Sunday, 14 June 2009

What a lot of activity...!

A quiet and peaceful woodland, soon to be shattered by the excitement of 27 children age 10 ish! The children from the local primary school love coming to the woodland. This group came to learn about coppicing and local, sustainable forestry. They are going to compare low impact coppicing with logging.... very interesting! They had a go at felling a tree, walked around the wood finding out loads of stuff and enjoyed creating their own tasks. This young man is building a safe house around a baby oak tree to protect it from rabbits.

The children organised a shelter building competition, here are the boys working well as a team.

and the lasses, using a huge log for something!

They are all very safety conscious when they work! (note the helmet)

Here is one of the completed shelters, decorated with the foliage from the tree the kids felled earlier.

They were all fascinated by the boar leg someone hung in our tree..

Many thanks to National Trust for these brilliant guides.

We had a super day. I am only sorry I can't post pictures of smiling kids faces!
The following week we had 54 children visit, this time ages 6- 8. They all adopted baby trees and built shelters, and also did a plant investigation, looking at what grows in the light. We have been left with a variety of unusual looking shelters in the wood!

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Back to the woods...

After five days in London, it's been great to get back into the woods with Tracy this weekend. The young coppice is growing like crazy now:
We did do a couple of jobs while we were there, mainly trimming back trees along the edges of the track up the wayleave, and also clearing the public footpath where it crosses the wayleave, which did look like this:
and now looks like this:
I was also pleased to see the young oak we pollarded is growing some better shoots now, and has avoided the attentions of grazing animals:
We've left some bracken growing around it to try to keep it somewhat hidden from them...

We saw our first Red Admiral butterfly this year today, though it wouldn't open its wings nicely for a photo.
There was also this moth(?) that I've not been able to identify yet:
and here's a random weird insect to finish:

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Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Busy in London...

I'm in London all week for work - because this is the pinnacle of the year for the Ashden Awards. Today was our conference at Imperial College, which I organised, and it all went well. Tomorrow evening is the Awards Ceremony, with Prince Charles as guest speaker!

Once I get back on Friday, it'll be back to the woods again :-) Hopefully we'll have some wildlife photos on our camera, as it's been up there all week in a place where I think there are often animals.


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Tuesday, 2 June 2009

New plants growing in the wood

Thanks to people on the Wild About Britain forums who helped ID these. First, a Heath Speedwell, which has started appearing in various places in the coupe we cut in 2007/08, which has tiny but pretty flowers:
Next is Scarlet Pimpernel, which is growing in the wayleave just outside the wood. Apparently it likes growing in disturbed ground, so no surprise it's where the tractor was driving with the oak thinnings just over a year ago:
And down at the other end of the wayleave, near the gate, is Ragged Robin, growing where there's a seasonal pond in the winter:
Also in the coupe are more common plants, but still good to see as they weren't there a couple of years ago, like Dock and Nettle:
Oh, and the bluebells are getting ready to scatter their seed now:
We're pleased to see so much new stuff growing in the coupe we cut in 2007/08, and as we're going to keep the rides cut back, much of what's there should be able to establish itself.


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Monday, 1 June 2009

Rhododendron killing

On Sunday I went to the wood to check on our trail camera (still nothing interesting...), but also dealt with this while I was there:After half an hour's work with loppers, an axe and a spade, I was left with this:
It's important to remove rhododendron wherever you find it in a wood, as it's an invasive non-native species, and can take over if left to itself. I know I didn't get all the roots out for this one (which is in the wayleave), but will check back over the coming months for any shoots indicating the presence of roots to be removed.

In the evening we went down to the beach with our friends John and Helen, after the crazy crowds had gone. They'd left their litter though:
Mind you, the gulls didn't mind - lots of scraps for them to eat. I think someone must come and clean the mess up each morning, otherwise it'd be several feet deep by now...

There were still some people flying kites, this one looked cool:
But not as cool as this Great Black-backed Gull:As sunset approached the beach emptied of people
and we were left with the moon overhead
and the sun setting over the dunes
but now it's back to work, which is very busy for both of us over the coming two weeks.


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Saturday, 30 May 2009

A couple of hours in the sun

Today we went to the wood and helped Butterfly Conservation in their survey of this year's migration of Painted Lady butterflies, which is the biggest for many years.
This involved sitting at the edge of the wayleave from 11:00-13:00
and counting all the Painted Ladies that flew across in front of us - they're going the same way, as they migrate North.
In all, we saw 77 in the two hours! We saw other cool insects as well, such as this damselfly:
and various dragonflies:
The other thing we were doing in the wood was checking the trail camera we'd left by the badger sett last night, but there was nothing apart from a video of me walking away from the camera and coming back to it! We've set it up again in a different place and with different sensitivity settings, so we'll see what we get... Anyway, I did at least get a nice photo of the moon last night:

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Friday, 29 May 2009

Ashden Awards Imperial College conference - 10 June 2009

There are still a few spaces available at this event (which I'm in charge of), so if you'd like to come, please send your name, organisation and email address to me at:

Local solutions to climate change
The Ashden Awards Imperial College Conference

10 June 2009

The conference will bring the achievements of the 2009 International and UK Ashden Awards finalists to a specialist audience of practitioners, academics and students with a practical interest in sustainable energy. We will show short films about each finalist’s work, and then you will hear from them in person, talking about what has made their work so successful. With Q&As built into each session, and time during breaks to meet the finalists, there are ample opportunities to find out what you really want to know.

