Wednesday 31 December 2008

Old coppicing photos

Yesterday we had a visit from John, a local retired forester. He brought some photos taken about 30 years ago, when he used to work in a wood near ours. He said it was quite different back then - no rules and regulations, you just got on with your work, built what you needed in the woods and nobody bothered you. I guess things have changed, some beneficial, some not, as always... Here's the pictures anyway (they're photos taken of old printed photos, so quality's not amazing).

Making palings - note the the shelters they built to use while working:
The finished product:

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Tuesday 30 December 2008

Ice, birds and coppicing

This morning it was cold. It's been cold for a few days. All the water we'd left at the wood was frozen. But, this is great for coppicing - the ground is firm, there's good light, it's not raining and it's not too hot. The cant we cut last winter doesn't get much sunlight at this time of year, and the frost has been accumulating:The ground was easily hard enough to drive all the way in and collect a load of logs to deliver at the end of the day, a rare treat for winter:
and the pond had partially frozen (the fact it has a spring probably keeps it a bit warmer):
We headed over to the path between the junction and the pond, where we're working at present:
As we entered the new clearing there, we realised we were surrounded by small birds that seemed to have moved in overnight. The birds we saw or heard included blue tits, great tits, goldcrests and nuthatches. Best of all, the tits were jumping around inside the dead hedge, just as we'd hoped. It's hard to see, but there's a great tit in the middle of this picture (inside the dead hedge), behind the twigs:
I got some other pictures too, but not of great quality (should have had spot-metering on, but didn't...). Here they are anyway though. First, a blue tit in an oak (it flew up there from the dead hedge to watch us when we arrived):
and then several of a juvenile goldcrest (they get their proper colours when they mature)
Anyway, we eventually got to coppicingLoads of people walked along the path today, which, although it stopped us working, was nice as we enjoyed chatting with them all as they passed through. We also had John, the retired local forester, come to visit - I've got some copies of old forestry photos he brought, I'll post them later. We're hoping to have him visit again soon and show us some of the techniques he used years ago, which we expect will be very useful for us.

The work's progressing nicely, there's not too much left to do between the junction and the pond now:
Some days it feels like we're making slow progress, but we have to remind ourselves that we're converting some of the wood to final products as we go along, and also stacking firewood logs ready for cutting in the summer.

There's a lot of light coming in now:
Can't wait to see what it'll be like when the sun gets higher in the sky...


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'Rewilding' is about trying to return some of our countryside to the wilderness state it might have been in hundreds or thousands of years ago. There's an article in the Times about it:

Welcome to rewilding, a movement that is radicalising conservation biology, turning what had been a scientific backwater into one of its most controversial areas. What the rewilders want is nothing less than the reversal of thousands of years of domestication, returning vast tracts of countryside to the way they looked thousands of years ago. They believe the best way to achieve this is by bringing back the biggest and fiercest animals of all – the elk, wolves, lynx and even bears that roamed Britain 10,000 years ago at the end of the Pleistocene era.

It sounds extreme but some of Britain’s most respected wildlife and conservation organisations, including the National Trust, are buying into the idea.

This week the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, which already supports the reintroduction of beaver to Scotland, will suggest northern Britain could support about 450 lynx.

There's a related story on the BBC website about reintroducing lynx, one of the aims being to control the rapidly expanding deer population:

Until recently, the "big cat" was thought to have died out 4000 years ago, but new research shows it survived into medieval times and died out as a result of persecution by humans.

Professor Macdonald's report, co-written by his Wildlife Conservation Research Unit colleague, Dr Dawn Burnham, states: "The recently identified human involvement in its demise strengthens the case for reintroducing lynx in Britain.

"Lynx would most likely hunt roe, sika and juvenile red deer, supplementing their diet with hares and foxes."

The report highlights the growing population of "free-ranging" deer species in Britain as a major cause of damage to protected woodland.


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Monday 29 December 2008

Team effort

And today's team was... Paul, Penny, Emily and Charlotte! They all came up for a day of coppicing, sitting round the fire and to be outside on a sunny winter's day.

