Mad as a March hare

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A setting sun over the Wimpole Estate

What lay that!!!!

What? Lay that?!!!!

This year I have cut down the proposed amount of hedge laying as I now only have volunteers to help with the work. For the last four years or so the team were able to do at least 500m per year but this year we had just under 100m to do and it wasn’t going to be a very nice job as it was full of blackthorn. I knew we would get stabbed to hell and if blackthorn thorns break off in your flesh and get left in for some reason they go septic, nasty little devils.

The first bit done

The first bit done

Not only that …it was full of ivy, tall and very wide so we had to cut out quite a bit of rubbish including some humongous bramble. It took a day just to cut thirty metres of this section of hedge and chip up the rubbish (which was an awful lot).

Filling the gap

Filling the gap

The next section was easier but eventually we came to a very big thorn tree and a massive gap we needed to bridge. With a lot of huffing and puffing we laid it one way and then the other way which, amazingly, filled the gap exactly.

Chipping the brash

Chipping the brash

Cleaning the ditch

Cleaning the ditch

More chipping ensued and, with the help of the gardeners, we soon filled a number of trailers for them as the wood chip was required for the Adventure Path in the Pleasure Gardens. Of course we then had to clean out (‘scour’ was the term used in the old days around here) the ditch which was somewhat wet, however once cleared the water ran much more freely.

Done

Done!

A bit up and down but it followed two contours, we also pollarded two sycamore trees as they were not the best specimens; now the track and outbuildings will have sunshine on them which will aid them drying out after any rainfall.

Got those rabbits we saw with the Infra Red scope

Got those rabbits we saw with the infrared scope

Remember those rabbits we saw when out surveying the deer at Wimpole with the infrared scope? Well we went back a week later long netting at night and managed to clear a few areas of significant amounts of rabbits. Caught nine that night.

Foggy mornings

Foggy mornings

Once again we have had some very variable weather, mostly dry for March but the early mornings were sometimes frosty or foggy.

Scatlet nights

Scarlet nights

In the evenings we also had some exceedingly beautiful sunsets (if only we could see the Northern Lights though). About fifteen years ago I did actually see them as far south as Cambridgeshire on the Wimpole Estate- it must have been one of the darkest spots in the whole of the county. Now we are suffering from more and more light pollution and the stars don’t seem to be as bright as when I first came here thirty years ago. Turn them lights off!!!!!

The Relentless Affection - Boxing Hares Art Print folksy.com

The Relentless Affection – Boxing Hares Art Print folksy.com

This is the month to see the antics of the wild hare otherwise known as the Mad March Hare. We are lucky here, I see dozens of them and absolutely love watching them box. This brings me on to the Easter Bunny, in fact the bunny is a usurper and the chocolate egg has more to do with the hare. In medieval times the “Easter Hare” originally played the role of a judge, evaluating whether children were good or disobedient in behaviour at the start of the season of Eastertide. As far as I know, the egg connection was because people at that time thought that hares laid eggs in the fields little knowing that the eggs were laid by birds like stone curlew and lapwings. Follow this link to the Easter Hare 

Tree surgery alongside the A1198

Tree surgery alongside the A1198

Back to work… You have to be a little mad if you like climbing trees and then dismantling them with a chainsaw; it’s bad enough using one on the ground let alone halfway up a tree. Perhaps there should be a day off for the “Mad Tree Surgeon” who comes in the night dropping sawdust throughout the house!!!!!!

Tree surgery with a view

Tree surgery with a view

It’s a very expensive job especially if you have to work alongside a busy ‘A’ road. Traffic control for a day can cost around £800 plus the cost of using the tree surgery contractors. In this case I will have to spend about £2000 per day to remove the worst of the trees and one oak overhanging the road is going to take a whole day, ouch! Money doesn’t go far these days. To reduce the days I have to employ contractors capable of dealing with difficult operations alongside busy ‘A’ roads and needing safe traffic control we do the easier trees that won’t need traffic control ourselves; however I do employ a good friend Ben (who I have worked with in Jordan and on some pretty nasty jobs over the years) and Ciaran and Matt  (who work in the gardens).

