wildlife. I’ve taken a similar approach with an oak at the edge of the glade, but in this case I am experimenting with partial ring-barking. I have left about 25% of the tree’s circumference not ringed with the intention that the tree will have mostly standing deadwood and present little shade, while avoiding completely killing the tree. It is an experiment and only time will tell how successful it is.

Silva Energy visited to survey what wood we could offer them for their new bioenergy business, so if all goes well there could be an income to offset some of the expense of woodland ownership. In an effort to generate enough cash to buy himself some dog biscuits, Che has learnt how to pan for gold; see photo below.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

February 2009. For Bluebells Or Brambles?

A couple of visits this month and the coppicing is all done, we coppiced approx half an acre again this winter. Many of the felled trees have been processed, but there’s still a lot more logging and stacking to do. We can now see the trees for the wood, especially the oak standards in the coppiced area which last year were on the edge of the area, but are now standing more majestic in the open. The wood now has clear air across pretty much its full width, from the field boundary at the south, across the glade then over 2 seasons worth of coppicing to the track at the north. I will probably take out a few more trees at the south boundary to make it more open to the butterflies etc that will hopefully be making use of this space. In amongst the regrowing coppice that was felled a year ago there is a mass of brambles which should be full of flowers and blackberries later this year, so it’s an as yet unmade decision whether to attack the brambles and let more sun reach the ground (for the bluebells etc), or to leave the brambles for the benefits provided by its flowers and fruit. I may end up doing a bit of both. One thing that will be removed is the little patch of young rhododendron I spotted recently. Spring is definitely here and one of the signs is the ‘lambs tails’ on the hazel.

There have been no other thefts from the wood since the spade disappeared, which is promising. Although there were signs that someone had been in the glade, everything seamed to still be there. We are taking a risk leaving chairs etc in the bender, but don’t want to end up with paranoia spoiling enjoyment of the wood and having to lock everything away each time we leave.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

January 2009. Dam it!

A couple of visits this month and we’ve almost finished coppicing this season’s area. But apart from taking off some of the smaller branches the felled trees haven’t been processed yet, so even when we finished felling there’ll be quite a lot of work left to do logging up and stacking. This time last year it was frustrating the number of trees I was getting hung up, but this winter there has only been one that needed winching out. There were others hung up but they were small enough to drag by hand. In fact that was partly by plan; when trees were most likely to get hung up then I have been taking out all the smaller ones 1st to create more space and reduce the risk of hanging up a larger one (yep, bloody obvious when you think about it).

As well as the coppicing jobs, there has been activity down in the gill with Tom and Sam (and me too) building a small dam below what will be the new tree camp. The 1st session was just roughly putting a couple of logs across and rocks beneath, but when we visited a couple of weeks later the river had helped by filling in the gaps with twigs, leaves and silt. The stream is flowing well and as full as we’ve ever seen it. The only downer this month was our 1st unwelcome visitor activity, as the spade we had been using by the dam ‘disappeared’. We thought it would be safe as it was away from the path but we were wrong, this now raises concern about how trusting we can be with other things we leave in the wood.