Friday, 30 October 2009
This week, as it was half term for many schools, we saw a mass of families descend on Parke at Bovey Tracey to try their hands at the sport of orienteering. This is an extremely popular sport involving map reading, route finding, running, shouting and generally getting wet and muddy.
Nearly 60 competitors checked in, received their maps and instructions and set off. There are 4 courses laid out at Parke. These range in length and difficulty from one that novices enjoy, the White Trail - just going around the parkland, taking about 30 minutes, up to the Red Trail going up and down the woodland lasting around 2 hours.
The maps show different trails which have to be followed, some compass work can be used but its not obligatory. The idea is to find the marker posts with the red and white labels and record the individual letters onto their prsonal scorecard. The system can be as simple or as complicated as they choose.
Orienteeriing is a wonderful family event as its suitable for all ages - right from babies still in a backpack (especially good excercise for Mum or Dad!) right up to pensioners. You don't have to run; many do the course at a walking pace, simply enjoying the view inbetween the control posts.
The maps are available at the Dartmoor NT office at Parke for a small charge or can be downloaded from http://www.orienteeringindevon.co.uk/ where there is also information on other permanent courses in Devon.
More people than ever this year, have discovered this terrific little National Trust property.
Yesterday, Finch Foundry achieved a milestone in receiving it’s 21000th visitor of the season.
This honour was shared by a married couple of NT life members from Farnham in Surrey. Both received a special welcome pack and a complimentary cream tea.
Finch is becoming increasingly popular for its unique character and historic machinery demonstrations. Lots of our visitors have been recommended by friends or relatives, to turn off the A30 and enjoy what has often been described as a ‘Little Gem’.
Who knows, with good weather for the rest of the week and lots of visitors for our Saint Clements Day Celebrations on 21st November, we could top 22000!
I set about making breakfast and breaking camp as other competitors, trade stands, families and spectators began to arrive and the buzz began. I was doing the North Somerset style and my opposition started to arrive and walk the hedge discussing the size, density, species composition, preferred sections etc. Two of the lads had stayed in a hotel where a stag party had been going on and had joined in to be sociable so did not look that bright.
The hedge is marked out in numbered, 10m lengths and you draw your length from a hat so with a variable hedge winning has a bit of luck attached.
At 9am the match started, chainsaws roared into life and a very intense period of hard work and concentration began. It is quite hard to lay 10 m of hedge in 5 hours but to do it to the highest possible standard, watching every cut, the angle of the 'run' of the hedge, the right height and thickness, the straightness of the stakes all in the rain is very tiring even for the people who do it for a living. For somebody who now spends allot of time at meetings and bashing a keyboard and fits in hard work as a treat, I was shattered by the end of the day.
Throughout the match the judges walk up and down watching the work and then at the end the serious judging begins. After we down tools the competitors all mingle judging and discussing the finer points and looking at the other styles. The spectators make their opinions known as well. I have been doing North Somerset style for about 10 or 12 years now. Originally to gain more experience as I only did Devon style but now North Somerset it is a style that I enjoy and it suits me. It is really nice for a veteran hedger who was hedging long before I was born (and I am over 50) to tell you that you have done a good job and know how to build a Somerset hedge now.
A number of people comment that it is nice to see the National Trust represented as it helps to raise awareness that the National Trust is not only about large houses but does a huge amount of work in the countryside. Part of which is the traditional management of hedge rows.
We all returned to the main tent for a meal and a drink, to look at the trade stands, chat and wait for the results.
As there are 13 classes and various other awards this takes quite a while. Each style of hedging can have 2 or 3 classes such as Open, Intermediate and Veteran. The winner of each class is judged by all the judges and the best hedge wins the supreme champion. I was happy to take 4th place in my class considering the the length I had drawn. The supreme champion this year was in the Derbyshire style.
For further information on hedging styles the results of this years match and much more go to http://www.hedgelaying.org.uk/results09.pdf
My next outing is the Devon Rural Skills competition this is my home style and is a challenge in its self as not only are we using the traditional skill of hedging, no chainsaws are allowed so peace and quiet prevails and axes and bow saws are sharpened. See http://www.devonruralskillstrust.co.uk/
I would like to thank Frank Midwinter for the photo.
Monday, 26 October 2009
An area of beech plantation at Hembury before and after thinning
Numerous reports over the last few years have highlighted the decline of woodland birds, butterflies, invertebrates and flora. The reasons are many, but common to all these declines is a lack of management of the nations woods resulting in even-aged stands of closed canopy woodland with few clearings for species that thrive in such conditions.
Despite this, many people get upset when a part of a wood is managed; that is, when trees are cut down.
So the question must be asked, "Why manage woodlands? Why not leave them to be natural woodlands?"
Let's allow the experts to answer these two questions:
First off, the renowned woodland historian, Oliver Rackham:
"What is 'natural woodland'? Traditionally, it means 'semi-natural' woods, not plantations, but there is now a fashion for restricting the term to woodland never affected by human activity. This creates an empty category, for human influence is pervasive and long-standing ....".
