Jim’s self set challenge of making a pole lathed bowl for every week of the year finally ended and we had a magnificent display of his work on show at the last Wympole bodgers day. The first ones were a bit rough (if you don’t mind me saying so Jim?) but, as he went along, so the quality improved and so did the size. Almost all the wood was sourced from Wimpole Estate from offcuts. Well done Jim! And even more well done because, instead of profiting from all this work, he has given most of them away to deserving people and, when he has sold some (very few indeed), he has used the money to buy tools for the Wympole Green Woodworkers. One particularly memorable bowl was made from some of the elm felled up by the Folly by Sarah who was a seasonal forester last year; she is now the proud owner of an elm bowl made from the first tree she ever felled.
Some weekends ago we ran the hedge laying course when three intrepid attendees tackled the thorny issue of hedge laying. During a somewhat overcast day they learnt how to pleach the hedgerow plants and then lay them over without completely severing them. This allows the pleacher (the upright stem laid diagonally) to grow.
By the end of the day we had laid thirty metres and produced a lot of lop and top (to be disposed of at a later date). Being a youngish hedge of about fifteen years growth this one will have some very strong regrowth next year and provide us with an impregnable green wall, strong enough to stop any livestock. Well done the apprentice hedge layers – I shall expect them to come and compete at Wimpole’s hedge laying competition on the first Saturday in February.
Sunday saw the Wympole bodgers in attendance at Cobbs Wood Farm- a merry band making all sorts of wooden items. There were a few newcomers too which was nice to see and of course Jim was perfecting his bowl turning. He’ll have to do a nest of them to really, really impress us now. Challenge set I’d say and gauntlet firmly thrown on the ground. In return I’ll have to make a Damascus knife right from scratch so will have to perfect forge welding ( not an easy task I dare say).
And what was Shane waffling on about? Nothing much in particular I’d say; however… I have heard a whisper or two that both Jayne and Shane have been perfecting the art of bench making of late. Psssst! Someone ought to tell them that ash timber is not so good to use for outdoor furniture!!!!!
Well Monday turned up AGAIN and we chipped up the lop and top from the hedge laying course and did some tidying up. It was then off up to the Folly to fell some more trees around the Nag’s Stable. Some were rather too close to the building so had to be removed before they caused some structural damage to said building.
After that we went to fell seven poplar trees that had been planted many years ago and were now impeding the view down the great South Avenue. Up until a year or so ago the land on which the poplars grew was not owned by the National Trust but Wimpole bought it specifically so that the poplars could be removed. They didn’t look so big until we felled them… what a lot of work to clear it all up.
Recently the autumnal weather has been giving us the opportunity for some lovely photographic shots so I have added a few to the post to show you what you can see early in the morning and last thing as the sun sets.
It took a fair portion of the week to fell and chip up the poplar trees. However, as we got closer to the bridge we had to climb up the trees and dismantle them so as to avoid potentially hitting the said bridge as the remaining trees leaned rather alarmingly that way.
Some views from the canopy with Tom snedding the limbs I felled from up the tree. There is also the view of one of the earlier trees we had managed to fell with a leaf shadow of where the canopy had been and left an halo of leaves on the ground. Now that all the poplars had been felled we did wonder if anyone would notice the improved view down the South Avenue?!!!!!!!! No, they hadn’t… oh well, out of sight out of mind.
All that was left to do was collect up the felled timber and cart it back to Cobbs Wood Farm. All in all we had four loads of timber and we will be trying to turn some of the larger trunks into boards with our new chainsaw mill bought to make elm planks to repair the Nag’s Stable up at the Folly – more on that at a later date…. Below is a bit from Wiki about the uses for poplar wood:
‘Although the wood from Populus is known as poplar wood, a common high-quality hardwood “poplar” with a greenish colour is actually from an unrelated genus Liriodendron. Populus wood is a lighter, more porous material. Its flexibility and close grain make it suitable for a number of applications, similar to those for willow. The Greeks and Etruscans made shields of poplar, and Pliny also recommended poplar for this purpose. Poplar continued to be used for shield construction through the Middle Ages and was renowned for a durability similar to that of oak, but at a substantial reduction in weight.
- In many areas, fast-growing hybrid poplars are grown on plantations for pulpwood
- Poplar is widely used for the manufacture of paper.
- It is also sold as inexpensive hardwood timber, used for pallets and cheap plywood; more specialised uses include matches and the boxes in which camembert cheese is sold.
- Poplar wood is also widely used in the snowboard industry for the snowboard core, because it has exceptional flexibility, and is sometimes used in the bodies of electric guitars and drums.
- Poplar wood, particularly when seasoned, makes a good hearth for a bow drill.
- Due to its high tannic acid content, the bark has been used in Europe for tanning leather.
- Poplar wood can be used to produce chopsticks or wooden shoes.
There is interest in using poplar as an energy crop for biomass or biofuel, in energy forestry systems, particularly in light of its high energy-in / energy-out ratio, large carbon mitigation potential and fast growth. In the United Kingdom, poplar (as with fellow energy crop willow) is typically grown in a short rotation coppice system for two to five years (with single or multiple stems), then harvested and burned – the yield of some varieties can be as high as 12 oven dry tonnes per hectare every year.’
Poplars are one crop that can be used at Wimpole as they do indeed grow extremely rapidly. Of late we have been planting the rare native black poplar on the in-hand farms. These can be pollarded so that we get veteranised trees which in fact was quite traditional in Cambridgeshire up until the twentieth century.
Had a wet day to set about collecting up all the last remaining concrete and brick rubble. We then filled up another track around Cobbs Wood Farm. As I’ve said before – for every ton we use we save the estate the minimum of approximately £25 but it could be as high as £250 if you don’t use your noddle. Think we put twenty tons down on the track this time – a good result.
Next we ordered the last twenty ton load of limestone to top the concrete rubble as this will compact down and provide a more natural looking surface.
Finally we had used up almost all the limestone- there was just enough left to fill some large holes outside the grain barn that were full of water. All we needed now was some steam to help us compact the stone…but where to get the steam?!!!!! Total cost to repair the track after years of farm traffic was about £5000 in materials not including machinery and labour.
While waiting for some steam to flatten the track we took the opportunity to do a bit more clearing up at Cobbs Wood Farm. We finally cut up the old oil tanks dumped by the barn- a long and slow job but eventually the tanks were dismembered and thrown into our recycling metal skip. We did however cut the tanks in such a fashion that we could make bunds to store the oils we use. This’ll stop any potentially leaking containers contaminating the environment – waste not, want not.
We even converted a used 200 litre oil drum to put all the waste oil into. Most people don’t realise some of the items that have oil in them and quite often we find oil filled radiators in our metal skip. If these get crushed all the oil escapes to pollute the environment so… out they come, the screw cap is removed and the waste oil is poured into our recycling oil tank where it’ll get disposed of at a later date.
I needn’t say too much about the steam roller as Shane has already posted on this blog about the day a steam roller came to do real work at Wimpole. Suffice to say we all enjoyed the spectacle and were very pleased to see the steam roller compact the farm track we had just repaired. Many thanks must go to John Reid et al who made it possible. Hopefully they will be back in the spring to give it another rolling to pack it even harder and make the track more durable.