Last chance to do any more hedge laying before the bird nesting seasons starts. Normally all hedge trimming work stops at the end of February but Natural England allow hedge layers to continue until the end of March. So, on the last weekend, we had our hedge laying course (which actually had more instructors than attendees -Steve Gibson & Graham Teece, who take part in the local hedge laying competitions, kindly came to help) . A bit cold and windy but another thirty yards or so of hedge was laid and we had a most excellent day ( some more than others as we gave the BSA 500 a spin).
Back to the Folly on Monday to fell the young elm and scrub in the pit next to the north turret of the Folly. Tom’s job was to oversee the soil screening and to check for any archaeological finds that may have been unearthed.
Our job, however, was to fell and chip; lately we have been using the wood chipper quite regularly and it has become quite a tiresome job- noisy, hard work and painful when chipping thorny tree species like hawthorn and blackthorn. Will be very glad when we put the chipper away for a while.
As the day wore on so it became apparent that we needed to change the chipper blades. Elm is a difficult wood to chip if the blades are less than razor-sharp so it was Tom’s job to find out how to replace the blades ( did quite well maintaining the chipper).
While cleaning the scrub I took the opportunity to see what mosses were about. We found the- get this for an English name!- BIG SHAGGY MOSS aka Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus. This species is very uncommon in Cambridgeshire and is mostly found in ancient woodland so it’s quite nice to find it surviving up by the Folly.
In the rest of the UK R. triquetrus grows on calcareous ground in woodland and also on acidic ground in woods of native pine (Pinus). It can also be found in open grassland on chalk, on sand dunes and in churchyards. For more information click here
The much more common Neat Feather- moss aka Pseudoscleropodium purum covers huge areas around the Folly. It occurs in a wide range of habitats but especially in unimproved, acidic grassland and heaths and also in chalk and limestone grassland, on banks, among rocks and on rock ledges. It may occur in open woodland but not in deep shade.It’s quite an attractive moss and, if there is enough available, can be used for lining hanging baskets. More information on this species can be found here
Then there were some damp spots where I found the Pointed Spear-moss. Guess what? They’ve changed its latin name to C. cuspidata. It is common in moist, base-rich habitats such as marshes, mires and flushes, in grassland, and among rocks. On some soils, for example clay, it frequently occurs in lawns. It also occurs in relatively dry places in calcareous habitats such as chalk and limestone grassland.
Back to work… chipping!!!!!!!!! As a little respite from chucking brash into the noisy chipper I had another little job to do…
Had to cut the stumps down and poison them with glyphosphate so that they didn’t grow again. It gets rather tiresome to have to come back every five to ten years to cut all the scrub down again and, by poisoning the stumps, we should expand the number of chalk grassland flowers which are quite rare on the Wimpole Estate. The blue colour is just a dye to let me know which stumps I have painted with a ten percent solution of glyphosphate.
Some six or so years ago we cleared the Folly area of scrub but, at that time, didn’t poison the stumps- note the tower without crenelations.
Damn! Always machines to fix and this time the hydraulic hose for the power steering on the MF390 had failed – every time you turned the steering wheel a jet of hydraulic oil spurted out. As it turned out it was not such a simple job removing the hose- typical, but, when we did remove it (with a load of others) it was down to Andy Klose Engineering to get a new one made. Back to work Mr MF390!
The next few days involved some wetter conditions behind the lakes- it had rained the night before which had made the ground a lot wetter in the reed bed ( hope we can get the tractor out at the end of the week).
One problem with the willow that we have removed is the rooting that happens when the limbs touch the ground. However, by cutting the limbs from the main stem and then putting glyphosphate on the cut surfaces, we will be able to kill the roots and stop the willow from encroaching again. It will grow ten times as quickly if we don’t poison them, but we will have to be careful not to poison the willow trees we have left behind.
It’s about this time of year when it is easier to identify the epiphytic moss such as the Orthotrichium species (you can find a key to them here). I found one I haven’t seen that often- the Elegant Bristle-moss, aka Orthotrichium pulchellum. There has been a dramatic increase in the abundance of O. pulchellum in eastern Britain and it is now locally abundant in many areas of willow (Salix) carr. Further west it has always been frequent on willows, especially in sheltered places. It also grows in quantity on other hosts, albeit not in the profusion that it does on willow, both on twigs and less often on trunks; there are also a few records from shaded stonework. More information about this moss can be found here. O. affine is much more common and will be encountered on trees all over the estate; sometimes you’ll also find the Ulota species- mostly crispa or bruchii.
The above photos show some of the willow carr we left behind to keep a diverse habitat behind the lakes. This area is particularly good for finding the Dotted Thyme-moss aka Rhizomnium punctatum. It is fairly common throughout the British Isles and can be found on damp or wet soil, rock and rotting wood in acidic to base-rich habitats. Here we find it on the willow trunks at water level.
Finally the last willows were felled and dragged back to the island and cut up. We also cut some of the alder to take back to Cobbs Wood Farm to see what we can make with that. I think I’ll have alder at the next Wimple Green Woodworkers meeting in April. Quite nice to finish early as it was Friday and we were all pretty muddy and wet… time for a well-earned beer in the pub in Orwell.
Oooops! I told Tom that, when he had dropped off the Ford 5000, he could go home- an early finish as it was Friday. Alas, he drove into a wet patch and… oh dear, he got stuck. Took us an hour to get the tractor out and, guess what? We were late getting away… Oh well, a few more beers would be required.