Darn winch threw a wobbly

Darned winch threw a wobbly

One method we use when felling to make sure that some of the trees fall the right way is to use the Igland winch- it’ll pull six tons so will easily deal with many trees. Had to repair it though as when we pulled the wire rope out it would not winch the cable back in… hmmmmmm, wonder what was wrong? Ah, after taking off the inspection plate it seemed a pin had come loose.

Having a break

Having a break

Some of us just sat about while others worked or were they just having a break ? (Shane & Ben !!!!!!)

When using the winch to pull trees over you have to take into account the species of tree as each species has different timber properties.  Ash and elm are easy, they can have a terrible lean towards the road  but can be pulled back into the woods because they have very strong stringy wood that hangs on when you fell them. On the other hand, trees like maple and sycamore and even beech which have a very brittle wood can just snap off when you fell them and spin back across the road. We left all those ones until I can get some specialist contractors in who will use traffic control just in case something did actually go wrong.

Timber gill

Timber jill

Had a trip to the seaside with Justin Anderson to see an auction of horse-drawn equipment. There were some very interesting items but the best one for me was the timber jill. There was something not quite right about it though… it should have had one central pole and, with further investigation, I found that it had broken and been replaced by two shafts either side. The reason it broke was because whoever made it used oak for the pole, not a timber that can take those stresses; not only that, the outer rim

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Timber jill in use in Holland

(fellas) was made of oak, not the traditional ash. The wheel hubs were made of elm as it is the only wood that can do this job. This made me think that the makers made most of it out of oak because they probably knew it would be left outside most of the time and heartwood oak is very resistant to rot unlike ash which, if left outside, would perish fairly rapidly.  Below is a gallery of some of the other items up  for auction.

The next best item was an original shepherd’s hut of a Norfolk design-nothing had changed since it was last used, it even had the original fittings including the fire, definitely a museum piece as most get renovated as live-in huts, garden sheds or offices. Dare say this is what will happen to this hut, that would be a shame. Another item I should have bought was the horse gin- never seen one so complete and it would have made a magnificent working display running the chaff cutter.It sold for only £350- an absolute bargain. I liked the huge digger plough and it was nice to see a  hay sweep as these are quite rare nowadays (that sold for £19). Then there was the elevator which is exactly the same as the one at Wimpole Woodyard albeit in much better condition. All in all a nice day out even though it was freezing!

The hedge laying course

The hedge laying course

Chip chop Derek!

Chip chop Derek!

Did another hedge laying course at Cobbs Wood Farm with two very nice gentlemen- Derek and Mark. Amazingly Derek was nigh on 85 years old and my God I hope I am doing that well when (if)  I manage to attain that age.

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Binding the stakes

Had a good day and with Ashley’s help we managed to lay about 25 yards all done with axe and billhook. I also took Mark and Derek to see the other hedges we have laid especially those which were done when we had the hedge laying competitions at Wimpole.

Finishing off

Finishing off

 

 

The WGW back in action

The WGW back in action

This month Jim ran a course on pole lathing that was well attended by beginners. The rest of us? Well we busied ourselves using various bits of wood cut on the estate which varied from blackthorn, some small field maple and sycamore burrs to large lumps of English walnut. The challenge for this month was the boxwood I collected a month ago but the only person to submit an item was Debbie- a crochet needle (but what was more impressive was the skirt she made with it!) Needless to say she won this month… by a country mile.

Hedge boot with apple kuksa's

Hedge boote with apple and maple cups a blackthorn spoon and a sycamore bowl in the making.

 

 

 

About Sadeik

You may ask why "Sadeik" well it means friend in arabic. Worked in Jordan a lot doing tree surgery you see. I have worked in forestry since I left school with a two years in Telecom. Went back to forestry and tree surgery as it may not have paid as much but was far more interesting and dangerous. Spent a lot of years mountaineering, caving and canoeing too. At 29 I went to Bangor University to study Forestry and soil science then did an MSc in Water engineering all very interesting. By a quirk of fate in 1995 ended up helping sort out the woodland and park at Wimpole, funny thing was then I only intended to stay six months or so, but 18 years later I'm still here learning all the time. That's the best bit, if I wasn't able to learn something new every year I would not have stayed and as you get older you realise that the grass is not so green in the next field after all. In fact my patch is getting greener while much of the rest is getting browner.
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