Monday 31 March 2008

Coppicing by the pond - part 2

We did some coppicing by the pond last November, and this weekend we went back for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon to finish the job, now our main coppicing area is done. This is how we left it:
So, this time our focus was on the few stools left, and also cleaning out the pond:
It was only about 40 minutes work - we just felled the chestnut, cut the sticks/logs and stacked them, and left the twigs to form a pile along the side of the pond, hopefully to provide a little cover for any creatures that might want to hide there:
I realise it just looks like we made the pond muddy, but Tracy did actually rake a lot of leaves out of it! We left a couple of dead trees stretching across the pond. No idea if this will be good, bad or indifferent, but we'll see. Perhaps honeysuckle will grow across? There's certainly plenty of it around, and it had a good hold on this chestnut:
We saw two creatures of interest on this trip; a moth:
I think this might be a Carpet moth of some sort, but I don't really know. Any idea?

We also saw a dead mole in the middle of our ride. Don't know what killed it, as there was no sign of injury to it:

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Bird expressions

I'd written this for another forum but thought it might amuse some people, so here it is:

Pet birds, observed close-up, have many expressions:

For example, sleepy:

surprised (by a bird flying past the window)


angry (argument over who sleeps where)


suspicious (of a new thing placed below him)

I don't know if wild birds do the same? I'm guessing they do, but it's harder to watch them to find out...


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SWOG meeting

Saturday was a great success, thanks to Tracy's hard work, our speakers and the enthusiastic bunch of people who turned up.

We had about 70 people there in total:
Our speakers were:

Ian White, who spoke on the project to monitor and reintroduce dormice in the UK. You can read more about it on his website:
Ian is also secretary of the Sussex & Surrey Coppice Group.

Steve Wheatley, who spoke on butterfly conservation. There's more information on various websites:
The Rother Woods Project

Me, talking about chainsaw and tree felling safety - basically telling people to get training and protective clothing! Some of the info is in an old post on our blog, and I used the videos of felling that have been on the blog already.

Tracy, who apart from running the day also spoke on first aid, recommending the course run by WoodNet.

Ian Johnstone, who told us about the Kent High Weald Project, getting communities more involved with the countryside. More info here:

We also had several group discussions, giving woodland owners a chance to share ideas, information and experience.

Later in the week there will be a detailed write-up of the event on the SWOG website, which at present is kindly hosted by Visit it here:


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Monday 24 March 2008

Coppicing finished!

Well, pretty much finished. There still the hung up windblown birch (more on that later), but all the rest is done! :-)

We got to the wood a bit later than planned today, having stopped at a car boot sale en route to buy a new food blender - I blew the old one up (smoke came out of it...) last week making my own peanut butter... at least the one we got was only £5, and looks better than the old one.

The day started bright, and ended with glorious sunshine, but in between was this:
So we stopped and had lunch, huddled in out little shelter, and then carried on regardless, as it was our last day coppicing, and it soon brightened up.

The big job today was several large birch, one of which had a bit of a lean in completely the wrong direction, and was too big for me to even attempt to use the felling lever to push it the other way. So, we set the winch up to pull it in the direction we wanted it to go, and then I set about felling it using a split-level cut. The combination of the winch and the felling lever in the split level cut worked beautifully and the tree was soon down, although its size meant that it took a while to de-limb and cut up:
That left the birch that was windblown some years ago, and hung up in an old chestnut:
I decided I could tackle the smaller of the two birch stems, by making a normal felling cut in it, but completing it slowly until the tree began to move and slide down the chestnut, give me plenty of time to take a few steps back and watch (not that it did anything unpredictable anyway, but better safe than sorry):
So, here's a picture from yesterday:
and today:
and here's the hornbeam we so carefully left untouched:
and finally, a few from near the shelter, to see just how much we've done
For comparison, here's a similar photo from early Feb:

My parents are down from Thu-Sun this week, including the first meeting of SWOG (Small Woodland Owners' Group), which Tracy has spent weeks organising. We'll be sure to do an update on it...


