Monday, 29 November 2010

First snow in the woods this winter

Yesterday saw the first snow of this winter fall in the woods!


OK, not much yet, but another inch fell today, and from the forecast it looks like there could be quite a bit more by next weekend.

Our friends Carl, Wendy, Holly and Tom came to the woods with us, though Tom got cold, so he headed home with Wendy after they'd collected some of last year's Hazel for kindling. It's a good job they did, as then the weather did this:

but that left it looking quite scenic:

I'm not sure these pheasants were too impressed though:

We actually got quite a bit of work done, despite the snow. We took the ropes this time, and Carl gave a lot of help with them, and also splitting logs. The biggest job of the day was a Hornbeam stool which had several tangled stems on it. I climbed into it to get the rope as high as possible on each stem:

Then after I'd put in the felling cuts, Carl pulled the rope to finish the job:


It was a pretty awkward stool to work, as most of the cuts were around shoulder height, which is not an ideal position to be using a chainsaw:


In between pulling trees over, there was a fire to keep going (or not)...

Holly took over as guest photographer, and got lots of interesting photos, such as Carl trying to figure out why the fire wasn't working...

and a nice snow picture:

Being Hornbeam, there was a lot of brash to clear up, and it's a tough wood to saw through and even tougher to split.



Thinner parts were striped to aid seasoning:

while the thicker bits were notched to make splitting easier:

Last of all were three intertwined stems, which had to be roped together and then felled in a group:


They were the most awkward of all, but we got them down and cleared up before the end of the day. There'll now be a lot more afternoon sunlight coming in - I'll get a photo when we're next there...


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Saturday, 27 November 2010

First frost in the woods

Yesterday was the first proper frost in the woods. I know it's been cold in more northerly parts of the UK already, but it's a bit warmer where we are. The grass and leaves were crispy with ice, and the soil had mostly frozen solid.


In the shade, the frost actually stayed all day, so I expect it will build up over the coming week, as it looks like the weather will stay cold.

Anyway, this kind of weather is great for working in the woods, as you don't get too hot, the ground is firm underfoot, and it's often sunny. Here's the view as I arrived not too long after sunrise:

My first job was to fill the bird feeder. I also had to refill it seven hours later when I left, as they'd eaten this much in that time:

I did of course stop to get some pictures before starting work, as the birds arrived as soon as I'd filled it. Mostly Coal Tits, with one Blue Tit:





I also tried getting some fast shutter photos of birds in flight, but as the sun wasn't up very far I had to do them at ISO1600, so they were a bit noisy, but here's the results anyway:



I need to be there nearer to midday to have another go...

I heard some rustling noises nearby, and saw a pheasant trying to be inconspicuous with its white, red and blue/green head...

Coincidentally, Tracy saw a Reeves's Pheasant a few miles from the wood today. Would be interesting to get a picture of one if they spread over to us...

On to the work... as I was there on my own yesterday, rather than tackle too many big trees, I worked on some awkward Hazel stools along the edge, as these take quite a bit of time but there's not much to go wrong. I've cleared a nice gap here:

and another one here, though a few stems have been left as I need a rope on them to pull them back into the wood:

There was also some windblown Chestnut that I finished dealing with. The stool is still alive, so perhaps it will recover...

In the meantime, it made a neat vantage point to take a photo from:

Here's a view from the reference point at the bottom, followed by one from before we started:


It really does feel like the end is in sight, though there's a few more weeks to do yet, especially roping the edge trees back in.


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Monday, 22 November 2010

Making an entrance

This weekend my friend Alex was visiting, and we started work on a more useful entrance into his wood. But first, I want to show you some pics of birds, because now it's heading into winter the leaves have gone and our feeder is filled again, so there's plenty to see:


As well as that Great Tit, there were several Coal Tits:



I wondered if some of them might be Marsh or Willow Tits, but I'm not good enough on the ID to be able to tell, as they all look similar

Anyway, over in Alex's wood, which is near ours, we started work on the entrance. When we started, there was just a gap in the fence and a wooden foot bridge over the stream inside the border.

After a day's work, we had a clear track area as far as the stream:

It was a nice area to work in, with plenty of space to fell trees into.

Alex did a lot of splitting and moving logs while I was chainsawing:

and also piling brash up to make a dead hedge along the boundary:

The logs have all been put in a rack to season, so perhaps next winter Alex will be burning some of them himself at home...

Here's the view from inside the wood back onto the wayleave:

As it's facing south, it should get a nice amount of sunlight into the wood, as well as providing access, so it'll be interesting to see what grows there next summer.

Today we got back into coppicing over in Sweep Wood - last week was very busy at work, so we didn't get to go. However, Tracy had to go to a meeting at school for much of the day, so I busied myself with sorting out the end walls of the firewood shelter, which were in danger of falling over. This was due to putting the stakes in during the summer, when the ground was hard, so they didn't really go deep enough. Anyway, it's all sorted now:

We're not the only people who've been working in the wood. The National Grid's contractor has been along to selectively fell trees in the wayleave. They've chipped the brash, but left logs for the woodland owners to make use of:


They'll come along again in a few years to do it again, and then again a few years after that to flatten the whole area. When they do this it will look appalling for a short time, but it's this method of management that's made it into the unique habitat that it is today, so that's OK.


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