Bleeding, chickens and stone!

Why's this in the woods abandoned?

Why’s this been abandoned in the woods?

OOOps! Paul didn’t realise that the fuel gauge had been fixed… spent a good hour trying to get it going… but alas, without diesel the Mighty Massey would never go ( sort of like not eating really, you soon give up the ghost!).

Because some one forgot to check the fuel gauge

…because someone forgot to check the fuel gauge

Of course I came to the rescue… and did the same! Went through the system trying to bleed it. No, it’s not blood, although the diesel is red and it is a fluid and bleeding’s what they used to do to horses. Apparently every Sunday any horses not doing so well, or which were sick, would have to be bloodlet with a fleam and Wiki has a nice little bit about the history of a fleam:

“This name for handheld venepuncture devices first appears in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts at around A.D. 1000. The name is probably derived from the phlebotome from phlebos, Greek for vein, and tome, meaning to cut. These instruments are the progression from the early use of fish teeth, sharpened stones, and thorns used to penetrate blood vessels. The earliest known examples are made of bronze with a myrtle-leaf shape to the blade. In the 17th and 18th centuries the German Fliete, and French flamettes were developed. These devices with their right-angle blades are the earliest forms of what collectors would now refer to as the fleam. While there are reports of this type of instrument being used in humans, it is more likely that these were reserved for veterinary use, while the common thumb lancet was the instrument of choice for use in people. A survey of 100 fleams found thumb lancets in 6%. These instruments with their triangular-shaped blades were designed to be placed over the vein (most commonly the jugular or saphenous) and struck with a fleam stick. This would ideally result in a rapid penetration of the vein with minimal risk to the operator and minimal dissection of the subcutaneous tissues. This latter point would have been considered important in minimizing the formation of a dissecting hematoma. Once the desired blood was drained from the patient, the operator would place a pin through the edges of the incision. A figure eight of tail hair or thread would then be placed over the pin to retain closure. Statements from Mayhew in his 1864 treatise would indicate that the perceived benefits of these procedures were coming into great question in the latter half of the 19th century for all conditions except laminitis.”

Used to bloodlet people too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Anyway, back to bleeding the MF390, we have to do this to a diesel engine when the fuel system has an airlock as this stops the flow of diesel to the injectors that lie within the engine. Sooooooooooooo, after fifteen  minutes I realised that, just maybe, there wasn’t any fuel in the tank! My, my it was empty!!!!!!!! How stupid of me… and Paul looked a bit sheepish :-). Problem realised and problem solved… back to mowing the area where we will stack the timber as it has a good hard area because, many years ago, there used to be four poly tunnels here for the commercial sheep.

Cleaning out the sheds at Cobbs wood

Cleaning out the sheds at Cobbs Wood

Paul carried on with that job and we carried on clearing out the buildings at Cobbs Wood Farm. Why were we doing this? Well, there was an awful lot of stuff lying around from previous farm tenants and contractors, as well as ‘stuff’ from the rest of the estate, as this area had become a dumping ground for all sorts of items. Worst of all there were an awful lot of oils, paints and chemicals (some of unknown description in unlabelled containers). In fact we have had to isolate some as they look pretty nasty and most of these will have to be disposed of under the hazardous waste license. One thing I did find out from our Environmental Practices Advisor Miranda Campbell was that you can put empty cans into the general waste or metal skip, and that emulsion paint can be put into the general waste if you open the lid and put sand into the can and wait for it to dry first. Unfortunately ours are all oil based and apparently one can only get rid of 500kg in any one year without a hazardous waste license.

Paint, chemicals and oils, what to do with thenm

Paint, chemicals and oils…what to do with them?

Another problem was what to do with the oils and fuels left around the Farm- some of these had been  stored/left in their original metal cans and, as we picked them up, the bottom departed company from the rest of the container as they had rusted and oil went everywhere. Luckily we had an Aspen 45 gallon  bio-oil for chainsaws drum that was empty- ideal for putting all the old oil, contaminated diesel and other unidentifiable oils into for later disposal (and before the bottom of that rusts away- at least it’s new). This will be quite an expensive job.

Accumlating more tyres from the rest of the estate

Accumulating more tyres from the rest of the estate

The estate uses Biffa but I often find that, because it’s such a huge firm, everything is dealt with centrally, so I often get poor service and the people at the end of the phone often don’t understand what you want. For instance- the Biffa bin at Cobbs Wood Farm was only meant to be there for a few weeks but, when you ask them to take it away (the waste and bin), they just empty it leaving the bin behind; however, after the clear up the bin is totally full again and in fact it is very useful to have one here. Unfortunately they did not seem to want to supply a skip for the tyres- in this case Mick George are a useful contact as they are much easier to work with and understand your needs (they actually listen to your instructions and that’s a real winner for me over Biffa). However, to skip tyres would cost £250 for the skip hire which was expensive and £250 per ton of tyres and a minimum cost of one ton ( Boy! No wonder people dump tyres!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). But I have found a local tyre disposal firm that will collect and remove these tyres priced per tyre- car tyres without rims are £1-£1.50 and large tractor tyres are £25 each, all the others are somewhere in between.

