Happy Christmas from the forestry team.
Had a walk through the Gardens and saw the Wishing Tree- it’s a weeping ash and so ideal for people to tie a ribbon onto the branches. Very colourful but I’m wondering who has got the job of removing all those ribbons once the twelve days of Christmas have gone?!
No edible fungi in the Gardens today but I did find what I thought was velvet shank… however, on closer inspection, it was sulphur turf- not deadly poisonous but certainly not good for you and not so good for the tree it was growing on either! (Well, not quite growing on the tree above the ground but on one of the big roots underground. This indicates that some of the roots have died but the oak tree itself looks fine- could be just some localised root death, nothing to worry about yet as it is only on one root.)
Wimpole Estate has one cross-country bike ride to the east of the Estate. It goes from the public car park to Cobbs Wood Farm on a tarmac road then on towards the Gloucesters where we repaired the farm track going up the hill. Alas, we did not get time to do the repairs to the lower section so that’s now very muddy indeed and difficult to negotiate (we’ll sort that bit out next year). Once on top of the plateau it gets easier but is still quite muddy (although we have put stone down at French’s Corner as that was exceedingly bad last year). The next bit of the route is relatively easy as it goes along the Mare Way which overlooks the Rhee Valley to the south west and Cambridge city to the north east: stunning views.
You can get a bit of speed up here but I have to admit to feeling unfit (thought this would be easy but I have not used a bike for years and it uses different leg muscles). The route then turns sharply down towards the Rectory Farm direction and there’s a steep hill (ok it’s not that steep but it’s Cambridgeshire you know) and quite a bumpy ride down this section and it is a tad awkward. A brief stop at the Rectory bungalow to see friends and have some festive light refreshment in the form of liquid cornflakes(!) and then on to Orwell to get some shopping. Wow! I wasn’t so unfit- that wet, sloppy, clay soil sucks the energy out of the bike… and you!
Once on the road again I could build up a lot of speed in top gear. Darn! The shop was shut (missed it by five minutes) but… the pub was open :-). Instead of going up the Victoria Plantation I opted for the road back to the Estate (but not before stopping at Mark the stockman’s new house (the southern lodge), gosh- another beer (thanks Mark); riding a bike seems to be much more sociable than I thought. So, what did I think of the bike route? Definitely a cross-country ride: muddy and tricky in places but, on a sunny day, well worth the effort (especially if you have one of those new bikes with disc brakes, front suspension and a light frame). I bought mine off ebay second-hand for £361 ( it was almost new and cost £1000 new last year but you can get a new one now from Evans for £750). My bike is a Norco Challenger 9.1 and was in immaculate condition until I went for my first real cross-country bike ride- it got extremely muddy and hit a big stone that was in the muddy section of the farm track very near to Cobbs Wood Farm; it’s got a few scratches now BUT that’s what I bought it for (no point having a cross-country mountain bike if you’re not going to use it!). Well impressed with the bike, so much better than the ones I used thirty years ago when the brakes never really worked and your bones rattled to bits.
Only Sarah was in on Monday so I asked if one of the gardeners could help for the day. Kieran was elected the basher of the day and, between them, they managed to whack in and erect sixteen guards… I was well impressed!
However, as I came back with the tractor and timber trailer from dropping off six cubic metres of timber for firewood, (much easier to sell firewood this way as quite a few people prefer to cut it up themselves as it’s cheaper for them) I found out that Kieran had inadvertently found the wet spot in the My Lady’s section of the deer park. This area used to be a whole string of ponds that were fed by springs. Oh dear, I had not warned him that he shouldn’t drive onto any really fresh, green, flat patches of grass. The two-seater was well and truly stuck… luckily Matt brought one of the lighter garden tractors over to help extract the bogged down truck.
As usual we had a ferreting day near Christmas and this time we were going to help the gardeners trim the rabbit population in the Gardens as they have been rather destructive this year. “There are hundreds of ’em” said the gardeners, “a likely fisherman’s tale” said Alan, not expecting too many.
So, on this day, quite a few of the forestry and garden team came out to find out how to ferret along with some old hands. It was also nice to see the premises team turn up for an hour or two to see and to help as both Gordon and Brian are quite new to Wimpole. Alan (who ferrets and long nets the rabbits on the Estate also came with his own ferrets and nets). The first warrens we did turned out rather poor- I had expected at least six rabbits, perhaps ten … in fact, we only caught two. But, after a cup of tea in the gardeners’ bothy, we tackled the Holme Oak warrens and, yep, there were quite a few rabbits (a tricky few warrens where we lost a few rabbits but also caught quite a few). The tally increased to eleven by lunch.
After lunch we continued… but the last warren proved very difficult- some rabbits escaped and some stayed underground- but the total crept up and, with a last flourish, we accounted for twenty rabbits in total.
Boy were the gardeners pleased! Matt (on the left) was delighted as he had been getting quite fed up with planting trees and shrubs only to see them gnawed to bits a week later. This should curtail some of the rabbits’ activities. So, the tally so far this year is around 450 rabbits (and we caught eleven long netting two days ago).
In my spare time I have been beavering away making some Christmas presents- this year I have made a number of three legged stools. I wonder how they will go down with my two daughters and Olga? Legs are made of ash and turned on a pole lathe while the seats are made of elm.