Taking the Jagdterrier puppies out in the morning can be quite a chore but, on the other hand, at 7am it can be exceptionally beautiful in the morning sun and mist.
I can definitely say that very few people ever have the opportunity to wander around the gardens early in the morning when it’s peaceful and you can enjoy the spring blossoms, trees and formality.
Six weeks ago I could carry seven puppies down in the willow basket but now I struggle with three- not because of the weight (although I must admit that they are getting much heavier) but because the little devils squiggle about and can now reach my face and lick me to death on the way.
Not much to report this week as we spent most of it down in the South Avenue chipping. (Boy are we getting really fed up with that?!!!!!!!!!!!! When will it end?) The section of avenue we have been doing is one kilometre long so that means four kilometres of chipping and we are nearly done but not quite. It’s been nice chipping the lime though, the chips from these have a very pleasant smell.
Sometime this year we will have to take down a few very large poplar trees in the South Avenue as they interrupt the long view (they were planted in the wrong place). I have a cunning plan for the poplar timber: dugout canoes! I wonder if we could make at least one … hmmm, perhaps I need to make a prototype first (wouldn’t want to do all that work on a big trunk only to find we’ve got the dimensions wrong). More on this in a few months time…
Some mornings were quite misty but the mist soon burnt away to leave us in glorious sunshine which made me reflect on the weather as a whole. We’ve had at least a month of mostly sunshine and hardly any rainfall- lovely, but I do hope we don’t get a drought this year because we could lose a lot of the trees we have planted (so fingers crossed we get a fair bit of sunshine with showers at night. I WISH!!!!!!!).
With quite a few of us in on various days it was a good idea to split us up. One of the jobs that also needed to be done was to take out the remaining old stock fence (not a nice job but a necessary one). Instead of just ripping it out and dumping it in the woods like a lot of people do (and as a forester that’s a real annoyance; why are woods treated as ‘out of sight, out of mind’? It baffles me- if you’re going to do a job, do the job properly) we strip the metal off and bundle it up either for later use or for recycling. The wooden stakes are shot though so no good for anything. We will put these into a skip for proper disposal, they might even end up making energy in a waste disposal power plant. Only managed to get 500m cleared this week- 1500 metres to go. John’s job was peening the scythe blades.
Darn- the pests are at it again!
Rabbits can cause severe damage in the woods if they are not culled out. We caught quite a few this year (nearly 500) but it appears that we missed some in the Victoria Plantation. There is never normally a problem here but, as both fields either side of the thin strip of woodland were ploughed, the rabbits did not have anything to eat except for the tree bark. They even took to eating the laid hedge.
Deer are also a problem (although for the last ten years we have kept the numbers down so only see a little damage)- it’s easy to spot the bark stripping but it’s the browsing that does the damage. This can affect the woodland birds and the growing saplings
Voles are not normally a problem but in some years there is an explosion in their numbers. Mostly the voles just gnaw at the roots and collar of the stem but at Wimpole the little beggars have taken to gnawing the coppice re-growth. Nothing much can be done about voles expect to keep a healthy population of predators such as the fox, stoat, weasel and birds of prey like the owls and kestrel.
Another pest is the introduced grey squirrel- they will gnaw the bark on certain trees especially sycamore, hornbeam, beech and maple but also ash, oak and a few others will be attacked. They normally gnaw the bark in spring when all other food sources have run out. These squirrels need to be controlled as the effect on the woodland can be drastic, affecting the timber value but, more importantly, the woodland biodiversity as they can eventually change the tree species content of the woodland.
Now the last pest is one I never thought would be- it’s the green woodpecker. For quite a while I used to wonder what was damaging the young trees in Folly Field; eventually I caught the culprit in the act- pecking the trees . Apparently they use the young trees as a song post in the spring. Trees mostly affected are the oaks and horse chestnut so I have been thinking about how to stop them (perhaps a few posts that resonate better than the trees!!!!!).
In twenty years I have only had to shoot one fox but recently this dog fox was stealing my Silver Spangled Hamburg bantams. That I could cope with as he could only catch the older ones and those that were stupid enough to roost low down, then he stole the chickens from the people at Cobbs Wood Farmhouse next door, but what finally did it was the change in diet to the lambs at Home Farm a few hundred yards away. Apparently, bold as brass, he came into the Farm at midday and took one and then, over the last week, he took a few more.
This has never happened before but could not continue. As a forester the fox is actually more friend than foe as they will catch rabbits, young hares and voles who are more foe then friend and so, very reluctantly, I had to cull him. Sad really as I enjoyed seeing him about. Here at Wimpole we have a healthy population of foxes and a healthy environment. There are plenty of pheasants on the estate as they seem to come in from the surrounding farms, mostly because there is a lot of wildlife habitat for them and the organic farming system seems to suit them too (especially the clover leys and stubble). Elsewhere foxes are not tolerated at all and are shot on sight as they are deemed stealers of the game birds. Methinks it’s the poor habitat that’s the problem. If you want a shoot, get the habitat right and you’ll be rewarded with more game and, as a by-product, more wildlife.