It’s that time of year when there is a frantic effort to get the arable soils into good condition and to sow the spring crops. Time is of the essence as, if you leave it too late, the yields will diminish. On the Farm they have loads of new tractors and implements to do hundreds of acres; for us growing some heritage crops on a few acres it’s the trusty old Ford 5000 and some spring harrows and a plough – almost museum pieces (like the driver on this occasion eh Jim?! Nice job though 🙂 ). We’ll put the Chevalier barley in this plot and, with any luck, get enough barley this harvest to make some Victorian style beer. Maybe for historical accuracy we ought to reap it with scythes… any takers?
With the chipper fixed again (!) the rest of us spent the day chipping at Valley Farm. There seemed to be at least two days work but, by the end of the day, we had literally monstered the job (just as well as the Timberwolf will be needed up at the Folly next week) but the blades have become dull and therefore the elm chips are getting stringy again.
Last job to do at Valley Farm will be to get John the horse to move the elm timber into the field so that we can convert it and take it away with the timber trailer…with any luck that will be next week (that’s if he doesn’t end up pulling timber out of the wood near the Folly).
With the job almost done except for carting the timber we went off to fell some more trees alongside the A1198- these had to be topped out first though and it was Tom’s first time undertaking tree surgery on the Wimpole Estate. He was getting in a tangle with his throw bag (I have hardly ever used them, ladders or climbing irons are good enough) so I offered him my leg irons to help him climb the tree (and, before anyone sends me a message about not using them to climb trees, these trees are going to be felled so it’s ok to use them).
As he was about to climb his tree I also noticed that he had an ordinary (floppy rope) adjustable strop- much better to use a steel cored adjustable strop. These are safer and so much easier to use. That sorted out Tom was soon up the tree and dismantling it- very impressed indeed. With the tops off we could then easily fell the trunks without them snagging up or twisting sideways onto the road.
Meanwhile …Paul was clearing the felled timber and the others were clearing the brash to the side. Most of this timber up at the top of this coup (we’re clearing as we go so that the planting can be done as we fell the rest of the trees down slope) is only horse chestnut and only fit for firewood, although there are a few pieces of large, good, clean ash.
Tom, he was on a roll, even managed to go up a few trees covered in ivy. Always a difficult job when ivy is on a tree but, if you use the metal cored strop, you can cut the ivy off as you go. One thing I noticed many years ago was that the menace of the woods (aka the muntjac deer) loves the ivy that grows up the trees but can only get it when the trees have fallen onto the woodland floor; then it’s a ‘specially welcome additional fodder in the winter. It can also be a useful aid to culling them- they just can’t resist the juicy ivy leaves (however they won’t eat ivy that grows on the floor so there must be very expensive chemicals used by the ivy to deter marauding mouths!).
One extra job I (sort of) volunteered for (press-ganged by Paul Church- you owe me!!!!!!) was the electric cabling for the Stable Block. The old cable did not have enough capacity so a new three-phase 100 amp cable had to be installed. This was going to run from the old Rectory Restaurant to the Stable Block and was over 40m long, weighed well over a ton (if not one and a half) and was difficult to handle. I was scolded for not making sure that there were no twists in the cable as, if you get it all the way through a duct and there is a twist in the middle, the whole cable has to be pulled out and sorted out before it can go back through again. Managed to go from half way (by the gate in the Rectory Garden) to the corner of the Stable Block. Wow! It was hard work shoving and pulling that cable!! You don’t want to know how much the cable cost ‘tho… suffice it to say it’s much, much more than I could afford.
Meetings, meetings and office work for me the next day 😦 . I sometimes wonder if all these systems on the computer are designed to confuse you rather than help. Just seems to take ages to get anywhere and there’s nothing much to show for it at the end of the day. Still, the forestry team were out in the Park continuing to dismantle the west parkland rail fence. They managed to get all the flat rails out and Paul started to angle grind the top round rail as the fixing tubes had rusted on.
With time to spare at the end of the day it was back to Cobbs Wood to coppice the remaining willow- we’ll store this away for basket weaving at our shows.
Back to night work again (needed this after a day in the office and it’s nice to work with other departments and contractors). Having got the big cable to the Stable Block we had to cut a hole in the wall to get it inside.
Always a joker is Mr Church… but this time I got him peering through the hole like a convict trying to escape his prison cell; not this time Mr Church, no escaping tonight!
Now we had a hole it was time to shove, heave and pull again; this time the cable had to go up into the attics, along the roof void and then dive back down to the main fuse box. Nothing is ever easy- the cable was going to have to go down inside a stud wall and would need a steel jacket to prevent anyone accidentally drilling into the core in future years (at three lots of 100 amps, that would not be nice).
Whoopee! A day of in lieu for me- zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Sorry forestry team you will just have to work and Shane will have to be chief photographer for the day. So, back to the ‘hospital job’ of taking down that park rail fence. This time the rails were loaded up onto the timber trailer and then taken to the Arrington end of the parkland to be re installed there. Yep, we were reusing the fence and that would save £35 per metre- excellent. One bonus about the timber trailer was that the crane could be used to pull the posts out as they had been concreted in. The concrete was smashed off and taken to Cobbs Wood Farm to be put in the rutted farm tracks- ‘waste not, want not’.
Paul was getting quite handy at using the crane and grab, he even managed to get some of the gate posts out, but there was one that would not budge- must have a ton of concrete on the end!
The last section of cabling to do was from the gate, up to the restaurant and in through the roof space. Blimey the first duct that we had to pull the cable through had too many corners- we had to dig down and remove some of the ducting; eventually, with a lot of pushing and heaving, the cable was through. However we did have to drag it up to the East Courtyard to get it out of the way. Trouble was it had to be dragged back so that it could be put into the restaurant attic but in such a way that we didn’t put a twist in it… not as easy as you might think, keeping twists out.
Now we were ready to put the cable into the restaurant roof space. It took five men to push, shove and heave it through the roof space with all its twists, turns, other cables and ducting in the way. Didn’t finish until well past eleven o’clock. The job was not quite done as there was a final tricky section that needed some thought, we’ll finish the cabling next week…
During the week we took delivery of a new mower- a Bomford Turbo Euro 230 mower. It’s an expensive piece of kit but we bought an ex demo model with Andy Klose’s help which saved a few thousand pounds- very grateful to both Andy and Bomford. This machine has been bought to mow the South Avenue but will also be used to mow at the Folly and the field margins of the arable fields. The mower has a dual purpose as it will mow grass easily enough but, as it has whale-tail flails, it will also smash and mulch 1-3 year old scrub.
This is an absolutely vast improvement on the thirty year old Bomford mower we have which can only cut grass. There are a few extra features too! It has hydraulic rams that can shift the mower left or right (well handy that!). Plus, it has a top flap which can be opened up to allow more trash to exit thereby avoiding a build up of mower trash around the cutting roller. So, the mower’s first job was to smash the brambles and scrub up at the Folly. The elm proved rather resilient however- tough stuff elm!!! Not to worry- Tom dealt with the bigger elms. Meanwhile we salvaged the sweet chestnut paling that was going begging at the Folly-that’ll be just the ticket alongside the A1198 and we will have saved about £600 as I was going to buy some anyway (don’t you just love recycling? :-)). Got some netting, other timber and metal stakes too- what a bonus.