Well, it’s that time of year when we can go out hunting rabbits at night (it’s always nice to be able to have a reason for sneaking around after dark!). This time we were out with the long nets ( all 400m) … you have to be very quiet and have no lamps on when putting out the nets and then, once set, it’s off out into the field to to try to catch the perpetrators that greedily gobble up the newly established wheat and barley crops.
Hmmm… the first drop sort of went well, caught six rabbits in all, but not where we were expecting to… still, that’ll do for supper later in the week. The next drop was a bit of a gamble and … it didn’t pay off, all that work for absolutely zilch, nothing, zero! Oh well, better luck next time! It was a beautiful night, dark but with many stars visible. Wimpole is perhaps one of the darkest parts of Cambridgeshire and you can see the orange glow of Cambridge with all its light pollution in the distance.
Colin Shawyer came to visit to check on the barn owls. The first brood in spring had failed but the second brood has done exceptionally well as there have been plenty of field voles about, so much so that on Cobbs Wood Farm and Rectory Farm there appear to be three breeding pairs and that’s unusual as they normally need a far greater territory. The habitat for field voles must be excellent on the organic farm.
We had another blacksmithing course in the estate’s Victorian forge teaching the participants how to make ram’s head hooks.
I have made one change to the process as the hooks we made before just seemed a bit flat and lacked depth so we now add twists to the horns which make the ram’s head hooks look a lot better. I also have made some wizard bottle openers, just have to perfect the process as these could go on key rings.
In September Mark the stockman put his Oxford Down sheep into the Victoria East Avenue to graze the aftermath grass. This is just the job to encourage the flowers in the meadow to grow. We will see next year if the hay meadow has improved its species richness.
Once the Oxford Downs have eaten all the grass and other vegetation Mark will put them into the Great Cobbs Meadow to graze off the grass in there. They will have to be moved through the woodland however to be able to gain access to the meadow.
It’s been a busy September this year. We have had to employ some outside ecological consultants (Bernwood ECS) to survey the barbastelle bats in the SAC/SSSI woodland prior to the proposed cycle track being installed.
It was quite amazing to see how much sophisticated electronic surveying equipment had to be used. To augment the electronic data they also used mist and harp nets to catch the woodland bats. All in all they caught a good number of female barbastelles that had bred, some long-eared bats, two species of pipistrelles and a few Natterer’s bats.
One of the big problems when dealing with barbastelle bats is that they need a high forest structured woodland that has decaying trees in it. That’s all well and good unless you have a footpath or the like running either through it or alongside it… if this is the case you have two contradicting requirements – one to look after the bats and another to look after the people using the tracks. In the photo with the perfect barbastelle bat roosting site you can see the dead oak tree could fall all the way to where Peter is standing, careful planning will help allow both the barbastelles to thrive and people to have access to the countryside.
Another job to do was to replace a gatepost by one of the tenant houses at Cobbs Wood Farm. It seems that the new timber treatment isn’t much use as this 8″ gate post has rotted within three years plus, it was set in concrete which also helps rot posts more quickly. Oh how I hate concrete, it’s quick to put in but a real nightmare to get out.
Once the concrete was out (the botex timber crane is very useful at extracting concrete) we then put in one of our chainsaw milled oak gate posts (all heartwood and very heavy). We then tamped in the soil layer by layer until a little bit of type one soil went in the top… worked a treat- one very solid post, no concrete used and a job that should not need going back to for 30 years or more.
Autumn has begun and the fruits are ripening- the hedgerows have crab apple trees dripping with the tart apples and in places wild hops have climbed all over the tops of the hedges and anything else close by. Apparently wild hops are unwanted escapees in areas where they grow hops for brewing as they can have odd flavours. You get so many different varieties- a bit like apples really.
Below is a small gallery of some landscape photos taken during September.
Another job we had to do was to continue repairing the farm track with limestone. We also cut back all the scrub that had grown up over the last five years or so. Now the farm and estate vehicles can use the track without bashing into the scrub trees. Quite a few elm suckers were exceptionally straight so Jim cut about a hundred hedging stakes which we will use for the hedge laying course in October.
Whilst helping install the bat monitoring equipment we came across an ash tree that had failed and was hung up over one of the woodland paths. Although the ash tree is not on National Trust land it will have to be dealt with if we can’t find out who actually owns the small area of land which the tree is within. In the meantime the path has had to be closed for safety reasons.
September seemed to be an odd month- there were a number of trees that failed in the hot period we had in September.
First one to deal with was a rather large black walnut tree, it had in fact split asunder. The upright section of the tree was very solid but had a large hung up limb and the best way to deal with this was to attach the cable of the timber winch. One good pull and out it came and, having given the upright trunk a test with the winch, we deemed it safe to leave as it was also in a quiet part of the Park. Incidentally, part of the reason for leaving the upright half of the walnut tree was because it had quite a few possible bat roosts in it, however, just to make sure it was really safe, we gave the tree a haircut. Black walnuts regrow extremely well so this tree will probably be around for another fifty years or so.
The section of walnut tree that was on the ground was made safe with the aid of the winch. All the shattered parts of the tree were collected up for the use of the Green Woodworkers- hopefully they can use small bits to make spoons or the like.
Well! Blow me if another large tree limb didn’t fall down…this time Eastern Tree Surgery came to the rescue as I didn’t have anybody to help make the team safe.
Then there was a report of an oak tree shedding one of its limbs near the Hall. On close inspection the limb in question had a fault on the top surface.
So, all in all, it had been a busy month with some unusually warm September weather. I wonder how October will fare?