But first, you need to see how cold it was. This was the view down the wayleave:
The sun was just coming up over the trees as we approached the wood:
and was making the frost sparkle in the trees:
As we walked in a wren was hopping from one pile of wood to another again, and this time I managed to actually get a photo. Not a very good one, but it's a start, and with patience I may get a better one.
I had a little walk around to try and get better pictures of the wren, but it was camera shy - always close, but hiding in the wood piles. I did see our neighbour Colin though, and had chance to chat with him briefly. He'd stayed the night, without getting hypothermia thankfully, but hadn't seen the boar, which is what he was really after.

Walking over to the area we're working in at present, Tracy noticed these tracks:
Any ideas? My guess is that they're hoof prints, but that as the ground was partly frozen only the edges left any impression.

Before long our coppicing team turned up, and after a hot drink they got to work in the area we're calling "dead oak corner", after the dead oak that's near it.
We'd been saving this area specially as it had a lot of trees that could be dealt with using a bowsaw and loppers, although Paul brought his chainsaw to use on the larger ones.

Not only did they come to help us coppice, but they also brought lunch!
We'll have to get them to visit again... :-)

Harvey and Rosy came too, but they didn't do any coppicing.
Even at lunchtime you had to be careful where you sat, as some of the benches were still thick with frost:
After lunch a fire was lit to burn up some of the brash - this area isn't near where we've been building the dead hedge, and there was also plenty of space for a fire.
By the end of the day the team had created a good clearing at the corner in the ride, and it's almost joined up to the cant we cut last winter now.
All in all, a good day, and many thanks to Paul, Penny Emily and Charlotte for their work!

We're up again tomorrow, hoping to to have a local retired forester visit, and also deliver some logs at the end of the day (taking advantage of the rock-hard ground to drive in to the wood we hope).


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Sunday 28 December 2008

Butterfly Conservation volunteer day

This morning we went to help at a volunteer day for the Butterfly Conservation Rother Woods Project. The location was Beckley Woods, about 7 miles out from Rye, and the task was coppicing trees to widen a ride, in order to create a better habitat for butterflies (and incidentally other insects and birds too).

There's a short piece about it on the Butterfly Conservation sightings page.

Here's a few pictures:
It was strange going back to using a bow saw - no chainsaws allowed on volunteer days, as it's a bit noisy for the people not using them! We'll certainly appreciate our saws when we get to the woods tomorrow!

As well as getting a bit of conservation work done we also got to meet lots of people, including John, a retired forester who lives near our wood - we're hoping he'll be able to visit us this week to see the work we're currently doing, and give us some tips from his years of experience!

When we got home we found that our cockatiels had deserted their expensive cage with all its ropes and toys to go and sit in a branch we brought back from the wood...
I suspect the millet hanging in it was an attraction though...


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Friday 26 December 2008

Birds and stuff

As usual for a day off from working in the woods, I had a cold yesterday. But I was mostly OK again today, so we went up to the woods, although for a shorter and quieter day. We'd not been there long when a robin came to visit us. Here's some pictures (just a few of the many I took!):We've also seen a wren hopping around in the log piles, but not managed to get a photo yet. The small birds seem to love the piles of logs and sticks we've left for them, hopefully they will find the dead hedge we've been making alongside the footpath, and enjoy that too.

There was a bigger bird around today as well - a pheasant:
They're not hunted in our woods, and there seem to be a fair number of them proudly strutting around. I hear pheasants aren't known for their intelligence - this one looked at us, then appeared to pretend it hadn't seen us and just walked slowly away. I'm surprised they survive at all...
I also went back to the dead oak with the holes in it. We'd had a good look at it and tried some photos a couple of days ago when our friends Paul and Penny were up with their family, and today I had a go with a longer lens and the flash. Without the flash:

and with the flash:
As you can see, the flash lets you see inside the hole, despite it being some way off. I'm hopeful that if some birds nest in there in the spring I might be able to get some photos.

After all that we got a few jobs done, mainly tidying up some logs, building more racks and splitting off-cuts for firewood.
One thing that we're doing is making use of each return trip form the work site to our base in the wood, e.g. at lunch and the end of the day, to carry a few of the split off-cuts back: This is one of the keys to efficient work in the woods - make sure you're carrying something on every trip! The off-cuts are going into the drying shelter, where we'll use them for cooking later next year.

Couple of days off now, although on Sunday we're going to another wood nearby to do some volunteer coppicing for Butterfly Conservation. It'll be strange to go back to bow saws for a day - no chainsaws on volunteer days!


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