What he is saying here, is that mans influence over the centuries has shaped the woods that still remain. Although they may be ancient semi-natural woods, their structure and composition is a result of human influence. The wild wood is long gone and cannot be recreated precisely because we did historically manage it. The wildlife unique to woodlands is because of mans intervention, not in spite of it. It arose in direct response to mans activities in woodland and has declined in part due to the cessation of such activities.
As Robert J Fuller and Martin S Warren in Management by Diversity in British Woodlands - Striking a Balance (British Wildlife Volume 7 No 1 1995) put it :
"With the possible exception of a handful of small inaccessible gorges and islands, there is hardly any woodland in Britain today that could be regarded as natural. Our heritage of ancient woodland has been almost entirely modified by centuries of cutting, planting, burning and grazing. Nonetheless, British woodland is extaordinarily varied in its plant and animal life. This richness is partly a product of man's treatment of woodland, which has differed from one region to another, and partly reflects the fact that Britain is so diverse in topography, soils and climate."
Charles Watkins in Woodland Management and Conservation (1990) takes up the case for managing woodlands.
"Management often brings direct benefits to wildlife and it is these benefits that allow a compromise to be reached between conservation and timber growing. There is some value in having non-intervention areas and a number of species do benefit from neglect, but managed woods usually contain a richer variety of habitats within a limited area and thus more species than unmanaged woods."
He goes on to add that "Management has not only influenced the survival of the original woodland flora and fauna but has, in some cases, enriched it. Indeed, some ancient woods are probably richer as wildlife habitats than the natural woods from which they descended".
As he goes on to note "any management, but especially coppicing, creates open spaces in woods at a faster rate than would happen in natural woods. This means that there are more clearings and consequently more young growth in managed woods and these are both especially rich phases in the sequence of stand growth.".
As George Peterken in Natural Woodland (1996) puts it "the diversity created by and inherited from traditional management is likely to be lost if reserves are allowed to grow naturally".
This, in some effect, is what has happened to woodlands, as noted by KJ Kirby and JJ Hopkins in their report Ecological change in British broadleaved woodland since 1947 (2007). "The shift from coppice to a high forest regime ..... inevitably reduces the proportion of the stands that are open space and young growth and hence may reduce associated woodland species".
With woodlands still under threat from development, those that remain can be viewed as isolated islands rich in biodiversity, surrounded by urban encroachment or 'improved' farmland. Many grassland species of wildlife with their habitats degraded have adapted to woodland glades and rides and it is these species of open ground and edge habitat, that have suffered the most through the neglect of our nations woods. To all this Charles Watkins adds a word of caution.
"This general support for management rather than neglect should not be taken as support for all kinds of management. Many forestry and agricultural operations are very damaging to ancient woodland. These include the planting of trees and shrubs not native to the area or of foreign provenance; the clearance and killing of old coppice stools and the removal of all mature trees and deadwood."
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
A number of fallow deer were seen on the way around including a couple of nice bucks. We also heard a number of other bucks roaring in the valley. This is always a wonderful time to hear this primeval sound drifting on the wind as each buck endeavours to call the does to his rutting stand.
After some discussion on the ways of the deer and the signs to look out for to tell that deer are about we returned to the Castle Drogo Cafe for a full English breakfast.
On Monday morning the group of friends above calling themselves Wood and Willow, as they all have an interest in working with nature and natural materials, met me in the car park. They had contacted me and asked to be taken on a walk to see the deer and to learn about their habits, their management and the effects they have on the woodland, again I led them around the Teign Valley the bucks were roaring and we saw a number of deer including one fine buck. However allot of time was spent at various points discussing all sorts of issues involving deer, woodland, conservation, renewable energy, the National Trust and much more.
Due to the level of interest I hope to be running two Deer Rut guided walks in October next year beginning and ending at Castle Drogo and including breakfast. Watch out for the events publicity to get dates and costs.
There is also the opportunity to do as Wood and Willow did, why not contact The National Trust on Dartmoor and we can run a guided walk for a group of like minded people concentrating on a particular subject be it deer, butterflies or biomass or pretty much anything to do with our countryside properties and their management. Cost will depend on the number of people and the time taken for the walk.
The harvesting work continues in Rectory wood below Drewsteignton on the Castle Drogo estate.
Here the harvester is felling and processing mature larch. This amazing machine fells the tree strips all the branches off then cuts the trunk into the lengths required by the sawmill who will turn it into planks, building materials and other timber products. The whole process taking far less time and effort than a man with a chainsaw.
Each part of the tree has a different value the butt being the thickest part of the tree with the least number of knots has the highest value as this will produce the greatest amount of quality sawn material with the least waste. As you go higher up the tree the wood has less value until you get to the thin knotty top lengths. The branches are left on site to rot down and provide nutrients for the next crop of trees.
The best timber which is anything with a diameter of over 25cm is sold off and provides a valuable income to the National Trust Castle Drogo Estate. Now the poor timber which is less than 25cm diameter has a much greater value than it used to have. This will be stacked on site and left to dry it will then be chipped to fuel the Castle Drogo woodchip boiler. This will cut out the carbon emissions from transporting fuel and begin making Castle Drogo self sufficient for its energy needs.