Repair work to the Botex crane

Repair work to the Botex crane

Finally the spare part we had been waiting for arrived from Botex- it was in the office and, when I collected it, Matt the gardener was wondering why I was getting a botex treatment!!!!!!!!! Gave him a funny look! Apparently the spool valve assembly that works the crane is one of the best but it has an Achilles heel, namely this bit of cast aluminium- it often fails so Jas P Wilson (who make the crane) have got a local man in Scotland to cut high quality aluminium with a computer numerically controlled (CNC) metal working machine. It was cheaper to replace the original black powder coated cast aluminium part.

Photographing the rural bygones collection

Photographing the Rural Bygones Collection

The ploughs

The ploughs

Meanwhile, Peter was finishing off his objective which was to record all the rural bygones associated with Home Farm. A number of these were stored up at Cobbs Wood Farm- namely the locally made ploughs and wagons. Not such an easy job as first expected ( more like a nightmare trying to find out what was what). Hopefully, with a photographic record of each item, anyone in the future will be able to identify any of the retained historic items. There were digger ploughs, normal ploughs, potato ridging ploughs, potato lifting ploughs and double furrow ploughs; but there was an interesting American Oliver plough too.

Mowing the rubbish

Mowing the rubbish

Such a mess was the area behind Cobbs Wood farmhouse that we brought in the Mighty Massey and Bandit to mow the grass, brambles and bushes. We soon had the area looking spick and span.

The poor old Hurlingham wagon

The poor old Hurlingham wagon

Once a fine reaper binder but sadly no more

Once a fine reaper binder …but sadly no more

The Rural Bygones Collection was then moved to the big corrugated barn where all the other bygone items are stored- ploughs went in first and then we gingerly moved the wagon from her berth; all was well so we then brought it around to the barn. Unfortunately, with further inspection, dry rot was found to be evident on most of the wood including the chassis- this wagon may be beyond renovation. The same was true of the reaper binder, once dragged out of the vegetation it became apparent that most of the woodwork had rotted away and also the thinner iron parts (not quite sure what to do with this!).

Lichens, friend or foe?

Lichens- friend or foe?

Over at the Hall the house staff had started cleaning the statues but had asked if I knew much about the lichens as there could have been some rare communities living on them. I, for my part, have struggled with lichens mostly because ‘they’, up there in the sky, keep changing the names of them ( apparently all due to genetic profiling). Life was so simple years ago! However, I do know a man who does know about lichens and soon had him visiting Wimpole. Mark Powell is a most eminent lichenologist with an enormous amount of knowledge of the subject- I have attached his first draft report on the lichens associated with the garden statues: (NB all the following photos are mine, hence lack of appropriate labels!)

“A survey by Mark Powell, 27th August 2014. The main purpose of the survey was to find out whether any notable lichens are present on ‘statues’ (comprising various marble busts and urns) around the perimeter of the garden at Wimpole Hall. Cleaning of these statues is underway and the findings of this survey suggest that the cleaning can continue without destroying important lichen communities. The statues sit on top of marble/limestone plinths which are themselves supported by limestone columns. The plinths and columns support mature lichen communities which are worth retaining in an un-cleaned state. Woods & Coppins (2012) is used by British lichenologists as the most up-to-date reference for evaluating the conservation status of lichens. In the following table of lichen species recorded on the marble busts and urns to the south of Wimpole Hall the first column gives the standard British Lichen Society number while the second column gives the name of the lichen. The third and fourth columns give the conservation designations as stated by Woods & Coppins. The third column gives the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) threat category (LC = Least Concern, DD = Data Deficient, NT = Near Threatened). The fourth column gives an indication of rarity, based on post-1960 records held by the BLS Mapping Scheme Database, NR = Nationally Rare (recorded from 1-15 British hectads), NS = Nationally Scarce (recorded from 16-100 British hectads). Table showing the list of species recorded from marble busts and urns to south of Wimpole Hall:

2443 Caloplaca dichroa LC NS
259 Caloplaca flavescens LC
277 Caloplaca saxicola LC
296 Candelariella medians f. medians LC
311 Catillaria lenticularis LC
491 Diploicia canescens LC
496 Diplotomma alboatrum LC
627 Lecanora albescens LC
644 Lecanora crenulata LC
1764 Lecanora horiza NT NS
1480 Verrucaria calciseda LC NS
1492 Verrucaria fuscella LC
1510 Verrucaria nigrescens f. nigrescens LC
2514 Verrucaria nigrescens f. tectorum LC
1511 Verrucaria ochrostoma DD NR
1526 Xanthoria calcicola LC
1530 Xanthoria parietina LC


