Apparently some hare coursers were out on the stubble fields one weekend so we put a stop to their antics. It would seem that they were using some gaps in the boundaries to gain access with their vehicles… won’t be doing that in future! These oak posts won’t be easy to push over.
Then there was a report of people lamping at night! Oh, that was us- Alan, John and myself. We went down the South Avenue one dark, blustery night to ambush the rabbits as they had been causing a problem gnawing the trees down there. To catch rabbits at night we use a long net (in this case 600m of it). You have to wait ’til the moon has gone and it’s a bit windy then, when the rabbits go and feed in the field, we sneak in and set the net between them and their home (burrows). Once set we then walk into the field and scare them back. Thought we would catch around 20 maybe but, alas, only three- a poor return for all the hard work. Better luck next time…
On the numerous days when there was a lot of wet weather we continued to clear away the rubbish that has built up at Cobbs Wood Farm over the years. I have to say a lot of it was not our mess but still, clear it up we must. First was the Kingspan roofing- nasty stuff this, not very good for the environment and apparently the fire brigade don’t like it either as a fire in a building with this sort of roofing is hard to put out as it’s sandwiched between two thin metal sheets and gives off toxic fumes. Then we collected up all the redundant tanalised timber including old fencing stakes etc as these can contain quite a bit of arsenic (more nasty toxic waste). This’ll all go into a roll off container for proper disposal as it should not, under any circumstances, be burnt on open fires or the like.
Next to clear away was the scrap metal- blimey! I wonder how much we have recycled over the years? Quite a bit of it has been pulled out of skips where of course we would have had to pay to dispose of it.
Then we turned our attention to repair work- trailer lights, hazard beacons for the tractors and some 110v cables. Made a mistake, can you spot it?
The parkland tree planting will begin in the new year so the metal guards have been ordered. The first batch were ready to pick up but the only farm trailer available for the job had no lights and it would have taken too long to put new ones on. Ah, I then remembered the magnetic trailer lights I had bought some time ago for just such an occasion! They work extremely well and, when finished with, are put back in the box for use on any other trailer without lights or with lights that don’t work properly, a real must have.
Meanwhile Peter was undertaking a lot of woodworking jobs. One very useful job was the production of a number of tool boxes for pole lathing. I have got a bit fed up of sharpening the pole lathe tools as they didn’t have a suitable box to protect the sharp edges when not in use. Now the chisels, draw knife, side axe and spoon making knives all have a home to live in and will stay sharper for longer. Well done Peter.
Collected up all the old chemicals that have been left around Cobbs Wood Farm from the previous farm tenants and some that had been dumped there by other people. Most are oil based paints but there were a few I had no idea what they were. The orange container was full of rat poison and some grey containers had sugary looking granules in them which I suspect might be ammonia sulphamate which used to be used to kill tree stumps. A brand once used was Amacide but EU regulations have effectively made this rather simple chemical unavailable because manufacturers have to make a huge H&S and COSHH dossier. Incidentally ammonia sulphamate is just the commonly used ammonia sulphate chemical for farm inorganic nitrogen fertilisers but with a sight change so that plants/trees take up the different form of nitrogen. This form of nitrogen is like carbon monoxide is to humans so the plant dies of nitrogen deficiency because it can’t use it. Now we just have glyphosphate but I think ammonia sulphamate is far safer. Have to phone up Biffa to get these ‘specially disposed of.
Back to work on the estate and one apparently little just-a-job took quite a bit of time (probably why it wasn’t done before). This was the small gate for the horse department in the Long Ropes field. The old gate posts had failed and the large field gate had to be made smaller to prevent farm vehicles from going under the high 11,000 voltage cables above the gate entrance. Incidentally the name Long Ropes is very old; in fact I did some research a few years back and a document written in latin from the 14th century has an area called Long Ropes but it also had a lot of other field names associated with the old Wratsworth manor which we still use today.
Another fence we took out was over near Arrington- it was getting past its best and we elected to replace it with individual wire weld mesh as we could then try to trim the rabbit population around this area. Help was at hand as the CNTV turned out on a very windy Sunday with young Tom to guide them along with the job.
