Sorry if I have been a little quiet lately. I think everyone at Swan Barn Farm has fealt the hectic year catching up on them a bit over the past couple of weeks and we have all needed to take a little time to get back on track. The building has been coming along well, with lots of work being done on the earth plastering and decorating front. Meanwhile I thought with autumn advancing it would be a good time to go back up to Ridden Corner Copse, the coppice where we cut most of the timber for the building, and see how the regrowth is looking.
As I have explained before, the main species of wood we used for the build is sweet chestnut, it comes from a coppiced wood, meaning that when you fell the tree it doesn’t die, but regrows with many stems from the cut stool. This is a very sustainable, environmentally friendly and aincent way of managing woods, which also provides fantastic conditions for wildlife. Now that the stools where we cut the timber from the house have reached the end of their first growing season I wanted to see how well the regrowth was doing.
As you can see from my cunningly devised dog by tree scaled measuring device much of the regrowth in the wood has reached 5 or 6 feet in its first year. The first year or two is crucial for the regrowth in the coppice, as the trees strive upwards towards the light the main threat comes from browsing deer. If they get chance they will nibble the leading shoots causing a massive ammount of damage to the future viability of the coppice. One of the ways we get aroung this is by creating glades which are large enough so the deer feel threatened in the open space, they will always browse round the edges, but tend not to go out in to the middle. This area of woodland seems to have faired well, there is a little deer damage, but not too much, and by next year the shoots will have grown out of harms way. Given another 15 or 20 years this area will have regrown to a size where it will be ready to be cut again.
This is the time of year when thoughts turn towards keeping warm by the fire, and I was pleased to see our stacks of cordwood drying nicely by the trackside. We are currently having a log fired biomass boiler installed as part of our building project. Next year this is the wood that will be keeping the building warm and providing its hot water.
The other thing that I was really pleased to see was how the ground underneath the trees was starting to fill in with all manner of interesting plants.
The wood sorrel is growing in big clumps all across the woods.
And wherever there had been a bit of light disturbance of the soil foxgloves are proliferating.
Of course only the leaves are showing at the moment, but it is a real sign of things to come, it looks like next year the coupe will be a riot of sorrel and foxglove flowers, I can almost hear the hum of the bee’s already.
Its a fantastic time of the year to get out in the woods for a walk, (I intend to be taking my own advice on that this week, with a few days off and a long walk planned) the colours are absolutely at their peak. But its not only in the woods that the colours are looking stunning. A short walk across the heath is also pretty rewarding right now as I saw on Black Down this afternoon.
And, no matter what the time of year, if you keep your eyes open there is always some fascinating wildlife out there to spot, like this clump of wax cap fungi I found growing amongst the grasses on the lower slopes of the hill.
Wax caps usually only grow in areas that have not had artificial fertilizers or chemicals applied to them, so when you see them you always know you are somewhere a bit special.