Mark Powell identifying the lichens

Mark Powell identifying the lichens

The fact that one Near Threatened, one Nationally Rare and three Nationally Scarce lichen species were recorded from the statues seems to be at odds with the introductory paragraph which suggests that notable lichen communities are not present. It must be realised that the taxonomy of British lichens is still undergoing much investigation and many species concepts are changing. There are also many species which have been greatly under-recorded until recent years. Caloplaca dichroa was described as new to science as recently as 2006 despite being the most common member of the C. citrina group growing on horizontal calcareous substrata such as the top surfaces of limestone gravestones. Now that it is more widely recognised it will soon become recorded from many more than 100 British hectads. Lecanora horiza has been very much under-recorded and misunderstood. It was only during the Autumn 2012 Field Meeting of the BLS based in Bedford that comments from a Continental visitor alerted British field lichenologists to the possibility that material previously recorded as L. campestris from vertical calcareous substrata might actually be L. horiza. Malíček & Powell (2013) confirmed that L. horiza grows on English gravestones by molecular methods and in a future conservation review it is likely that its IUCN status will be downgraded to Least Concern. Verrucaria calciceda has been greatly confused with V. baldensis by most English lichenologists. Churchyard recorders in England got into the habit of naming any thalli with redeposited calcite as V. baldensis and this became accepted practise. However it is V. calciseda which is the common member of this pair of lichens on manmade rock surfaces and this species deposits a thicker layer of calcite. Verrucaria ochrostoma must be one of the most under-recorded of British lichens. Although Borrer recognised and described this lichen in the early nineteenth century, V. ochrostoma was apparently effectively lost from the consciousness of British lichenology until recent work in the Home Counties led to the realisation that this is a common ruderal species of calcareous substrata. It is one of the dominant species on wall tops at the Natural History Museum, beside which visitors queue to enter. Here, on the doorstep of British lichenology’s spiritual home, it went un-noticed until the recent interest in this distinctive little lichen.


Oh heck, I have forgotten what these ones were!!!!


The following table lists the additional species which were recorded from the plinths supporting the statues and not on the statues themselves:

264 Caloplaca marmorata LC
281 Caloplaca teicholyta LC
284 Caloplaca variabilis LC
463 Collema fuscovirens LC
491 Diploicia canescens LC
616 Lecania erysibe LC
1189 Protoblastenia rupestris LC
1306 Sarcogyne regularis LC
1307 Sarcopyrenia gibba var. geisleri LC
1389 Thelidium incavatum LC
1495 Verrucaria hochstetteri LC
1502 Verrucaria macrostoma f. macrostoma LC


Although it would appear that only common species are involved, the communities are well developed mature mosaics and are worth retaining in an un-cleaned condition. Caloplaca marmorata was previously incorrectly recorded as C. lactea by British lichenologists (see Powell & Vondrák 2011).

Tabatha cleaning the marble urn

Tabatha cleaning the marble urn

The ornamental urn to north of Wimpole Hall has a very similar community to that on the ‘statues’ south of the Hall, though with the addition of Caloplaca aurantia. Although difficult to see in this image, the underhanging stone surfaces beneath the flared collars at the top, and near the base of the urn have dark sooty evaporite deposits which are remaining evidence of the intense sooty and industrial pollution which affected much of lowland England even in rural situations such as Wimpole. Near the bottom right of the image is one of the lead urns which are present along this northern boundary of the garden. Although lead is toxic to most lichen species, the presence of bird droppings allows a few nitrophilic species to colonise. Calopaca holocarpa, Physcia adscendens and Xanthoria parietina were recorded from the lead urns; these are all very common species. At the western boundary of the garden (not shown in this image) are two cherub statues which have a similar lichen community to the other marble ‘statues’ at the boundaries of the garden and these too can be cleaned.

The differnce when you brush with a tooth brush and colgate!

The difference when you brush with a toothbrush and Colgate!

One of the statues in front of Wimpole Hall. The statue sits on a slab-like plinth which is itself supported on a stone column. As a balance between visual aesthetics and lichen conservation it is recommended that the statue is cleaned by gentle physical means while leaving the plinth and column untouched. ”

Down to the farm dairy

Down to the Farm Dairy


Xnathoria something or another (God knows but I don’t!)


Forgotten! Grisea maybe?

Later in the day Mark paid a visit to the Farm to see what he could find (especially on the thatch). However it was also a golden opportunity to survey the Dairy roof as it had full and easy access due to the fact that there were some re-roofing repairs going on. A full report will be available shortly.