That same weekend the Wympole Green Woodworkers gathered for the Christmas craft fair at Wimpole,. It was very wet on Saturday and (as I said before) very windy on Sunday. We had two forges working too but the wind on Sunday made it hard going. However we managed to make a few things I’m pleased to say.
We have started clearing out the rabbits down in the west end of the park near the village of Arrington. Tricky warrens these as they are huge and very deep. Apparently up until the late 70s there used to be thousands of rabbits on the estate and I have been informed that the BBC made a documentary about the private life of rabbits here. Have tried to find the film but to no avail…
As usual we had to dig out a ferret and, because we knew how deep the warrens were, Alan had brought in his Edwardian Norfolk rabbiting spade. Note the hook at the other end- have to be very careful you don’t catch your ear! The hook was used to catch the line that was attached to the ferret. These days we have a much easier job locating the ferrets as we put electronic locator collars on them. Having used the spade I have to say that it is of a superb design for the job and nice to use. Holes get filled in once the ferret has been retrieved. In certain parts of the park we can’t dig because of the archaeology so we just have to wait or leave a cage behind as the ferrets can stay underground for over 24 hours sometimes, hence the reason we normally dig them out if they have killed underground. Young Rufus went exploring down a rabbit hole and did an impression of Pooh Bear, didn’t get stuck though thank God or I would have been in trouble, sure the little beggar is trying to though! He won’t be doing that when he gets a bit older and fatter.
In spite of all this our work for most of November was in the South Avenue cutting down all the scrub that had been growing up between the lime trees and then chipping it.
There was even one area that was a complete dense thicket of blackthorn which was an old entrance to the South Avenue with two fences and a gate in it! Oh boy that was a thorny problem but we still had some energy left over to have a laugh with the camera thanks to Shane the photographer ;-). Now we were going to mow between the lime trees before starting to lift them which was our next job in the avenue.
On the day when Paul was mowing the tractor steering tie rod and ball joint came loose. The old MF390 has begun to show more signs of her age and hard work done. Just as well the MF tractor dealer Weatherheads down in Royston had the spare parts so that we could fix the old girl. Picked up the parts last thing in the day ready to fix the tractor the next day.
Oh dear… what should have been small job turned out to be a little more difficult than we first thought. The wear in the wheel housing caused us a problem removing one of the ball joints but, being prepared, we ground off the offending nut and then put some heat into the tie rod so that the old ball joint could be extracted as at first it did not want to part company from its old friend the tie rod. Sorry mate the tie rod’s got to have a new friend- tough luck…and out you go!
New friend attached and tie rod reunited with the wheel housing, wheels aligned and we were off again mowing and when this job was done it was time to change back to chipper mode.
Not sure how many limes we had to do but I know there are nearly 900 altogether and so I guess we had at least 200 to do. It’s a job that involves pole saws, ladders, chainsaws and a lot of hard work. Had to chip up all the brash too so that the Farm can mow the grass for hay next year without hitting some of the larger limbs if they were just left on the floor. If we were to use tree specialist contractors each tree would cost about £15-£20 to trim and lift then chip the arisings. This job would have cost in the region of £3,000 to £4,000 to do and that’s just for the lime trees alone. Looks very smart now :-).
Still had a few other areas requiring some tree removal, in this case it was a load of elm that had regenerated some years back and now had died. Amazing how much timber you can soon amass, all of it will have to be cleared away. The only thing we couldn’t fell was the telephone pole! Seems it was just plonked in the avenue a few years ago by the (now gone) elm copse. Now that we have felled the elm the telephone pole stood out like a sore thumb. Will have to get it moved though I reckon…
Here are a few shots showing the effects of some colder weather around the estate.
It’s been a funny year for fungi; sometimes it seems as if the fungi will burst up from everywhere but the initial wave of toadstools falters and fades away as the temperature changes. The cold snap did get things started but then it warmed up again and the fungi slid back to obscurity . However I did find quite a few field blewits and of late I have noticed that this species has become much more common on the estate. (Well the fruiting bodies have!) I suspect that since the wider in hand farming estate has become organic it has allowed the ecological soil environment to recover and function properly. With the reduction of chemical fertilisers it has helped the higher plants to form a functioning alliance which means more fruiting bodies and more gastronomic delights as field blewits are very edible.