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Welcome to the October NT Dartmoor podast Press the title 'October podcast' above to download the mp3.
The podcast contains a description of our land holdings Hembury and Holne, apple picking, pressing, celebrations, music and theatre at Parke, the plight of bees, 1904 at Plym Bridge, buildings conservation, book reviews and events.
On Friday 30 October between 6pm-8pm, Lydford Gorge is holding its Spooky Night. There will be characters from local legends such as highwaymen, Gubbins, witches and pixies to meet on the Hallowe'en trail around Witches' Wood plus a mug of hot soup at the tearooms to follow. Tickets are on sell now at £4 per person. please ring 01822 820320 and pre-booking is essential. Book early to avoid disappointment. Don't forget to bring your torch.
On Sunday 11 October 35 members from the St Pirran's Sports Car Club braved the bad weather to complete their car run. Their final stop was the Waterfall tearooms at Lydford Gorge where a welcome pot of tea and homemade cakes were enjoyed by all. The car run was organised by Shirley Spenser Harris. The picture shows one of the 'Morgans' and was taken by Mel at the tearooms.
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
– the mysterious decline of the honeybee and what it means for us.
Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum. Guardian Books.
Friday, 9 October 2009
Thursday, 8 October 2009
The apples were picked on Wed 30th Sept, pressed on Sat 3rd Oct and bottled and delivered today.
We have around 200 75cl bottles.
We will be retailing them at £3.50 per bottle - currently available from our Widecombe Shop.
The apple juice most importantly tastes really good too.
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
I asked the boys about their favourite things to do with their duties with the Wardens and their answers were sadly predictable.
Fin - sitting in 4 x 4's, staring at 4 x 4's, chasing 4 x 4's, dreaming about 4 x 4's. Running away from sheep.
Spike - barking at people. Chasing dogs. Barking at Adrian. Starting fights. More barking. Begging treats off people.
Me, I just like sitting around watching the world go by and winding Spike up so he gets into even more trouble. Go get 'em boy."
Monday, 5 October 2009
Contractors with their specialist machinery have moved into the woods and felling has begun. In many forestry plantation situations large machinery is used where possible as the speed they work at cannot be matched by men with chainsaws. First the harvester fells, de-limbs and cuts the trunk into log lengths, and then the forwarder comes along and picks up the logs and stacks them. It important to lift and carry the logs rather than drag them as the wood needs to be as clean as possible or dirt and stones can get into the woodchip and damage the boiler when it is burnt.
Once the timber is staked it will be covered and left for up to a year to dry. When it reaches between 25 to 35% moisture content it is ready for chipping. If the wood is wetter it will use up valuable heat to drive off the excess moisture and wont burn efficiently. If the wood is too dry it will not chip properly and will just smash into bits so the moisture levels will need to have a close eye kept on them.
This first stand of Douglas fir is being felled prematurely from a forestry point of view. As it was only planted 15 years ago. If it was being managed for timber it would now be thinned for the first time to allow the better trees to develop. This process would then be repeated about every 5 years until the final crop of well developed timber was clear felled to produce timber.
As our priority is to produce woodchip all the conifer stands around this young stand will be felled over the next 15 years and replaced with broad leafed trees which will be managed as coppice to provide a sustainable supply of wood for chipping. This stand is however so much younger than all the stands around it by the time the other conifers had been replaced it would still be in the thinning stages. As the wood is visible from all around it would look awkward in the landscape to have one small block of conifers trees surrounded by broad leafed trees. So the decision was made to fell it early to benefit the landscape in years to come.
Once the timber has been removed the next job is to prepare the area for planting. This will involve clearing the site of ‘brash’, all the branches and bits of wood that were not big enough to chip. Then control the bracken which if left would grow up and choke the young trees and finally this time next year begin planting young trees on the prepared site.
Sunday, 4 October 2009
The evening celebrated the first harvest of apples from the orchard created around a decade ago. Earlier in the week we harvested all the apples with the help of the girls from the Maynard School in Exeter. Earlier in the day all 77 bags of apples were crushed to create around 250 litres of apple juice.
The evening saw over 60 people attend an evening of entertainment provided by the Common Players - song, dance, storytelling and music along a with a supper prepared by the Trust's Lydford Gorge kitchen using local produce including of course apples. Below are three clips of the Common Players performing.
Peasgood Nonesuch and the sup of wine
The ladder prank!
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree
The evening was a huge success. Particular thanks go to Gus Fergusson, Area Warden for South Dartmoor who organised it, Io Alison Roose, Catering Manager on Dartmoor for the Trust and to all the volunteersand staff who served the food, ran the day and finally cleared up.
Here is the video of the day.
Friday, 2 October 2009
The place to see hedging at its best with many of the local styles on display is the National Hedge Laying Competition held this year in Herefordshire check the web site. http://www.hedgelaying.org.uk/