Sunday 5 December 2021

Nearing the end of a busy 6 months - news from the woods and Dungeness

Well, things have certainly been busy since July, while I've been working as a Ranger at Dungeness as well as doing my desk job. I've only got a few more weeks to go on the contract at Dungeness now, I'll certainly miss the work and my colleagues when I stop, though I'll appreciate getting some time back in my life. Fortunately there's nothing to stop me still visiting there and staying in touch with people, as it's not far away. There's been some amazing views there over the past few months, e.g. sunset looking from the Point towards Hastings:

2021-11-28 15.44.22
Storm clouds over the English Channel:

2021-11-22 15.00.37
Expansive skies and acres of shingle:

2021-11-28 09.13.36
Views from the 'Boardwalk', one of a range of features to make it easier for visitors to appreciate the site:

2021-11-14 10.09.15
2021-11-27 10.19.20
There's been some stormy days too, I took these pics just a few days ago:

2021-12-03 09.31.27
2021-12-03 09.32.38
There's also been any number of stuck vehicles to deal with, from relatively simple ones like this camper van:

2021-09-18 13.15.52
To more challenging ones like a bin lorry weighing over 30 tonnes!

2021-08-20 13.01.49
2021-08-20 13.02.01
The moral of the story is to pay attention to the signs at Dungeness, and only park in the official car parks!

I've not only been at Dungeness in my Ranger role though, I've also worked at a range of other sites that RMCP manages, and on some of these I've been able to put my chainsaw experience to good use, for example felling some large willow trees at Romney Warren:

2021-09-27 15.58.53
2021-10-06 10.41.00
These were being removed to get more light into a series of ponds, to improve them as a habitat for newts. That does mean all the willow brash has to be burned up, as we don't want it putting down roots and shading the pond again...

2021-09-27 15.59.03
I've also done some interesting work in a very boggy woodland the other side of Ashford, felling trees and then winching them over to create new pools. The amazing thing was that while we were still in the process of winching these stumps out of the ground, there were hoverflies laying eggs around the edges of the pools!

2021-10-25 16.44.39
I've even been trained in how to check on cattle being used for conservation grazing, not something I'd ever expected to do, as I'm not really keen on being around large mammals!

2021-10-18 13.44.17
And in this era of deadly airborne viruses, it's been nice to be able to have team meetings outdoors around a fire at the end of a day's work:

2021-11-12 16.52.10
One benefit of doing the Ranger work was that I got a 1-day chainsaw refresher training day, to update my skills on CS32 - felling medium size oak trees. Here's one of my fellow students on the training day, taking down an oak while the rest of us observed:

Back in Rye, everyone was delighted to be able to join in with Rye Fawkes again, after the 2020 event was cancelled due to the area being in lockdown.

2021-11-13 20.06.27
2021-11-13 21.22.30
Despite the extra working days, I've still managed to get a bit of time in the woods, and used the arbor trolley to get some logs from last winter's coppicing down the hill and into the trailer:

2021-09-06 14.08.10
2021-09-06 14.16.11
2021-09-06 14.39.21
There's been a bit of leisure time too, sitting by the fire in the woods and meeting up with friends.

2021-11-20 10.46.10
And just last week I was pleased to be able to get some nice pics of these Coal Tits and Blue Tits arriving and departing the bird feeder:

I've also had the trail camera back up again, and there's a few interesting bird videos as a result, including a Buzzard, a Jay and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker:

That's all for now, we'll be back in the woods over Christmas so there should be some more photos to come after that...


Click here to read the rest of this post.

Friday 30 July 2021

Summer in the woods and Dungeness

It's been a while since I last updated this blog, and there's been a lot going on - including me starting a new job part-time in addition to my existing work! But first, let's catch up on some photos from the woods over the past few months. Spring brought the usual display of flowers, such as these Wood Anemones, but a little later than some years as it was quite chilly.

2021-04-04 13.35.25

2021-04-09 14.29.57

The wild apple tree near our camp in the woods had another good display of blossom - I look forward to seeing how many apples develop, not that I'll be eating any of them...
2021-04-30 11.10.41

And of course the bluebells were looking as great as ever in May:
2021-05-15 14.55.08

Up at the top of the hill, where we coppiced last winter, things are growing back nicely. Here's some Ash and Sweet Chestnut:
2021-06-20 16.10.31

2021-06-20 16.10.45

The whole area has greened up a lot, and the brash piles are slowly disappearing from view:
2021-06-20 16.12.49

I did also get this great video of a Buzzard eating its prey (probably a pigeon), followed by a fox coming to sniff around after it had gone!

