Saturday, 29 November 2014

Late Autumn felling, bonfires and fungi

This time of the year until Spring is the busiest for woodland people. However adverse the weather conditions, it's a time for speeding  up the work of felling, thinning, pollarding and coppicing. One of our management plan targets is to remove a minimum 30% of the Scots Pine plantation. This was planted by the Forestry Commission in 1956/7, after they had clear felled nearly all the beautiful mature trees, mostly oak and beech, that then covered Old Copse . Yes I know, incredible, what were they thinking.

Anyway, the Scots Pine has not been properly thinned and are mostly weedy specimens desperately  reaching for the light. Although poor and thin, they are at least 60 feet tall, and each one, when felled, comes down with a great dramatic whumph!. 

We estimate that the 30 acres we are restoring contain approximately 2,400 Scots Pine. This means that we must remove at least 800. To date, only about 100 have been felled, and 43 of these went to build the cabin.  There currently seems to be little value in Scots Pine. Although in continental Europe and Scandinavia it has long been  used as fuel, in England it is viewed with suspicion. 'It spits, gums up the chimney' etc.

However,  there is now a growing pine biomass market. The problem is that contractors will do it for 'free' if they can take the profit on a clear fell, or at least  an 80% fell , and use huge machinery which will trample over the small broadleaves that we want to nurture. Well, we can't have that, we wouldn't have a wood if 80% of the trees were felled, so we are felling gradually and carefully, while protecting regeneration . A very expensive way to do things, paying foresters to take out specific trees. The small woodland grants currently available go nowhere near covering costs.

But, things might be looking up. Coming on stream next year are new grants for woodland businesses to help them with the costs of machinery. Our forester has applied for a grant towards buying a small harvester which will enable selective thinning and would work very well in our situation. He will be able to fell many more trees at any one time while preserving regenerating broadleaf saplings. Fingers crossed that his grant comes through.

David Abbott from Sparrowhatch Forestry

Today was focussed on felling pine near the cabin, to open up the view to the Pond and enable selected Scots Pines -which are after all very beautiful trees -  to grow on to their full maturity.

It was an eye opener  to watch our forester's impressive skill in felling these tall trees so near to the cabin; one of them falling in the wrong place could easily have demolished it. The trunks were cut and stacked and the tops made a huge bonfire. Lovely! A very enjoyable and satisfying day, added to by the discovery of large quantities of Winter Chanterelles.

 Seen and heard today: A varied  assortment of  birdlife enjoying a new source of drinking water, created by the run-off from the Ride-side drain cleared earlier this year. They flew off before they could be properly identified  A buzzard swooping over the Ride and circling in the warm air rising from the bonfire. A solitary young deer running past the cabin. A tawny owl hunting through the pines at dusk. Very noisy ducks  squabbling and settling down for the night. Wild geese flying low over the Pond.

Plate of winter chanterelles (Craterellus tubaeformis) gathered in the pines

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Autumn at Old Copse

Sometimes things don't go to plan. The BBC weather chart said sunshine all day, so it was off to the wood to get a few hours work in. But the sun soon disappeared and the rain poured down for an hour or more.  We just took to the cabin, brewed up tea and enjoyed the rain, the wonderful light and colours, from the shelter of the deck until it stopped and we could get back to work. But before we did that, we took time to look again at some of our favourite parts of the wood.

A particularly lovely view of the Pond

The cabin seen from the Pond

A continuation of Frenchbridge Ghyll which drains into the Pond. This is a very atmospheric part of Old Copse, secretive and hidden , a little like a Helford River Creek.
No idea how this old iron cart wheel got here. The whole area floods in the winter .This wet ghyll woodland is rich in wildlife including adders and slow-worms. 

Cabin Point:  A view of the Pond from the cabin 
Another view: from the cabin window

Our beautiful composting loo in the bracken, beech and pine