Wednesday 30 October 2013

Clearing up storm damage while avoiding a hornets' nest!

Meet the European Hornet...

IMG_4473 European Hornet

IMG_4472 European Hornet

We had to work around a nest of them today, as they were in the storm-damaged oak tree I mentioned in yesterday's blog post. You can just see a couple of them going into the crack in the tree that was probably what weakened it and resulted in the storm damage.
IMG_4479 European Hornet
Fortunately they look much more scary (being an inch long and noisy!) then they are, and are actually quite timid and if they do sting it's no worse than a normal wasp sting (see Wikipedia).

Here's how the oak tree looked after the storm:
IMG_4463 St Jude storm damage 2013

It took us a while, but after some chainsawing and winch work, we got the broken section down on the ground:
IMG_4474 Tree damaged in Oct 2013 UK storm

IMG_4477 Tree damaged in Oct 2013 UK storm

To get it down we looped a 4-tonne sling round the branch near where it attached to the tree - this effectively doubles its strength to 8 tonnes, see the table on this page. We attached a 10-tonne pulley to the sling using an 8-tonne bow shackle - using a pulley doubles the power of the winch:
IMG_4478 winch pulley attached to tree

Through the pulley was a 20 metre 15-tonne steel rope, with one end anchored to a tree with another sling and bow shackle:
IMG_4480 winch line anchored at tree

The other end was attached to the steel rope that went through our Tirfor T516 winch - this can pull 1.6 tonnes, so all the other components in use are stronger, eliminating the chance of unexpected failures.
IMG_4481 Tirfor T516 winch

That's an awful lot of gear to push through the woods on a wheelbarrow, but it got the job done with us stood at a safe distance from the tree! We even managed to avoid damaging the hornets' nest, so they can carry on living in the trunk of the tree and the cracked bit of the branch which is now on the ground.

We cleared up some coppice stools that had been blown over too, and there are still a few more of these to do before we've finished clearing up from the St Jude's Day storm which hit the UK on 28 Oct 2013.


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Tuesday 29 October 2013

Clearing up after the storm, October 2013

As you might expect, we had a bit of storm damage in the woods after the 'St Jude's Day Storm', which hit the UK in the early hours of Monday 28 October. Nothing too major fortunately, some coppice stools and one oak that kind of broke in half...

IMG_4463 St Jude storm damage 2013

Quite a few coppice stools are leaning, and will be dealt with in the next few days:
IMG_4451 St Jude storm damage 2013

Some have come right down:
IMG_4452 St Jude storm damage 2013

while others had a 'domino' effect:
IMG_4454 St Jude storm damage 2013

Note - this is why you have to be TWO tree-lengths away from a person felling a tree...

Some of the stools I cleared up yesterday, after the wind had died down:
IMG_4458 St Jude storm damage 2013

IMG_4460 St Jude storm damage 2013

There was also a branch in the path by Sweep Wood:
IMG_4456 St Jude storm damage 2013

it had come from this oak tree:
IMG_4457 St Jude storm damage 2013

Here's a quick video of me using a chainsaw to clear the fallen branch and also a coppice stem that was leaning over a path, taken using a chest-mounted GoPro camera:

The oak tree that split up the middle was up the top of the hill in Chestnut Coppice:
IMG_4464 St Jude storm damage 2013

It's made a bit of a mess and I need to go back up there to sort it out with a winch...
IMG_4465 St Jude storm damage 2013

IMG_4466 St Jude storm damage 2013

Still, could have been much worse, we're thankful this is all that fell!


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Saturday 26 October 2013

Family visit to the woods

About half of my family were visiting Rye last week, and fortunately there were a couple of days where the weather permitted us to head into the woods...


It wasn't all play though, everyone had a go at helping fell and log some trees:





Some needed more of a team effort!

Josh was delighted that we found this little toad near where we'd been felling trees:

There was still time to sit and relax though, with a fire to keep us warm...

Some of us even stayed on until it was dark!

Of course, the next big thing in the woods is likely to be the Sunday night / Monday morning storm... We'll report on the damage as soon as possible...


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Friday 18 October 2013

Wild Boar Week in Rye

Wild Boar Week is coming soon in Rye! Come and try some of the delicious food on offer...

In preparation for the week, I took a few journalists and bloggers on a tour of the woods to see where the boar live, the morning after we'd all had a great wild boar dinner at The Gallivant.

