Summer has faded away into the distance and autumn is upon us so it’s time to catch up with the goings on in the Ranger/Forestry Team but not before a few photos of some architecture on the estate.
Two towers in the fading evening light- amazing what you see once everyone has gone home.
One job we had to do was clear up all the old green hay we had spread out in the hope that we will have taken the flower rich hay to the grasslands that are poor in wild flowers. If we leave the cut hay it can help creeping thistle invade the grasslands so clear it up we had to do. One of the interesting things about manual labour is the wildlife you see while you are working- plenty of field voles were seen but there were also hundreds of toads (although frogs were absent oddly as we had seen a lot of froglets in June when mowing).
There were plenty of small jobs to do like picking wild flower seeds to also spread into the poorer grasslands and then there was the weeding of the tree guards, all 500 of them; this time we put some mats in to help suppress the grass as the land is organic and we can’t used herbicides.
There was also some fencing work to do including putting up some pedestrian gates etc. There were a multitude of other small jobs or, to be more precise, ‘Just-a-jobs’ which actually take more then the five minutes people seem to think it takes to do them. Why call them ‘Just-a-jobs’? ‘cos people say “just go and do that job, it won’t take more than a few minutes” !… and then of course there is the office work which seems to grow year on year…
For a few years now the cattle have eroded the top lake earth dam wall- an urgent repair was in order but what to do? If we put soil/clay back to build the dam the cattle would just puddle that too, so how to allow the cattle in the pasture but avoid putting up fences around the lakes? Well, I have used 75mm clean limestone on smaller ponds with the same problem but, although this will prevent any more poaching, unfortunately the water will seep through the stone up at the lake. Ah, in that case we then will put a gault clay core in front of the stone and then some more 75mm limestone beyond that. To hide the raw limestone we’ll put a thin layer of top soil over the top of it. However this job will soon have to halt as winter is approaching along with the wet weather. So it’ll be next year when we’ll add the clay core.
Alas we also had another problem with the top lake… it appeared that the waterlilies had died en masse, what had caused it? Not only that but some fish started to die, mostly the pike although there were quite a few still alive at the water’s edge. As it turned out the lilies had succumbed to crown rot (a fungal disease) so what with the fungi and bacteria breaking down the dead organic matter (they need oxygen), an influx of stagnant nutrient rich water from the upstream pathway in the first rainfall (nutrients increase fungal and bacterial breakdown of organic matter which increases the biological oxygen demand or BOD) and some very hot weather (this also reduces oxygen in the water), the water was so depleted of oxygen that the fish started to die. First to succumb are the ill and old then species like trout and then the pike.
We must have lost 15 to 20 pike; I hope there are some left to control the smaller fish like the sticklebacks and rudd. We’ll see when we do a fish survey with rod and line this winter. This is the best time to fish for pike as the water has more oxygen in it and the pike don’t get so stressed when caught. Now that the weather has started to get colder, and there is more and fresher water coming into the lake, things are improving- even the lilies are sending up new leaves.
Some other fresh water species were not doing so well either- some of the larger swan mussels had died and, I guess, so had a lot of the invertebrates that like oxygen rich water like the mayfly larvae. However species like the freshwater leech seemed to be doing fine.
There has been plenty of work repairing and maintaining the machinery- the Ford Ranger tyres have constantly been getting punctures, I think they must have been cheap road tyres so we have had to refit it with intermediate tyres of a better quality. The Ford 5000 has also had to sit idle as the fuel tank sprung a leak and repairing it was no mean feat. Just as well we had the Chief Engineer Ranger at hand who plugged the hole with a special resin just for such occasions- well done John and Jim, now they have just got to put it all back together again!!!!!!!!!!!
Another job over the summer was to help organise the Bear Grylls survival race… first a 10km route around the estate had to be found and then fences taken down, rides mown and some trees removed. Once the race had finished everything had to be re erected, that is except the trees!!! All in all I think most people had a good bit of fun on the day. A gallery of the event is below.
Once again it was time for the APF forestry show on Ragley Estate just south of Birmingham. This year I was asked to demonstrate blacksmithing and had to make some sort of woodland working tools, I wonder what I should make? Anyway here is a gallery of some of the equipment and associated items I was interested in.
So what was I really impressed with? Well mostly the items of equipment that the volunteers could use, everything else was extremely expensive. The blue rotary log processor would be an excellent purchase for making firewood out of the small timber at Wimpole and the volunteers could use this as it was simple and had no circular saw blade. Then there was the crocjaws from Ireland and in fact I did purchase one of these so that any of the volunteers with chainsaw certificates can cut logs safely and off the ground. The biofuel boilers were also very interesting as they made electricity and hot water but the smallest used 330 tonnes per year and that would not be sustainable at Wimpole (but it was a very good idea). I did like the competitions though and managed to do quite well in most (including identifying the timber) but I was even more pleasantly surprised when I got a phone call informing me that I had won the tree fungi identification competition (won a folding saw and fungi ident book :-)).
As part of the green woodworking demonstration group at the APF I had time to wander around and see the various skills on display and some of the goods produced, so here is another gallery.
What most impressed me? All of it and what good company they were too.
Finally, having had to listen to the chainsaw wood carvers for three days, I had to inspect their efforts and, what a surprise, their work was stunning. So who won?
All the carvers who took part judged who they thought who should win and then the independent judges decided who they thought should win. Check out the gallery for the results.
A sample of a few blades I made at the APF show. Just got to find a shape that’s good for beginners and won’t spill too much blood! The short curved ones with a big beard seem to work best.