Monday, 5 July 2010

An antidote to London

I spent all of last week in London for work, so the weekend was a great opportunity to make up for it by camping in the woods, which are looking great at this time of year.
We took it easy on Saturday, and walked in the wayleave to do a butterfly count to feed into the local Butterfly Conservation database. Here's a few of them...

White Admiral (in our wood, and the wayleave):
Tortoiseshell, which we don't see very often up there:
Meadow Brown:
and a mystery one - any ideas?
Heading back into the woods, it's amazing to see what's happened to where the footpath got a bit muddy with us extracting wood there last winter. The churning of the ground, combined with the light let in by the coppicing, has made it a fertile place for grass to grow up:
As it's not being driven on again (perhaps ever?), it'll be interesting to see how the grass gets on.

I was pleased to see that the young oak we had to pollard a year and a half ago (after it was accidentally damaged) is doing well:
and that a slightly older, but still quite young, oak near the footpath/ride junction has responded to the extra light by putting out dozens of side-branches:
Near the pond, foxgloves have arrived. Not that they're rare, it's just nice to see new plants appearing:
Another new pant there is this one, which I think is a Spearwort of some sort:
Back near our camp, the chestnut that we coppiced first, back in 2007/8, has now started to flower!
I'll be interested to see if any fruit develops...

Saturday night we had light provided by solar PV:
which is also handy for charging your mobile phone:
Sunday was a work day, and we set to levelling out the ruts in the path:
After doing this we thought we'd better test it out, and completely emptied one rack of logs into the land rover:
leaving just a few depressions in the ground behind:
and moving all the wood into a location where we can access it easily this winter:
I know this means moving the logs more than once, but we want to get them out of the deeper parts of the wood while the ground is dry, so that we don't churn the tracks up in the winter.

That's all for now...

Mike

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Thursday, 1 July 2010

Last weekend in the woods

It's been a very busy week at the Ashden Awards, which is why it's taken until now for me to post the photos I took last weekend...

The area near our camp is now swamped by a carpet of green:
The fruit trees are coming on well:
but one particular birch tree is having a tough time with caterpillars:
Don't know the species though - leave a comment if you know what they are.

We've got yet more new plants moving into this area as well. I think this one is Hedge Bedstraw (correct me if I'm wrong), which we've not seen before:
Another one that's nice to see is Elder:
The thistles are back, and we have at least two varieties, judging by the colours of the flowers:
What's quite amazing is standing at the boundary of the area we coppiced in 2007/8 and taking a photo in each direction. Here's the coppiced area:
and here's the view in the other direction:
You can see the huge difference in the variety of ground flora. This is why it's important to keep cutting different bits of the wood each year, so there are a variety of areas in different stages of growth, with different plants and habitats in them. It also works well for harvesting the wood, which I guess is why people have been managing woods this way for thousands of years!

Anyway, time for a Sweep Wood update, where everything is growing like crazy! At the top, the logs we sat on to eat lunch last winter are nearly hidden by nettles:
Hazel stools are growing nicely:
as are the Sweet Chestnut:and so are Sycamore (though we won't let these grow to the point where they seed, we have quite enough of them already!)
A new one for us is Ash - this is the first time we've been able to watch it grow after coppicing. The speed of growth is amazing:
especially when you look at how thick the stems are already, way ahead of the other species:
Down at the bottom of Sweep Wood there's a fungi on an Ash tree, in the same place as last year (which is not surprising):
Any ideas on the name? I wasn't sure...

Heading back to our own wood, the pond is looking good:
OK, you may not think that's good, but look closer:
there's other little creatures in there too, but I couldn't get a clear picture...

Down at the end of the path we coppiced in 2008/9, the honeysuckle we carefully protected is in full bloom:
which is a treat for the White Admiral butterfly. We saw two of them near our entrance, the first recorded sighting in the area this year:
Other insects are out and about too, there's loads of dragonflies around in the wayleave:
and last but not least, first picture of a Meadow Brown this year:
That's all for now...

Mike

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