Saturday, 4 December 2010

Winter comes early

4th of December and after four days of snow and freezing temperatures, the thaw has come and we are back above freezing. Visits to the wood have been out this week due to icy roads. The snow has now gone but all is raw, damp and dripping.

Over the autumn we have made slow but steady progress, with at least one day's work being done every week. Thinning on the east side of the ride is just about finished, although there will always be more to take out. With the leaves gone,  the results of our work are clear to see. The crowns of the young oaks are free from encroaching birch.  At the other end nearer the gate there are fewer oaks and we have not thinned back so far. The wood here is narrower and we need to leave growth between the ride and the road.

Disposing of the cut timber is now more organised. The cut timber is neatly in the cords awaiting the firewood man. The brash is now off the ride, in loose heaps out of sight and the excess has gone on the bonfire or into the dry hedge. We have enjoyed several bonfires, and are amazed at toughness of the rhododendron which refuses to burn away despite a roaring birch fire on the top of it.
At last we have our permissions and can start work on the rest of the wood. The plan for the winter months is to work on three areas:
  • clearing the willow grove of birch 
  • creating a new ride down to the pond
  • thinning the west side of the ride 
Wet conditions are likely to hamper work in the main body of the wood, so when it is too wet to work on the slope we will thin from the ride - thinning around the trees we want to keep, and then reviewing.

During the autumn we have met several unexpected visitors who were very curious about what we were trying to do. One of the most interesting was an elderly man, out walking three dogs. He had known Old Copse since he was a boy, and remembered it from before it was sold by the timber company, when it was full of magnificent mature beeches. He also remembered the charcoal burners who set up camp in what is now the Forestry Commission  car park. They would stay for months, burning the charcoal in a large metal kiln.