Tales from the Wood

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The New Plantation, A Christmas Crop and Nellie

Lots of self-set conifers appearing as they emerge from the wilting bracken. These will be cropped as Christmas trees - a few this year, but mostly they're destined for next year's season. This was the only shot (out of fifteen), that shows Nellie as something other than a black blur!


A Pair of Ash Gates

These new forest gates were made from the ash tree I felled for the new plantation. A lightweight construction that uses the traditional (and amazingly effective) draw-pegged joint, combined with a less traditional, steel-rope bracing. The stainless-steel rope is tensioned with a bottle screw - a system familiar to boat builders. It should keep the gates from sagging and - I'm hoping - might disguise the less-than-perfect workmanship!



Coppice Plantation in October - 'it's a jungle out there'

It's been a good growing season for the coppice plantation with the sweet chestnuts really getting away. Lots of self-set birch will need thinning out and hopefully put to good use — perhaps a NWT bird-sculpture workshop, based on binding actions (I'm thinking: besom brooms).

The ash boards which were sawn three years ago, are now thoroughly seasoned, but they're so satisfying to just have around, I seem strangely reluctant to use them. Note: this could be an excuse!

Coppice October 2021

Ash Boards Seasoned

New Plantation and Wood Stack

We've been in the woods for most of April - well at least in the mornings! - logging windblown trees and splitting down, ready for next winter's wood-fuel.

Suddenly the new plantation has burst into life - almost overnight. It's a comforting sight; you never really know how things are going to turn out, especially when you revisit the image of desolation after clear-felling!

Couldn't resist the 'before and after' shots!




Rhododendron Meets The Slasher

The Slasher or sometimes called a Brushing Hook is a much underrated woodland tool. Its primary purpose is to cut and clear brash and stem material, and it was used extensively to cut back hedgerows in the days before tractor-driven flails came into widespread use.

It takes some getting used to, as the cutting sweep has to be aimed upwards, so cutting along the direction of growth. It feels strange at first, as you don't get the same momentum as you would with the more familiar downward or horizontal swing of tools like axes and sledge hammers. On rhododendrons, it works a treat (although I do sometimes resort to a powered brush cutter).

And talking of rhododendrons - the new coppice plantation has been plagued with these invasive plants since replanting, so once again I've cut them back, but this time around, I've treated the cut stems with biocide, which I must admit, I don't like doing. However, spot treatment is much less environmentally damaging than spraying, and it's the only solution at this stage, as pulling plants out with a tractor is not an option amongst the densely packed saplings.

Perhaps not a surprise, but there was no sign of insect life or ground plants anywhere near the rhododendron bushes. Rhododendron ponticum are allelopathic and exude biochemicals which prevent the germination of any competing species, and as the leaves are toxic, they are never grazed down by deer, hare or other mammals. On the whole, they are bad news, at least in this part of the world.

Oh, and the seedlings have a nasty habit of setting up home, right next to tree roots. Clever little Ponticums!