Just as we got into full swing with our markets we then entered into another four week national lockdown. Decembers sales were quite good although due to tier restrictions not as good as it could have been. As well as Newton Abbot Market we also took part in Lupton House Christmas craft fayre, this was over two days and although they didn’t get their normal footfall it was worthwhile attending.
During November and December we coppiced some Sweet Chestnut to the Southern slope of our Douglas fir stand.
Some of this wood will be utilised for our crafts and some will be for logs.
Boundary posts were dug into place which now defines our border nicely.
The January lockdown wasn’t much of a surprise and although we couldn’t trade it did allow us time to get on with our coppicing and other forestry works. Some of our Sweet Chestnut posts went to a local bee keeper who wanted them for making hive legs. Sweet Chestnut is perfect due to a high tanning content therefore it doesn’t rot as quick as other woods. No money was to change hands, payment was to be in honey ( yum yum)! We still have a couple more to coppice and these posts will be swapped for Ash cord which we also utilise in our crafts. We don’t have much Ash so we will need to find future supplies.
The regeneration of saplings in our Douglas Fir stand have been protected with tubex shelters. As they grow we will use 1.2mtr ones to protect from the deer. Species we have found there include Sweet Chestnut, Beech, Oak, Hazel, Holly, Ash, Grey Willow and Ash. Protecting these saplings now will mean less planting in the future.
Quite a few visits have involved preparing firewood for winter 2021 and 2022. It’s a good physical work out and I do enjoy swinging the axe. Other than our truck we don’t have any mechanical means of moving timber around in our plot so everything has to be carried or go in our large barrow.
It doesn’t get any lower impact than this! There is something very addictive about filling up a log store 😁
My Gransfors Bruk splitting maul makes light work of the logging, it’s great exercise too.
Towards the end of January we started clearing more young Sitka spruce. Given that it’s only 8 years old it is growing incredibly fast and we want to get on top of the felling of them as soon as possible. We have concentrated on one particular area of approx 50 meters by 15 meters and is orientated North to South. This new glade now links up with our main West to East ride.
The linking up of the rides and glades will be a very important feature for species to navigate through our plot. They will have more access to shade, sun, habitat and food source. Being a different orientation will provide varying climatic conditions on an hourly and daily basis.
We piled up the Sitka onto the windrow piles that were already there. The windrows are longitudinal piles of brash created when our plot was clear felled in 2012. They make for a fantastic habitat with very important bramble coming up through them. Bramble is an incredibly important source of nectar for thousands of species.
The Sitka brash will slowly decompose over time. We coppiced a Sweet Chestnut in this new glade and then protected it with its own brash and some Sitka. This will prevent the Roe Deer from eating the abundant new spring shoots.
If the coppice is not protected the deer will graze most if not all of the new shoots, below shows a picture of one such example that wasn’t protected.
Advantages of coppicing
Primarily for us the advantages are immense. It will provide us with a regular supply of sustainable timber for our craft sales. Selected trees will be coppiced from around 8 years plus on each cycle. This maybe longer depending on growth rate and what the wood will be used for. Coppicing will also prolong the life of the tree through cycles of regrowth. Varying structure within the woodland is also beneficial for wildlife. Many species of moth and butterflies thrive in coppiced woodlands.
Last summer, whilst in flower, we flagged our small areas of Heather so that we wouldnt accidently strim them by mistake. This has worked well and we hope that the Heather will continue to spread.
We also collected some seed by attaching fine mesh bags to the plants. We then scattered them after scraping back the leaf litter. We hope they will take. Like gorse, Heather has similar phases of life cycle. Pioneer, building, mature and degenerate. Our plot has all of the life stages of gorse indicating species up to 15 years or more of age. Our small patches of Heather are around 10 to 15 years max but mostly in the pioneer stage up to five years. Heather will generally flower from its second year from seed or following management. The young plant will then develop radiating branches.
We are hoping that these new glades and rides will react the same as our west to east ride widening last winter. Spring and summer last year saw a new prolific display of Wood Sage.
The butterflies, moths, bees and hoverflies feasted on the Wood Sage last summer proving what a valuable food source it is. This species is native to Europe.
Awards, newspaper and conference.
Last January we had an interview with Patrick Greenfield from The Guardian newspaper. They wanted to visit our wood and see what we were doing, the article is here : https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/23/mini-rewilders-restore-britains-woodland-aoe
Although things are somewhat different now, in particular we don’t have the taxi business and we are soley reliant on an income from our woodland.
In September I was invited as a panelist for the Green Truro Festival via zoom. This was out of my comfort zone and I presented a 23 minute video from our woodland. It was great to show like minded people what we are doing.
In December we were notified that we had won an award with woodlands.co.uk for best small woodland website. We received a nice array of prizes in January. It was just like Christmas day all over again.
We are looking forward to spring, especially the arrival of the Nightjar. We missed them last year, more than likely due to overrunning timber extraction into May. Hopefully we can get trading again when restrictions allow. Our project is progressing well and we remain as enthusiastic and committed as ever.
Yours in nature.
Steve and Tamara.