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.

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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...
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And of course the bluebells were looking as great as ever in May:
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Up at the top of the hill, where we coppiced last winter, things are growing back nicely. Here's some Ash and Sweet Chestnut:
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The whole area has greened up a lot, and the brash piles are slowly disappearing from view:
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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.
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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!
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I get a truck do drive around:
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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:
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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.
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Finally, closer to home, there was a strange object on the beach at Rye Harbour....
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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:
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It's actually modelled on the Yellow Horned Poppy, which grows in the area:
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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:
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I got a number of nice photos of Cormorants there:
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Did you know Cormarants nest in trees? They look a bit big to do that, but they really do:
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And finally, a nice little family of Greylag Geese on one of the other lakes in the reserve:
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That's all for now :-)

Mike

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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:


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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:

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

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

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

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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:

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

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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.

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

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

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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...

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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!

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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!

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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...

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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!

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Mike

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Saturday, 6 February 2021

Starting 2021 in the woods

2021 has been fairly wet so far around here, but we did get some sunny days and made the most of them in the woods.


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Although Spring is some way off, especially with a snowy week about to hit our part of the UK, the plants in the woods know that change is coming. Dog's Mercury is getting going:

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Lords and Ladies plants are pushing up leaves that are gradually unfurling:

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And the Bluebells are poking out of the ground again:

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While we've been coppicing we've saved quite a few chunks of wood like this to pass on to Dengate's Farm Shop, where David is drying them and then turning them into beautiful wooden bowls.

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Here's David with a bowl made from some Ash we passed on to him a few months ago:

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We have of course been coppicing too - we went back to the top of the hill to fell a few small trees we'd left earlier, which needed a rope to stop them falling into the yard next door:

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And yes, I ended up working in a water-filled ditch again...

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Further down the hill, here's a few views of how things look now, we're not far from the end of this winter's work:

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Just beyond the point where we'll be stopping this year's cutting are a couple of trees that we didn't fell last time round, and they've grown on nicely. First is an Ash:

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And then a Sweet Chestnut:

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Both are taller than the surrounding coppice now, and I hope to leave them to grow into large trees. Here's the Chestnut just over 10 years ago, when it was looking much more slender:

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And finally, a friend was asking how to make stakes using a chainsaw, so I made this short video to show how it's done:


That's all for now!

Mike

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