Welcome to a misty December with no frosts to speak of (seems global warming has been changing the seasons of late) and if you had visited Wimpole early in the morning, on the right day, you would have been treated to some beautiful scenery.
Autumn was also rather prolonged with the oak trees hanging onto their leaves right into December even after we had a few minor frosts. The East Avenue was particularly beautiful especially after one of these frosts.
With the nights drawing in we have taken the opportunity to cull some of the rabbits that are about the estate with the long net. Some nights we are lucky and can catch a reasonable bag but other nights can be a lot of work for just a handful.
One of the main reasons for culling the rabbit population is because of the damage they do to the young trees in the winter time. They can gnaw the bark to the point where they ring bark the tree ultimately resulting in its death. Mind you, there has been a huge short-tailed vole population explosion and I have a feeling these little critters might undo a lot of our tree planting work. Not much you can do about that but hopefully the foxes, kestrels and owls will help us on this score.
We also ran a ferreting course, which was well attended, and managed to clear out the rabbit warrens near Home Farm (these bunnies have been plaguing the gardeners). In total 27 rabbits were caught with most of them ending up as rabbit pie- good, wholesome, organic, wild meat.
Job of the month was to start the ‘thousand trees in ten years’ planting programme in the old deer park near Arrington village. In total we will have planted about 120 trees.
First job was to dig holes so that the archaeologists could inspect what we may have unearthed… unfortunately no pots of gold, in fact it seems there was little to interest them this year. Once inspected we filled the holes in again as this year we only bought cell grown trees which only needed a small slit in the soil
Second part of the job (after filling in the holes) was to knock in the stakes, a very arduous job which took over a week to do (as did the hole digging).
Then, while waiting for the trees to turn up, we had to distribute the metal guards that would fix to the metal stakes. At least this year the ground was not sodden from rain which meant the tractor and trailer could carry the load.
Not only did we put out the traditional metal guards, we also fabricated the weld mesh to put inside, because unfortunately both the rabbits and sheep seem to have dietary requirements that include our trees, although deer and cattle find the guards quite a deterrent.
Finally the cell grown trees came and, with some help from Claire and Maxime from the Estate Office, we had most of the trees planted and protected by Christmas time – well on schedule.
The gallery below shows you why trees are so important in the landscape- they frame any building and enhance its appeal – where would we be without trees and people who plant trees?!
There is another tree gnawing culprit that was in need of culling- not a native to the British Isles but an interloper that escaped from a deer park in Bedfordshire many years ago. The deer in question is the muntjac; apparently its reasonably rare in its native habitat but over here it’s become a real threat to the woodlands.
When out stalking it’s always best to have a dog with you just in case a deer is not killed instantly. Sometimes a deer can run a long way before it succumbs. All deer stalkers will have had shots that didn’t quite hit the vital organs- sometimes the bullet glanced off an unseen twig many, many metres away or the deer made a sudden move just as the shot was fired. There are a huge number of variables but all deer stalkers aim to have an instant kill. So yes, most stalkers aways take a trained dog along as they are experts at tracking down a shot quarry by scent alone.
There were plenty of other jobs to do, all minor, but we did continue with the track repairs. Instead of putting all the unwanted bricks into a skip the gardeners filled our trailer. It was so full it would tip at first but, after hand balling some off, we filled in some very large holes down at Rectory Farm. Recycled waste! Love saving money and, ultimately, fossil fuel- waste not, want not.
We have also had some lovely sunsets so here is a small gallery:
With a bit of spare time on our hands it was time to remove the Capability Brown art installation and that went by without any problem… however the same couldn’t be said about the metal pins. Even our two and a half ton crane struggled to pull them out of the ground, certainly a good design!
Some more photos from around the estate
December… oh no it’s Christmas! Blast! I had to get busy making some presents plus my youngest daughter was 21 this year -made her a boa board which is an East African game. I made it from some offcuts from a black walnut tree that had shed a limb earlier in the autumn. It’s actually a very nice game to play so check out here to find out what boa is.
The yew heart has a hole drilled through it and a willow arrow is cunningly knocked through; once through it can’t be extracted without breaking it… guess how it’s done?
I will provide a report of the Wympole Green Woodworkers for 2016 shortly…