Look whose been digging !!!

Look who’s been digging !!!

CNTV hedge laying

CNTV hedge laying

Lunch at Cobbs wood farm for the CNTV

Lunch at Cobbs Wood Farm for the CNTV

Having promised the Cambridge National Trust Volunteers that they could learn to lay hedges I had to organise a suitable hedge for them. It had to be relatively easy as the CNTV would only be allowed to use hand tools; I found the perfect hedge situated behind Cobbs Wood Farm. We cut out what we did not require, axed the stems to lay them diagonally (the pleachers) and chipped the brash; by then it was time for lunch (and what a lovely warm day it was in the shelter of the buildings).

Binding Midland style

Binding Midland style

A very pleased bunch :-)

A very pleased bunch 🙂

By the afternoon we had begun to finish off the hedge (with the bindings being the last task to do). A quick clear up and final effort to beautify our hedge and we were done. Time to get a cup of tea and a cake each from the Home Farm Restaurant (but not before the CNTV had a group photo taken).

Chipping more brash in the South avenue

Chipping more brash in the South Avenue

Pruning the lime trees

Pruning the lime trees

The weather was still dry and sunny on Monday and, as there were quite a few of us in, we went down to the South Avenue to chip up some more brash ( this is going to be one of those long, drawn out jobs which we’ll have to fit in as and when we can). The last of the limes had to be lifted too- managed to finish that job but there’s still a day’s work chipping all the lime tree brash. It’s never-ending!!!!

Spring is on its way

Spring is on its way

There were just three of us in on Tuesday and it was time to catch up on some of the forestry work- we needed to thin the woods just behind the lakes (plenty of work here).

Out with the dead elm

Out with the dead elm



When thinning we take out the dead and dying trees and those damaged by grey squirrels; then we take out some of those good trees that are competing against each other. By doing this the trees that are left will grow stronger canopies. Mind you, if you over thin you’ll get branching and epicormic growth on the remaining trunks which could spoil the timber’s value in later years.

Using your noddle

Using your noddle

Some of the elm that had died were really big compared to the ash and sycamore and unfortunately some got hung up and that means hard work to get them on the deck. First we try to revolve the trunk and, if that doesn’t work, we lever the trunk backwards. Sometimes nothing works so we have to winch them out but… I have a secret weapon called John!!!!

Timber to extract

Timber to extract

Extracting the timber by horse power

Extracting the timber by horse power

Now that the timber was on the floor we had to extract it, the tractor was not going to be suitable but John the horse  was. John is able to drag around 300-400 kg of timber easily  but it was his first time out this year and I always start him off on light loads.

Sarah getting use to John the horse

Sarah getting used to John the horse

Pulling the timber

Pulling the timber out

After a little while we had actually pulled out quite a bit of the timber and cut it into three metre lengths; then we stacked it. Later we’ll bring in the MF390 and timber trailer  to cart it back to Cobbs Wood Farm. (Modern and old technology working side by side!) Later Sarah had a go at horse logging and, with careful instruction, she did exceedingly well and was able to handle John with confidence. The trick with everything is to plan ahead and it’s the same with horse logging- you just have to work out in advance where to go; by choosing a path without sharp turns and obstructions like stumps the timber can be pulled out quickly and efficiently.


Radula complanta

Metzgaria & Orthothricum

Metzgeria furcata & Orthotrichum affine

Forked veilwort 

Bluish veilwort

Even scalewort

Wood bristle moss

It’s always interesting to look at the trees in this bit of woodland as it’s wet and swampy. There were quite a few epiphytes to be found especially plenty of the Bluish veilwort which likes very wet woodland.


Metzgeria fruticulosa

New record for Wimpole  Ulota

New record for Wimpole: Ulota phyllantha

However, on looking around after felling a group of dead elm, I came across a Ulota species of moss. It looked different- no capsules but bunches of gemmae on the tips of the leaves. It was not one I have seen before so I was a bit puzzled by the gemmae. Later, a quick search on the web revealed a new species for Wimpole: the  Frizzled pincushion. Just goes to show you that it’s worth investigating everything as you don’t know what you’ll find.

You know it's spring, the scarlet elf cups start to appear

You know it’s Spring when the scarlet elf cups start to appear

The scarlet elf cup can be found all over the Northern hemisphere; I have included a little information from Wiki: “Sarcoscypha coccinea was used as a medicinal fungus by the Oneida Indians, and possibly by other tribes of the Iroquois Six Nations. The fungus, after being dried and ground up into a powder, was applied as a styptic, particularly to the navels of newborn children that were not healing properly after the umbilical had been severed. Pulverized fruit bodies were also kept under bandages made of soft-tanned deerskin. In Scarborough, England, the fruit bodies used to be arranged with moss and leaves and sold as a table decoration. The species is said to be edible, inedible, or “not recommended”, depending on the author. Although its insubstantial fruit body and low numbers do not make it particularly suitable for the table, one source claims “children in the Jura are said to eat it raw on bread and butter; and one French author suggests adding the cups, with a little Kirsch, to a fresh fruit salad. The fruit bodies have been noted to be a source of food for rodents in the winter, and slugs in the summer”

Lunch time for John

Lunch time for John…

Lunch time for us

…lunch time for us

As we had John the horse with us we had tea and lunch in the woods ( just as well the weather was dry but there was a cold, northerly wind). Hiding in the lee of the wood pile we lit a fire in the brazier we had brought along (even had bacon sandwiches 🙂 ).

Cory otherwise distracted

Cory otherwise engaged hunting a wood mouse

Meanwhile the others were chipping

Meanwhile, the others were chipping the hedge coppice brash

Need to sharpen the blades

Need to sharpen the blades…

Blades changed and easier work

…blades changed and easier work

While some of us were in the woods logging others were about 400 yards away chipping the coppice brash. We have had to get this done before the table fields are cultivated prior to sowing with spring barley.  The only trouble with this brash was that it was elm and elm is notoriously stringy- the wood is used for seats, wheel hubs etc where you need a wood that won’t split. However, because it’s so stringy, the chipper blades have to be razor-sharp – they weren’t, so the chipper kept getting blocked. Time to change the blades! Took an hour but afterwards the work went twice as fast.

Oh no the belts failed!!!!

Oh no, the belts have failed!!!!

New belts

New belts

Well, unfortunately for us, the belts that drive the chipper via the PTO failed… that put an end to the chipping. Oh well, it was 4pm on Friday… time to go home and fix the problem at Cobbs Wood Farm. Horrible job- there is a nut and bolt that tensions the belts that was in the most inaccessible place; should have been an easy job but, well over an hour later, the chipper was up and ready to go next week.

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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1 Response to Frizzled

  1. Simon, Your blog just tires me out only reading it. I admire your energy and the fantastic content of your posts. I was wondering if you have come across the Lugall hand winch. I use one in Strid Wood, Bolton Abbey as about 2 out of three trees get hung up. You can check them out here:
    Very light – mine pulls a ton but I can carry it, my thinning chain saw, fuel, and two straps round my shoulders.

    I wish I had a job for one of your pups!


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