Thursday, 19 October 2017

Planting Season begins

This  Autumn/Winter, we'll be planting  a 600 - 700 metre informal wild-life hedge along the roadside boundary, (see blog entry 7th August) and continuing to plant trees and shrubs in the main body of the wood. We expect to reach a total of 1,000 trees and shrubs planted since last November/December. This includes what I've been  growing in the garden from seeds, seedlings and cuttings taken from  Old Copse, a few collected from nearby woodlands during last winter, and a few donated from a bit further afield. This Autumn there are 75 fine specimens to plant out. They've been growing in pots, so can be planted out at any time, but I thought we'd get them in the ground before we embark on the roadside hedge planting later on.  I'm especially fond of these plants, having nurtured them so carefully, and I'll plant them near to the cabin where they can be kept an eye on . There are oaks, beech, wild cherry, alder buckthorn, alder, hazel, wild rose, and sallow. We've found that there is a fairly high failure rate among seedlings we find in the wood and protect in situ with tree tubes. They seem to do much better if lifted and potted up to grow on at home, then re-planted in the wood when they've got going, and gained some  strength. I wonder if it's because they appreciate the care and attention they get at home.

Old Copse has a good layer of composted material , with a clay and sand sub-soil. This bit is mostly clay

A nice Alder specimen planted in a damp spot, with a wire cage for extra protection

As well as planting, we're experimenting with cutting the grass on the main ride and other  parts of Old Copse,  to try and enhance the ride habitat . The cut  material is raked off  to gradually reduce the fertility of the soil . Reducing fertility inhibits the spread of the common,  more vigorous species, so allowing the rarer species which can grow in less fertile conditions,  space to grow and flourish  We're doing a bit at a time, and will monitor the results. Many species make regular use of edge habitats for feeding due to higher productivity of the herb layer and larger invertebrate populations. It's important to do rotational cutting and/or mowing  because  a greater number of species inhabit the first 10 metres of any woodland edge or ride edge,  than inhabit the remainder of the woodland.

A lot of this type of tussocky grass has come up on the Ride this year. Have yet to identify. 

Part of the Ride after it's  been cut

  Plenty of winter bedding for  mammals

Sunday, 8 October 2017


A ring at the doorbell by the postman (postperson?) with a parcel is always welcome, and the other day was no exception. I signed for an extremely well wrapped and sealed box sent by  I managed to open it to find a cornucopia of exciting prizes, as can be seen in the photo. Old Copse Blog had won in both the Blog and the Woodland Building categories in their Woodland Awards 2017. So, two awards!  Not quite like winning the Lottery or the Turner Prize of course, but most welcome and appreciated all the same. We're looking forward to reading the new woodland books, trying the two new Japanese Silky saws. One each!  - jotting down 'nature notes', or something anyway, in our respective sturdy new notebooks. Oh, and framing our certificates, which might find a home in the cabin.

I'm wondering how many woodland blogs were nominated. My guess is, very few, not least because I've not managed to find many over the years. I've visited Alan Waterman's knowledgeable  Ninewells Wood/Catbrook Wood Blog since he started it in 2013, but I hadn't come across Joanne Hedger's Raiswood Blog before, so will enjoy following that. I found one or two others that either weren't very interesting, or faded out quickly, perhaps after the novelty of writing a blog wore off, or just that life got in the way.

So perhaps our award was partially for persistence and longevity, having kept the Old Copse Blog going since 2009.  It was begun purely as a record of restoration work in what was initially 15 acres, (OC1) , before an adjoining 15 acres, (OC2) were added in 2012. A diary, meant for us, and those friends and family who might possibly drop by to read it now and again. The ongoing work of restoration and management of 30 acres of partially PAWS woodland continues to be documented, and added to with people, wildlife, and the simple pleasures of being in the wood and seeing things change. I hope that Old Copse Blog will encourage other wood owners to start one for themselves. It's  easy to forget all the hard work done, changes effected , and good times had, over the years, so it's great to have some sort of record as a reminder.

As for the Woodland Building Award, well, we love our log cabin which fits so unobtrusively into the woodland, and makes Old Copse just perfect. It well deserves an award, and I feel I can say that without boasting because, a) it was my grandson's idea, and b) a small team of fantastic Polish craftsmen built it from Scots Pine felled in the wood.

Here is what the Awards panel  said about the Blog, and the Cabin :

' A blog maintained since the first entry (“New 0wners” ) on 10 September 2009: “We are determined to manage our wood for for conservation and diversity – learning a lot and at the same time having a lot of fun.” The entries (mainly short, sometimes more of a photoblog) contain a good mix of well-researched information and history and practical experience (e.g. about rhododendrons), plus wildlife observations, supported by copious photographs, many of them excellent. Example: “Purple emperor behaviour: thugs of the butterfly world, they will attack and see off creatures much larger than themselves, including birds and dragonflies. Lurking in the top of an oak waiting for something to invade their territory they will shoot out and scare them away. Often drunk on fermented oak sap, they also like to fight among themselves and will swoop and wheel in a distinctive movement, swooping and swerving at an astonishing speed...” The blog records the year of woodland management (planting, clearing, projects) and sets out a Management Plan (30 December 2017) for the coming year – with useful comments on the value of such plans. It also contains the story of their cabin, which won an Award for the best Woodland Buildings/Shelters (see below). All in all, an impressive blog for its clarity of information and purpose, excellent to read and browse through, and inspirational.'

'This is a traditional round wood log cabin. The story of the construction is told in their blog, starting 21 February 2014, continuing through the spring of that year. “Last year we obtained 'permitted development' approval to build a small woodland structure that would give us somewhere to shelter in bad weather while carrying out forestry work, and also provide a social focus and a place to enjoy the wood in considerably more comfort than squatting on a wet log under a flapping tarpaulin.” The sequence includes an excellent photographic (and video) record of construction, and shows how the cabin blends in with the woods. Because it proved difficult to locate builders with experience in log cabins, they found “a small group of Polish craftsmen  who had the skills needed to build us a log cabin in our wood using our timber.” Hence they have ended up with a traditional Polish log cabin: “Ours is the first ever in England.”

Tuesday, 3 October 2017


We have long suspected that Old Copse must form part of a badger's territory but until now have seen no evidence - apart from tracks in the snow many years ago. So very exciting to catch a glimpse of a badger on the trail cam by the willow in OC1.  He squats and marks the spot before trotting off - so must be intending to return - or at least let other badgers know that this is part of his territory.

Badgers have a range of 30-100 hectares. We know there is no sett in our wood, and we assume that it must be somewhere to the north. Wherever it is, we are happy that its whereabouts are unknown, and even if we found out, we would keep it a secret.

Here's a nice shot of a fallow deer from the same trail cam - just not as exciting as the badger..