The Ashden Awards promote the widespread use of local, sustainable energy which can address climate change, alleviate poverty and improve quality of life. Find out more about us and our work at

We are delighted to be running this conference in partnership with Imperial College, London, and we are most grateful for significant support from the Faculty of Natural Sciences.

There is no charge for the conference or lunch, but numbers are limited, so please confirm names, positions and email addresses of people attending, by email to If you subsequently find that you are unable to attend, please let us know so that your place can be offered to someone else. The lunch provided will cater for vegetarians; if you have any other dietary requirements, please mention them when you confirm attendance.


09:30 Registration and refreshments

10:00 Welcome and introduction to the day
Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College

10:10 Session 1: Buildings for the future

  • Jonathan Hines (Architype, UK) Reducing energy demand through people-focused building design
  • Vincent Stauffer (GERES, India) Solar greenhouses producing fresh vegetables in the Himalayan winter
  • Questions

10:50 Session 2: Green energy businesses
  • Max Lacayo Cortes (ECAMI, Nicaragua) Supporting rural development with photovoltaic power systems
  • Abasi Kazibwe Musisi (Kampala Jellitone Suppliers, Uganda) Agricultural residues fuelling industries and institutions
  • Patrick Sherriff (Geothermal International, UK) Design and installation of ground source heating and cooling systems for the commercial sector
  • Questions
  • Refreshments

12:15 Session 3: Mobilising communities
  • Samson Tsegeye (Solar Energy Foundation, Ethiopia) Bringing affordable photovoltaic lighting to communities
  • Melanie Sealey (Devon County Council, UK) Renewable Energy 4 Devon: generating employment by supporting renewable energy businesses and customers
  • Richard Davies (MEA, UK) Motivating communities to reduce carbon emissions
  • Questions
  • Lunch

14:00 Session 4: Radical carbon cuts
  • John Doggart (Sustainable Energy Academy, UK) Old Home Superhome: Inspiring people to retrofit through practical exemplars
  • Vivek Gupta (Saran Renewable Energy, India) Replacing diesel generators with biomass gasification systems
  • Richard Dunne (Ashley C of E Primary School, UK) Antarctic expedition inspires carbon saving at a primary school
  • Questions
  • Refreshments

15:30 Session 5: Scaling up
  • Phil Webber (Kirklees Council, UK) Rolling out insulation across a large metropolitan borough
  • Dean Still (Aprovecho Research Center and Shengzhou Stove Manufacturer, USA/China) Mass production of efficient fuelwood stoves
  • Amitabha Sadangi (IDEI, India) Treadle pumps increasing income and quality of life for poor farmers
  • Questions
  • Closing presentation and networking time

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Thursday, 28 May 2009

A new badger sett

Tracy was up in the woods today with a friend, and in Sweep Wood they found what appears to be a new badger sett:
Seeing as our shiny new infra-red trail camera has arrived this week, we're hoping to go and set it up tomorrow night to watch this location and see if we can get some pictures.


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Monday, 25 May 2009

Nesting Great Tits, a singing Robin and a foraging Blackbird

The highlight of this weekend was on Saturday, when we found a family of Great Tits using the nesting box we'd put up in late February. The disappointment was going back on Sunday with the camera tripod to try and get some better pictures and finding that the youngsters had all left the nest! We weren't too surprised though, as looking back at the pictures it was clear that the chicks already had all their feathers - here's one poking his head out of the box:
and here's a parent checking it's safe before revealing the location of the nest (though the box kind of gives it away to humans...):
Baby says "hurry up with my food!":
And here it is in four quick photos: arrive, in, out, and away:And if you'd rather see it in video...

While I was waiting to get video of the Great Tits, I also got a little bit of a blackbird foraging:

These weren't the only birds in the wood though. Our little friendly Robin (we call him Rob, predictably) was guarding our camp as usual:
But he was very obliging and also sang for us:
here's a video of him alternately singing and preening:

Last but not least, we saw where a woodpecker has been working at a dead branch in an oak near the entrance to our wood (this is why dead wood up a tree is important!):As you can see, they're not big enough holes to nest in yet, but we'll see how they develop over the years...


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