Monday 28 April 2008

Flowers, oaks and a new camera

Hopefully I'll be getting some better photos soon, as I have a new camera - a Nikon digital SLR. Just learning how to use it today though, not got onto using RAW mode and playing with all the different settings it has.

Anyway, I had the day off work today as my family are down in Rye, so we went to the wood over lunchtime and spent a few hours there. Cath and my parents helped out with the ongoing work of clearing up:
Tracy and I wandered around and put stakes in next to the chestnut we planted yesterday, to make sure that nobody treads on them accidentally:
We also inspected our baby oak trees that we'd marked last autumn. These are important to us as they represent the future mature trees of the wood, even though we will not live to see them grow to maturity. Now that some of the existing oaks have been thinned and the coppice cut there is enough light for the younger oaks to grow up - oak is well-known for being intolerant of shade.

It's important to make some spaces and have younger oaks growing up, as left to their own devices you could end up with shading by the mature oaks. Natural regeneration would only happen when one of the mature oaks blows down in a storm, so by thinning the oaks we encourage regeneration to be a more continuous process, with a range of tree ages present, and also get some useful timber at the same time. We aim to use as much of the wood as possible for timber rather than heating, as then it can be displacing metal, concrete and plastic, so benefiting the environment and reducing our dependence on a limited supply of fossil fuel. Heating is obviously a good second best though, as it offsets the use of gas, oil and other fossil fuels.

Anyway, lecture over! :-) Here's the baby oaks, first one near our pond that's a few years old (but is in the shade of another oak, so won't actually make it):
Here's one that got nibbled last year, so has had to sprout leaves lower down:
We've got some tree protectors, so will have a go at cutting them down to size to put round them. This one's doing better:
and here you can see the acorn it grew out of:
There are several important things to do to encourage regeneration:
- plentiful seed (we've got that!)
- sparse ground vegetation (we have this at present)
- protection from animals (see above, we're planning to do it)
- low levels of weed competition (OK at present, and we will go to the individual trees and make sure there is no bramble, honeysuckle, etc. climbing them - these aren't a problem on larger trees)
- a good deal of light (with the oaks thinned and coppice cut, we have this in abundance)
There's more info on regeneration from the BTCV here.

The other big job for today was helping my Dad clear a windblown ash in Sweep Wood. Here's a picture of how it looked a couple of months ago:
My Dad had done some work on it yesterday with his friend Brian, and I carried on today with him, taking off branches bit by bit and carefully, to make sure nothing was going to fall on us. After an hour or so it was looking like this:
And we have a nice pile of logs building up - Ash is one of the best firewoods, as it has such a low moisture content that it can be burned green. Obvious it burns better still after seasoning.
We're thinking that the butt of the tree could be good for wood turning, as it's not straight enough for cutting any long sections of timber.

We saw some cool flowers. Some primrose, which we think is native to the wood, rather than a garden escapee:
also some whitebellls (hadn't realised these were around):
and the usual bluebells:
Here's a clearing on a ride in Chestnut Coppice, which we cleared by felling a few birch last summer:
Nice and light, as you can see (thanks to everyone who helped felling the birch here!). The birch are growing back now, as we expected. You can see a bud forming in the centre of the picture below:
We also came across a recently dug animal hole. Not sure what it is - a bit big for a rabbit, and there'd been several "false start" holes dug. Will keep an eye out for droppings or tracks. It would be cool if it was a badger!
That's all for now, got to work the rest of the week, though we should manage an evening trip up to the wood later on. Lots of activity planned for the Bank Holiday weekend coming up too - my brother and his family are joining us all, and we should have some friends from church come up, weather permitting.


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