Here's one of their write-ups with a few pics from the wood, and here's another. And here's the fleeting glimpse I got of boar last December...

IMG_3139 Wild boar in woodland


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Monday 14 October 2013

Spider webs, a broken chain and a coppicing milestone

Last week I reached a milestone! I've now cut enough wood for winter 2015/16! I'll still cut some more, so there's a bit spare in case of hard winters or friends wanting to buy an occasional load in a couple of years' time, but it's good to know the minimum is now done.

But perhaps more interesting is how the spider webs look now that there's dew in the mornings!

DSC_7237 spider web

DSC_7233 spider web

DSC_7228 spider web

These trees were full of them! Now I see why there are so many running around after I've felled a tree - I guess they are all suddenly looking for a new home...
DSC_7225 spider webs

DSC_7226 spider webs

I had a little mishap as well - a chainsaw chain snapped, the first time I've seen this happen. It wasn't dangerous - there's a couple of bits on the saw to deal with this happening and I use a short bar when coppicing so there's not much chain anyway. It just made a metallic noise and ended up on the floor in front of me...
DSC_7242 broken chainsaw chain

DSC_7243 broken chainsaw chain

Anyway, here's a couple of views of the area I've been coppicing:
DSC_7247 coppicing

DSC_7254 coppicing

And here's our 2015/16 home heating:
DSC_7252 coppicing


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Saturday 12 October 2013

Truncator chainsaw logging bench (as seen on Dragon's Den)

A couple of weeks ago at the Weald Wood Fair I saw a logging system being demonstrated, and pretty quickly realised I had to have one! It's the 'Truncator', which has apparently been on the BBC programme Dragon's Den.

I've made a video review which you can watch here, followed by some still images below.

I've got the Pro version with five 'cups', as shown below. I chose to mount the cups on a separate piece of wood, which in this photo is sat on top of the trestle that comes as part of the kit:
DSC_7191 Truncator logging saw bench

The piece of wood with the cups on it is held down using a couple of ratchet straps:
DSC_7192 Truncator logging saw bench

Once you've loaded logs into the Truncator, you use the bungee cord attached to one of the cups to hold the logs in place:
DSC_7193 Truncator logging saw bench

It's locked in using this beautifully simple little clip - the grooves in it not only grip the bungee cord but also use its tension to force the cord into the clip:
DSC_7194 Truncator logging saw bench

I spaced the cups to cut a 2 meter log into six pieces, with the final piece dropping off into a wheelbarrow:
DSC_7199 Truncator logging saw bench

The other five logs stay sat in the cups after using the chainsaw to cut them:
DSC_7201 Truncator logging saw bench

Then you push the wheelbarrow along and tip the cups so the logs fall into it:
DSC_7203 Truncator logging saw bench

Conveniently, one load of logs nicely fills a large wheelbarrow:
DSC_7209 Truncator logging saw bench

The other option is to use the ratchet straps to hold the Truncator on the side of the trailer:
DSC_7211 Truncator logging saw bench

I've attached some small blocks of wood on the underside of the Truncator to locate it accurately on the trailer:
DSC_7212 Truncator logging saw bench

I still use the ratchet straps to secure it though:

DSC_7215 Truncator logging saw bench

As on the trestle, you load it up with long logs - and you can see here why I chose to have five cups rather than six - the sixth would miss the trailer anyway, so may as well be absent, allowing the logs fall into a wheelbarrow:
DSC_7217 Truncator logging saw bench

DSC_7218 Truncator logging saw bench

The logs in the cups can be rapidly tipped straight into the trailer:
DSC_7222 Truncator logging saw bench

DSC_7223 Truncator logging saw bench

Overall it's an excellent invention, and I'm looking forward to using it more in the spring to prepare logs for the following winter. In my view, the key advantages of the Truncator are:
  • No metal parts, so if you hit one of the cups with the chainsaw the chain will be undamaged.
  • Cups mounted on an easily available wooden beam, so if it gets worn down over time by occasional touches from the chainsaw it can be replaced easily and cheaply.
  • Cups can be separated by any distance, so you can produce logs at a length ideal for your woodburner or stove.
  • Integrated bungee cord to hold the logs in place, which can be secured in seconds.
  • Very fast to use.
  • Avoids the need to pick up logs from the ground, saving strain on your back.
If you want one, you can buy them from


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