More mowing

More mowing

More mowing continued to tidy up around Cobbs Wood Farm (and perhaps this might keep the rats away when winter comes-too much bare ground for them).

Winnowing the black  oats

Winnowing the black oats

Jayne and I, on the other hand, spent a good part of the day thrashing and winnowing the white and black oats and some Einkorn ( dusty old job). The black oats were primarily used to feed the working horses in the Victorian period; it would appear that a few people have been finding that these old varieties suit the modern horse too and, in that case, maybe we could eat some too!!! But, before I eat any, I will have to get them de-hulled and flaked… might make excellent porridge.



Silver spangled hamburgs keeping the area clean and they don't ask for any wages either!

Silver Spangled Hamburgs keeping the area clean (and they don’t ask for any wages either!).

On another subject I have found that the Hamburgs hate oats- they won’t touch them at all; however, they scratch and eat everything else in sight! Now, having moved the wagon and informed Ian (our new House and Collections Manager), I found out that he has a fair bit of knowledge on horse-drawn carriages. Oddly, when I incidentally told him about the Silver Spangled Hamburg chickens I keep at Cobbs Wood, and how I had noticed that they do indeed help keep the area cleaner by eating any food scraps including grains (but not oats), and then proceed to pop out a nice parcel of protein to boot. (Well useful!!!! Especially with bacon.) He told me that, after a study into why some horse-drawn carriages were in better nick than others, it turned out that the original owners had made them into hen houses ( stuck a roof on them or put them under a shelter and allowed the chickens to scratch about) and that this seems to be the very reason why the National Trust now has some fine horse-drawn vehicles. A holistic view on life! Might get a few more chickens to keep Wimpole tidy.

Harvest was in full swing but the weather had other ideas

Harvest was in full swing… but the weather had other ideas

Friday and the weather was fickle again- was it going to stay dry or was it going to rain? Who’d be a farmer? Oats are all in but the spring wheat and beans still to go…

Time to get rid of some dumped concrete

Time to get rid of some dumped concrete

Surfing :-)

Surfing 🙂

Meanwhile we were repairing the track from Cobbs Wood Farm to the top of the Gloucester woods. We have managed to find plenty of rubble and concrete dumped around the estate – some bits were quite long and had been dumped in the woods. We dragged these out of the woods and placed them into the track (thereby  saving a fortune), other, smaller rubble had been dumped elsewhere but we managed to find it and find a home for it.

Road repairs

Road repairs

Having found and dumped quite a few loads of building rubble we then proceeded to fill the tractor ruts ( some nigh on 12 inches deep and difficult for the Land Rover to pass, especially last year). This was hard manual work and not for the faint hearted. Even with all that brick rubble it took a further  40 tons of stone to get the track suitable for vehicle traffic (up to a 3rd of the way- have to get another 60 tons by the looks of it). At £350 per 20 ton load (which only did 10-20 metres depending on the depth of the ruts), that’s expensive…and that’s not including labour! So, for every ton of rubble we find- we save £35, and we don’t have to pay to get rid of it either (the cost of disposal would be over £50 per ton ). Good job done I’d say and I hope in some way it helps to save the planet too. Hopefully we’ll get this done before the winter rains arrive to help us with access to the further reaches of the estate.



About Sadeik

You may ask why "Sadeik" well it means friend in arabic. Worked in Jordan a lot doing tree surgery you see. I have worked in forestry since I left school with a two years in Telecom. Went back to forestry and tree surgery as it may not have paid as much but was far more interesting and dangerous. Spent a lot of years mountaineering, caving and canoeing too. At 29 I went to Bangor University to study Forestry and soil science then did an MSc in Water engineering all very interesting. By a quirk of fate in 1995 ended up helping sort out the woodland and park at Wimpole, funny thing was then I only intended to stay six months or so, but 18 years later I'm still here learning all the time. That's the best bit, if I wasn't able to learn something new every year I would not have stayed and as you get older you realise that the grass is not so green in the next field after all. In fact my patch is getting greener while much of the rest is getting browner.
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3 Responses to Bleeding, chickens and stone!

  1. graemeu says:

    Poor Paul, that looks like awful stuff to shovel over a tailboard. We used to use a 44gallon drum on end against the tailboard to get a running spread into wheel ruts. I don’t do that job anymore but the local roading contractor has a purpose made triangular divider to do the same job, no help to Paul of course.


    • Sadeik says:

      None whatsoever poor Paul 🙂 especially when John tipped the lot up by mistake sent half a day shovelling three inch stone twenty yards up the track hmmmmm can’t sack John though:-( but we’ll find him a real bad job


  2. graemeu says:

    Unusual for me, LOL
    Could have been worse, I once tipped the tip-truck twisting the chassis. The boss was not amused but everyone else was.


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