Only one camping trip so far this year, but we had great weather for it and plenty of time to sit round the fire.
2021-07-16 21.24.49

The big news is I've got a part-time job for 6 months as a Ranger at Dungeness National Nature Reserve. I'm doing this alongside my existing work at Ashden, so I've suddenly become rather busy, and the preceding couple of months were busy too as I tried to 'clear the decks' of any jobs that needed doing at home and in the woods. Dungeness is certainly a nice place to be in the summer!
2021-07-12 09.22.51

I get a truck do drive around:
2021-07-12 10.27.05

And it's not just about the sea and the shingle, there's also the 'long pits' which you only get to see if you venture away from the usual tourist attractions near the main car park:
2021-07-11 14.04.26

One other thing I did manage to squeeze in before starting the Ranger work was a day at the Hands of Hope site in Hawkhurst, where there's a kind of community garden and also a woodland - my friend Rich and I went and volunteered for a day to help fell some dangerous trees.
2021-06-18 16.06.40

Finally, closer to home, there was a strange object on the beach at Rye Harbour....
2021-06-26 13.53.09

It's actually an art installation called The Beacon, by Joseph Williams, intended to draw attention to the fragility of the area and the growing impacts of climate change. It's a bit odd to look at, but quite amazing once you're inside it:
2021-06-26 13.54.00

2021-06-26 13.54.10

It's actually modelled on the Yellow Horned Poppy, which grows in the area:
2021-06-26 14.02.30

Also at Rye Harbour, we recently visited a bird hide at Castle Water, which we'd not been to before. It really has some excellent views:
2021-07-28 12.25.58

I got a number of nice photos of Cormorants there:




Did you know Cormarants nest in trees? They look a bit big to do that, but they really do:

And finally, a nice little family of Greylag Geese on one of the other lakes in the reserve:

That's all for now :-)


Click here to read the rest of this post.

Sunday 28 March 2021

Coppicing, snow and mushrooms

February brought a week of cold weather, giving us the first proper snow in the woods for a few years:

2021-02-08 10.32.15

2021-02-08 10.28.08

2021-02-13 13.56.43

2021-02-13 13.56.31

With temperatures staying below zero for several days, the ground was rock hard and we took advantage of this to get a few loads of logs processed for customers and ourselves:

2021-02-13 13.02.09

Here's how cold it was - an icicle formed on the corner of the trailer, from road spray!

2021-02-13 15.17.28

It's nice to see the log store at home beginning to fill up again, ready for next winter.

2021-03-06 16.36.23

Alongside the snow we had some murky days in the woods, but the coppicing is now completed!


We were saved some work at the end because our neighbour wanted us not to coppice some border trees in order to retain a screen for privacy, so they paid a tree surgeon to pollard them instead:

2021-02-19 12.35.20

2021-02-19 12.36.14

We were left with a pile of logs for firewood, and that was all we had to deal with! 

2021-02-19 12.35.38

On the final day coppicing I had a small stem do a 'barber chair' - this is why you don't lean round the back of a tree while felling it, even a small tree like this can give you a bit of smack, and a larger one can kill.

2021-02-14 11.37.35

By mid-March, Snowdrops were emerging at the top of the hill:

2021-02-21 10.46.26

2021-02-21 10.46.34

And the Bluebells were steadily growing, we're looking forward to them flowering!

2021-03-19 10.15.24

The Wood Anemones were also starting to come out at this point, here's one of the first ones I spotted. There's more now, photos to follow in my next post...

2021-03-19 10.16.05

We did have a bit of time to relax with a hot drink too, but a fire was certainly necessary as it's been quite chilly most days!

2021-03-06 12.55.06

A different project I was working on was mushroom production. Here's some sections of oak branches soaking for 24 hours - interesting to note that green oak doesn't float!

2021-03-11 08.31.25

The logs were them drilled and mushroom spores inserted, with a plug of wax melted in on top of them. The logs are now down at the Community Garden in Rye, and we might start getting a harvest towards the end of the year...

2021-03-12 16.03.39

The mushroom logs came off an oak tree our friend Rich had felled. Here's a short video of him using his Land Rover to haul the butt of the tree into place for later sawmilling:

And finally, back at home our cockatiel Pete is keeping a careful eye on the outside world. Probably a good idea, the way things are at the moment!

2021-03-15 17.20.05


Click here to read the rest of this post.