Sunday 30 May 2010

The solar-powered woodland

Last week we went up to the woods on a beautiful sunny day for dinner. The oaks are all out in leaf now and it looks fantastic!
In between them there's patches of sunlight reaching the ground, and I used one of them to test out running our woodgas stove directly from a solar panel, with no batteries involved:
The setup used a 10Wp solar panel:
A very basic charge controller (shunt mode rather than PWM, for those who are technical). This is normally used with a battery, but I left that out in this case:
A voltage regulator to give 3V for the stove:
And then the woodgas stove, which ran nicely:
Of course, all the trees in our wood are solar powered too ;-) We went for a walk to look at them, and found that the ride sides we coppiced 18 months ago are springing to life even more:
There's even grass starting to grow in the rides, now that there's some more light there:
Deeper into the wood there are still bluebells around, as they made such a late start this year. Here's a few photos of them...
It's a similar story back near our camp, though this has the benefit of being the third summer after coppicing, and oak thinning too in this case. The ground is positively green now, with new plants and more bluebells that last year:
Nice to see the Blue Bugle arriving, probably having travelled in from the wayleave:
Of course, the fruit trees needed tending to, though they're awkward to get at because of the fences we made to keep the deer off them while they're young:
I needed to get in there to remove blossoms, so the tree can focus on twigs and leaves instead of fruit this year...
There's more photos to come from the bank holiday weekend in a day or two...


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Wednesday 26 May 2010

A school trip, shelters and navigation

This week we had another school visit - year 5 and 6 came to learn about navigation and shelter building. Mike was able to join us too. We had a great time and the weather was perfect.

We started with some work on navigation and counting how many steps we do in 20m in order to keep track of how far we walk.

We then did some compass work in small groups, which also involved looking for their teacher!

After lunch, it was time to build shelters. We made very good use of the hazel we coppiced last winter. The children had planned some shelter types at school using art straws, so they already had some ideas.

It was fascinating to see how many different designs they came up with. All good!

Water proofing them was more difficult, but it was a good chance to get some unwanted bracken pulled up!

Yes, there are 3 girls under there!

The all important and much loved 'Water Test'!! It did end up in a big water fight.
We had a fabulous day and I think the children might have been worn out by the end of it - we were!


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Sunday 16 May 2010

Seabirds at Camber Sands

As it was sunny this morning, I took a walk along to the channel the Rother flows along, and then back along the beach to Camber. As the tide was low, there were plenty of seabirds flying along the line of the river but actually below where I was on the sea defences:
allowing me to get some good pictures:
That's a Herring Gull - plenty of them around, usual, here's some more pics:
and it's bigger cousin, the Great Black-backed Gull:
The smaller Black-headed Gull was around too:
and inquisitive as to what I was doing:
The other bird I saw a lot of was the Oyster Catcher:
I know the next one looks the same as the one above, but I like it as it has the bird, its shadow and its reflection all in one photo:
I also saw one Cormorant:
and one Mallard, which was maybe a bit lost?
The sea defences aren't actually in great shape:
but I guess the local council is going to be to broke to fix them any time soon. Hope we don't get a storm surge this winter!

And to finish, a view along Camber Sands, from the Rother end of the beach:

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Saturday 15 May 2010

A walk in the woods

With rain threatened for this afternoon, we popped into the woods this morning to see what new things are growing there since we last had a proper look round. Everything's very green now, and the paths are beautiful to walk along:
We came in through Sweep Wood, where we were coppicing last winter. The ground at the top is transformed, with the sunlight coming in and much of the ivy gone. The result is large patches of nettles and Dog's Mercury coming up:
along with some more exotic-looking plants, like Lords and Ladies:
The mystery fruit tree has some fruit on it. This time we're determined to keep an eye on it and find out what it is, and also try the fruit! Any suggestions so far?
The trees we coppiced are sprouting their shoots now:
and even the chestnut stakes we made to hold log piles in place are having a go:
As you go deeper into the wood, there are still lots of bluebells (they're winding down in the sunnier spots now, having started earlier there):
There are a few white bluebells around as well:
and also some that are white with a hint of blue:
Ferns are unfurling. These are different to Bracken, which grows better in the sunnier spots.
We also spotted a primrose, which must have been there before but we'd never noticed it...
Carrying on from there, the path between Sweep Wood and Grist Wood is getting darker now the leaves are coming out:
Making our way to Chestnut Coppice, we passed the pond. After drying out and then being re-dug last summer, it's stayed full and is now back to the "green stage":
I expect it to develop more variety over the summer, as in previous years. Near the pond is some chestnut that has grown remarkably straight since coppicing:
the reason why is apparent when you look up - it has a restricted view of the sky, directly overhead:
This is of course why coppices are meant to be densely planted, so that each tree helps its neighbours to grow up straight by blocking light from the sides.

Entering into our "wildlife corridor", there's a profusion of plants appearing at the sides of the path:
There's a huge variety here, compared to the shaded woodland a bit further from the path.
Near the junction between our main ride and the footpath, there's some Holly which looks like it might have berries this winter:
Arriving in our own wood, we went to check on the fruit trees, which are doing pretty well:

It's amazing how fast they're growing once the blossoms have finished:
We're picking off the blossoms once they've finished (after the insects have made use of them). This is so that this year the trees don't put any resources into growing fruit, and increase in size and strength instead.

Much of the area near our camp is carpeted with green now:
and the coppice is growing taller and denser:
But amongst it, there are still new plants arriving, like this Bluebell and Honeysuckle:
We had a quick look in the wayleave for butterflies, but it wasn't really sunny enough. We did see the Broom is coming into flower though:
Last of all, what's this insect? I thought it was probably a wasp of some sort, do tell me if you know!

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