Thursday, 31 December 2009

Last day coppicing in 2009

It may be New Year's Eve, but we were still working in the woods. Paul and his daughter Emily came up in the afternoon to join in, so we made pretty good progress, especially considering we didn't make a very early start! We left a number of logs lying around for me to split tomorrow and put into a rack - we couldn't do it today as we didn't have post driver there.
Here's a before and after view of the area we cleared today:
The view back up the hill gives us a sense of progress now:
We departed just as some rain started, leaving a big fire going, which will hopefully still be burning in 2010 when we return...

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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Rain in the woods

It's been a wet week so far, and we stayed at home today, catching up on things and sharpening the chainsaws. Yesterday we had a group from Butterfly Conservation come to help, and a good crowd turned up despite the weather - they were rewarded with a dry-ish morning, but we packed up at lunchtime when the rain started properly. Here's a few of them at teabreak time:
Earlier in the week I spent some time working in a ditch again...
but I have now at least cleared everything we need to alongside the barn nextdoor:
We're leaving most of the brash to rot to improve the habitat there.

Let's hope we get some better weather in the next few days...


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Sunday, 27 December 2009

More Coal Tits

Before starting work in the wood today we went and topped up the bird feeder again. The birds seem to munch through it pretty fast, but I guess they don't know for sure we're coming to top it up, so they just eat all they can to get them through the winter. Anyway, this time it was brighter, so I got some better pics:Back in Sweep Wood we felled some chestnut, clearing spaces for work we're planning for the upcoming volunteer visit. Here's a before and after of some of them:
We also built a couple more log racks and caught up on splitting some of the logs from trees I'd felled on Thursday. We're trying to figure out where we should stop this winter, and work towards that point...


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Friday, 25 December 2009

Coal Tits at the bird feeder

I was in the wood on my own yesterday, as Tracy had a cold. I spent a few hours felling some smaller trees in Sweep Wood (didn't want to try anything complicated while working alone), but also found time to go and top up the bird feeder back in Chestnut Coppice. A good job too - it was nearly empty! I filled it and settled in about 15m away to see who came to eat - and was rewarded by several Coal Tits within two minutes! It was overcast, so there wasn't enough light for great pictures, but here's what I got:
Walking back I found this weird fungi growing on some dead wood. Not sure what it is, but it was jelly-like:
And finally, back at home, here's what happens when it rains, seeing as the drains are blocked up by sand:
That's all for now, we're back in the woods most days in the coming week though...


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Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Woodland archaeology

A few weeks ago we had David Brown, of the South East Woodland Archaeology Forum, come and visit Sweep Wood and Chestnut Coppice (and other surrounding woods) to look at the archaeological features. There were numerous banks and ditches, but the really intriguing find was what we thought was a ditch running through Sweep Wood:
In fact, it's an ancient trackway, and where the road turns a corner (just out of sight in the above photo), it must have gone straight on in the past.

Tracy's also been busy with the metal detector, digging up various items such as this part from some agricultural machinery:
and also this mixing implement:
We're looking forward to find out more about the archaeology over the coming year, with David hopefully visiting again.

You can read articles from David in the SWOG newsletters, the October issue has some info on woodland trackways in it.


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Tuesday, 22 December 2009

A quick update...

Just a quick update on our progress. We've now got two straight weeks in the wood, bar a couple of days to rest and visit family. Today was a pleasant change - sunny all day, and the temperature up a few degrees. Not sure it will stay like this though...

After the coming two weeks I've not got much more time off work, so we're currently figuring out what we can finish in the time remaining and trying to make sure all the loose ends are dealt with. To that end, I spent most of yesterday and today splitting logs, and now there are some nicely filled racks:
These are from the chestnut Tracy's been felling on the past few visits - she's not so quick at the splitting, so that's my job, and now I've finally caught up with all the trees she'd felled! The splitting is pretty hard work, but well worth it as the wood can season properly over the coming year now.

While I was doing that, Tracy was roping and felling several Hornbeam stems, creating this clear area:
Hornbeam has a surprising amount of brash on it, this is just from one smallish stem:
The next task is to continue to clear the area next to our neighbour's barn (see earlier picture) - we don't want to leave trees that might grow to be a problem there. After that we need to take a look at the border trees (Holly and Hornbeam) and decide which to fell. We'll leave some, but at least half need to come out to let light in for regrowth of the coppiced trees and ground flora. We're wondering whether to restore a hedge on the boundary - there was one there many years ago.

We've also got another visit from Butterfly Conservation volunteers coming up, so we're planning what work should be done on that day, making sure it will fit in with our plan for the remaining time we have.


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Sunday, 20 December 2009

Don't argue with a Defender...

Modern cars have crumple zones and impact-absorbing bumpers. Land Rover Defenders have a steel girder. Here's what happens you slide a Renault Megane down an icy hill into a (stationary) Defender:
You can't see it easily, but the Renault's radiator also broke, spilling the coolant all over the road. The Defender on the other hand...
We'll still get it fixed, hopefully on the other guy's insurance, but it was nice to be able to drive away afterwards and carry on with our day in the wood as normal.

There's still a bit of snow lying in the wood:
but it didn't hinder our work. We've got another Husqvarna 346XP chainsaw now, as we decided the 570 really was a bit too heavy for coppicing work (though it's excellent for the tougher jobs). As I had the first 346XP and the 570 from new, it was Tracy's turn this time. See if you can spot the new one below...

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Friday, 18 December 2009

A colder week in the wood

It was great to have some colder weather this week in the wood - makes a nice change from the wind and rain of a few weeks ago! Included in this post are a couple of videos of birds, a video of firewood processing, and various pics of the work we've been doing.

Let's start with the frost (we've not had much snow here yet, despite the rest of the southeast getting plenty). Because parts of the wood are in permanent shade at this time of year the frost just accumulates for days on end.
We took advantage of the frost to go and get a load of firewood for one of our customers - the ground was rock hard, making getting in and out of the wood easy. On the way up the wayleave we encountered these two pheasants, who didn't seem too worried by the land rover, giving me plenty of time to photograph them:
Note - that isn't snow on the grass in the track, just accumulated frost! With the cold weather we thought we ought to set up our bird feeder in the same place we did last year. It's hung on a chain to prevent the squirrels getting it out of the tree:
Next was the firewood. Here's the video I promised - I made a similar one some time ago, but this time it's of one of the new large log stacks and using the 28" bar on the chainsaw:

Back in Sweep Wood the coppicing is carrying on OK. I spent most of this week catching up on splitting logs, which is basically turning piles like this:
into this:
This will let them season, ready for burning in a year's time. I also made a stool for a friend at work to use as a present for someone. The recently felled Chestnut had small splits inside it, so I cut a chunk off an Ash tree that blew down some time ago, so has had chance to dry out. I'm hoping to get an update in a year or so to see if the stool developed any splits!
Meanwhile, Tracy's been working hard further down the hill, and has cleared a fair sized gap in the Chestnut and Sycamore down there:
We had some good opportunities to photograph and video birds as well this week. The Robin is tamer than ever - here he is eating some dried chestnuts that I chopped up for him:
This time I got a video of him as well:

I also got a video of a male and female Blackbird, but they're not as tame so it's just a short one:

There were lots of small birds in the trees at the edges of the wood, such as this Nuthatch on a bit of dead Cherry:
Up at the top of a birch tree were several Blue Tits:
and in this picture another bird as well - I thought it might be a young Goldcrest, but I'm not sure now:
Anyway, that's this week in the wood. IF we get any significant snow I'll be sure to get some pictures. All we have at present down near our house is this:Mike

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