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Sunday 23 March 2008

A break in the rain

Yesterday was wet. Today was wet. But then at about 2pm it stopped raining (and snowing!) and brightened. A quick check at the Met Office radar page showed that it should stay dry for a few hours, so we dashed out to the wood.

On the way in we stopped to dissect the dropping form the green woodpecker we found a couple of days ago, and here it is:
As you can see, once the "skin" was split open, it was clearly full of the remains of ants! This is one of the things the green woodpecker eats, so I guess that confirms the source.

Once in the wood Tracy got on with a few chestnut stems near the tent:
and then moved on to the final bit of chestnut to the right of the ride:
which now looks like this:
While she was doing that, I dealt with four large birch trees, which were pretty straightforward to fell, but took a while to log up:
but now they are gone:
and you'll notice that there's a tree right in the middle of the above picture, just in front of the pile of birch logs, that I managed to leave undamaged. It's one of the few hornbeam in this end of our wood, so we thought we'd like to leave it for now, and perhaps pollard it next time round (in 15-20 years!).

Anyway, that's all for now. Tomorrow looks sunny, and will be our last day coppicing for this winter.


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Saturday 22 March 2008

Today we're in the Times

I forget to say in last night's blog that we'd had a photographer form the Times visit during the day, and the night before had done a telephone interview with them.

The article is online now, here:
There's no picture there though, I guess it's in the print version, but I've not been out to buy it yet. The article is pretty accurate, except that it says we bought our pole lathe, when in fact we made it ourselves.

The weather's looking a bit dodgy this morning, so we don't think we'll go up to the wood until the afternoon, when it might have improved...


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Friday 21 March 2008

Snow, wind and rain

Well that was the forecast for most of the UK this weekend, but today was like this in our wood:
The wayleave in particular is showing many signs of spring now:
and some leftovers from autumn:
We were interested to see this in the grass just outside the entrance to our wood:
It's probably from a green woodpecker, which is cool. A friend of ours saw one near there when he visited last year, so I guess they're still around.

We saw another cool bird event as well - on our walk back down the wayleave to the car at the end of the day we stopped to watch a blue tit. It was only about five metres from us, but decided that it was safe enough to take a bath in the drainage ditch! We stood very still and watch. Didn't get a picture, because I figured that by the time I'd put down the chainsaw, etc. and got the camera back out of my rucksack the bird would have gone. Maybe I'll keep the camera out next time we leave...

As I said in an earlier post, this weekend is our last coppicing, because the trees are starting to grow now. It would have been nice to finish a couple of weeks ago, but we've not had the time. So, we made a big effort today, and tackled some birch that were a bit awkward, as they had to be felled into the area that isn't being coppiced because they were leaning that way, and the wind was blowing that way too. The first one came down OK, neatly into a gap:
but the next two were not so easy. This big guy got hung up, just as I expected:
because of the felled oaks that are in the way I wasn't able to winch it out, but was able to use a pole as a lever to shove it along so it was lying at a shallow angle, then cut a log off the base. Repeating this process got it down. But I should give a warning: cutting bits of the but of a hung up tree can be dangerous, because it can result in sudden movement of the tree, especially if you cut enough off that what's left is stood upright and can topple. This is why I was careful to lever the tree along between each cut so that it remained at a shallow angle. Still not ideal though, and I would have preferred not to do this.

We felled six large birch through the day, and about the same number of medium-sized chestnut that were in between them, and created this lovely expanse of sky, which will get more light down to the woodland floor for things to grow:
Of course what was left on the ground wasn't so pretty:
Because we're focusing on getting the trees down we're just logging them up and leaving them pretty much where they are, to clear up in a couple of weeks.

To show the progress we've made, here's a picture of the area three weeks ago, and at the end of today. You'll see that the oak on the left is down now, but the two oaks behind the felling area in the middle are now clearly visible.

a few weeks ago:
The other area we worked in, where Tracy spent much of the day, was the remaining chestnut on the right, near the border with Dome Wood.
At the start of today:
and at the end:
Still a few more to do, but we'll be there again tomorrow, though for how long will depend on the weather, as if it rains hard we'll have to stop, because it's not safe when everything gets slippery.


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