Coppice work

Hi!

I’m rather busy with coppicing just now and very tired when I get home at night, and the chainsaw elbow doesn’t help!  However much progress is being made and today I’m getting help from a group of students from Craven College as part of their Countryside Management course.

I’ve been so busy I’ve not managed to take photos, but may be able to get some today.

In the meantime here’s a brilliant little poem to put you on:

[With acknowledgements to The Edward Thomas Fellowship.  Illustration by Howard Phipps.]

(And thanks for the card Gus!)

The poem is by Edward Thomas born in Lambeth 3rd March 1878, killed at Arras on Easter Monday 9th April 1917.

Why coppicing is like making stir fry

Spot the similarities?

Much chopping and sorting into heaps.  Sharp stuff to do the chopping. Hi-tech background equipment (well a hob and a Land Rover are pretty hi-tech compared to a bill hook and knife).  Raw ingrediments. Piles of stuff.  Promise of future good stuff.  Cold first then hot.  And working alone.  The kitchen and the new coppice woodland (very rare in West Yorkshire) were both my domain with no visitors.  I’m not anti-social, but it’s good to have your own time now and again.  The woodlands were filled with animal tracks, many rabbits, and some others, and there were deer as I looked around first thing with Michael, the owner.  The piles of brash soon attracted a robin, as did the disturbed soil.  This wood has not been worked for many years, and there is much dead wood to prove it. I’m hoping that my efforts will produce a richer environment in years to come.  The plan is to coppice 1/2 hectare a year for 5 years in blocks of 5 to 11 stools.  This should produce a good mix of woodland environments.  I’m looking forward to coming back and looking at the wood in Spring.

Here’s a little 8″ x 8″ bird table recently commissioned.  I always try to give them a go with the birds, and this one worked as usual – spot the coal tit inspecting the sunflower seed.

It’s hard in Winter

Today I’ve been finishing a couple of jobs at the workshop and making logs and filling the charcoal kiln in the yard.  The weather has changed and we had rain – the sort that falls and then instantly freezes on anything it touches.    The new logs I was splitting for the kiln/firewood logs for next year were glued together with ice, I couldn’t lock the trailer hitch as the lock was frozen, going into and out of the wood was hazardous – rain on compacted snow – not good. But it still looked kind of pretty.

Yesterday I recovered the loaded trailer from the other-side of the river (I’m usually on the dark side, but this Winter I’m felling timber on the “sunny” side).  The exit from the wood on that side is short and steep, and too much for the Landy, even in pulling gear and locked 4×4. Gave up as I was tired after quite a day’s felling (about 2 in 10 trees fall, the others are winched down.  Thanks Theo, winchman) parked the trailer in the wood and went home.  It was much easier on a new day.  This is the “solve problems by ignoring them” method of working.  I’d brought my concrete three-pronged rake and smashed up the ice a bit.  Out came the trailer first go, although it took quite a bit of the rocking-to-and-fro technique to free the trailer wheels from the frozen ground.

Note.  This was actually written late last Thursday, but embargoed pending checking.

Woods across the border

I’ve been away in Cumbria for the day with Coppice Association North West in Moss & Heights Spring wood.  It was a good day, and good to meet a few more woody folk.  It was a bit damp at first and the fire was a bit of a challenge:

But it came good in the end:

How much woods vary, this one had a much more open feeling than Strid which lies in a steep valley.  Here the views were open up to the Lake District with its mountains (the lower southern ones in the top picture above)

Some coppicing was done, until Twiggy hit an unseen length of wire with her chainsaw.  She luckily escaped with a minor puncture to her face, could have been a lot worse (and yes the helmet vizor was down).

This was my first experience of proper coppice cutting for useful material.

Only a half-dozen members turned up so it wasn’t a lot of work, but some useful stuff was produced for working on.  I took away birch for elves, shrink pots and spoons.  Others were taking the birch tops for besoms.

Two dogs were out – Jim’s Tilly and Mike’s labrador dog. Tilly’s a typical Jack Russel – here hunting mice:

Reminded me of our old Spot the dog.  Tilly is very protective of her territory, and rather coquettish with Mike’s dog. Her she is reclining in her barge:

I’m hoping to be doing some coppicing nearer home next, fingers crossed.

Coppice work

I took my wife and daughter out for a couple of hours coppicing work at Lord’s Wood, Giggleswick, N Yorkshire:

This is a wood attached to a recently closed limestone quarry. It is a nature reserve managed on a voluntary basis by Craven Conservation  Group and Natural England’s Ingelborough staff .  Interesting mixture of sycamore, lots of ash, small elms, individual larches, hazel and a small amount of beech and cherry (and probably others that I didn’t see).

The wood is all about the same age and must have been clear felled a few decades ago.  It is based on a limestone pavement complete with clints and grykes, but which, unlike many in The Dales, are unexposed and covered over with a thick layer of vegetation, mainly moss at this time of year.  I’m told by those who know that there is interesting flora and I’ll be returning to check it out in Spring.

The work was to reduce the amount of sycamore and create some clearings.

There was an opportunity to obtain some sycamore timber, which is good for kitchen tools being close grained, but the stacks of wood made me think a charcoal burn might be fun later in the year, which seemed to meet with approval. There’s plenty of wood as the clearing has been going on for a couple of Winters or three:

Back at the bodgery work has been moved home temporarily due to transport problems (enough said).  I’m working on small tables and bird tables and stools.  Pictures later.

And after the excellent Mastercrafts programme on BBC2 last Friday there was a lot of interest in the bodgery on Sunday, even a few courses to set up.