Archives for the month of: June, 2010

Last week I visited the library in the Haslemere Educational Museum in order to do a little bit of background research for the project.  Its a fascinating place with loads of really interesting local historical information, amongst the items in their care is a collection of old photographs and images of places around Haslemere. I thought it would be nice to post a couple of old pictures of the basecamp they kindly passed on.

This picture was taken in 1876 from the back of the building. You can see the double doors front and back which allowed easy access for carts loaded with hay or corn. Its nice to see the hayricks outside, we still make hay on some of the fields at Swan Barn Farm to enhance the wildflower interest and to provide winter fodder for the animals grazing on our heathland restoration projects. The pine trees to the side of the basecamp mark where the new speckled wood building will be constructed.

This second picture was taken in 1879 and shows a view from the east. The pine trees went long ago, but some of the oak trees can still be seen here today, one of them in particular has a characteristic branch pattern which makes it easy to recognise.

I spent some of this morning talking to Val, our architect about the final designs for the new building.  Its looking really exciting, fingers crossed for a smooth planning application, I will post some pictures soon.

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The cycle  of coppicing in Longmoor Wood and Mariners Rewe (two of the main woodland areas at Swan Barn Farm) works so that an area is cut every other winter. The next area is due to be cut this coming winter and will provide a number of materials for the new building. There are some pictures in an earlier post of the cutting taking place in the last area and I thought it was worth an update to see how it is looking in midusmmer 18 months after we finished the work.

As you can see the wood looks fantastic at this time of year. The regrowing coppice stools are already over six feet tall and the whole area is alive with the sound of insect and bird life.

Woodlands are best known for their wildflowers in the spring, when the bluebells are a real treat. However there is still plenty to see in late June and this area at the moment is looking great, there are swathes of yellow pimpernel on the ground and lots of foxgloves being busily worked by the bee’s. Tucked away amongst these is a small patch of Ragged Robin.

This is a plant of wet meadows and woods, but it only really does well in woodland when enough light reaches the woodland floor. Its always a real pleasure to see this delicate little plant getting the opportunity to flower.

This patch of woodland provided the timber that we are currently using across the estate for a whole range of uses, from gateposts to benches to charcoal for the volunteers bar b q. We are also hoping to be able to use it for floorboards for the new building, here you can see the logs selected for this seasoning in the field behind the office.

If you begin to notice the Willow the Collie dog as a common theme in the pictures thats because she belongs to me (Dave, see the post on staff at Swan barn Farm) and I am writing these posts!

For a while now we have been trying to think of a name for the new building at the heart of the project. Swan Barn Farm Long Term Volunteer Accomodation Project loses its appeal as a name after the first couple of times you say it!

Spike came up with a good idea yeasterday, he suggested calling it Speckled Wood.

This is a Speckled Wood, a not uncommon butterfly of woodland rides and glades. They seem to be doing rather well here at Swan Barn Farm,  thanks in some way at least to the work we have been doing for the past few years. Some people would say it was a brown butterfly, but that rather misses the point of this lovely little creature, it often seems to bring the wood to life as it flits around in the dappled sunshine beneath the trees.

It might be nice for it to lend us its name for the new building, what do you think?

A brief introduction to the team who work here at Swan Barn Farm :

Dave is the Head Warden, pictured here at the launch of our allotments project at Shottermill. In the background you can see one of the Belted Golloway cattle that we use for grazing on our heathland restoration project at Marley Common.

Matt is the Area Warden, here you can see him releasing captive bred sand lizards on Black Down as part of a endangered species reintroduction scheme.

Spike, the Warden is pictured here taking a well earned rest whilst working in another of our coppice woodlands, this time at Boarden Door Bottom on Black Down.

Rachel, the Careership Warden, here pictured working at Shottermill ponds. In the background you can see where some of the coppice material from the woods at Swan Barn Farm has been used to create wildlife friendly planting areas next to the banks of the pond.

Much of the woodland at Swan Barn Farm is hazel coppice with oak standards, these woods, along with others on the Black Down Estate are going to provide the materials for the main structure of the building.

When native trees of species such as hazel are cut (known as coppicing) they do not die, but instead grow back the following season with a profusion of stems. These multi stemmed trees are very productive and can provide materials for a number of uses.

Here you can see an area which was the winter before last. By the following summer the stumps (or stools) already had vigorous regrowth sprouting where they were cut. After 12-15 years this regrowth will have reached a usefull size and this area of woodland will be cut again.

This is a very sustainable way of managing woodland, the resource naturally replenishes itself and much of our native woodland has been managed this way for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

We also have a number of sweet chestnut coppice’s on the property, here you can see Dave coppicing in Ridden Corner Copse on Black Down. This is the wood which will provide the main structural elements of the frame of the new building.

Coppice woodlands are also a very important wildlife habitat. For the first few years after cutting they are alive with wild flowers and insects, as the regrowth gets more bushy they are used by many species of bird. Then when the canopy starts to reclose species such as the dormouse move in. The wardens run a nestbox scheme to monitor this protected species and the work we are undertaking on the woods and hedgerows at the Farm are providing really important habitat for them. The picture above of Matt holding a dormouse was taken as part of this monitoring programme.

As well as the coppice the woodland also contains a number of “standards” these larger tree’s, usually oaks, are allowed to grow on to maturity and then each time an area of coppice is cut a few of these are felled. They replenish themselves from the seed of the remaining standards and so are also sustainable. It is important to harvest some of them each time the cycle works round otherwise they can start to shade out the coppice. Here you can see Dave felling one of the standards, this particular one is currently seasoning and if we get planning permission it will be turned into the floorboards for the new building.

This is Hunter Basecamp at Swan Barn Farm in Haslemere. This building provides accomodation for volunteers who come for a week at a time to work on the many National Trust sites in the area. We want to add to this facility by replacing the shed on the left with an eco friendly building made from materials produced on the Black Down Estate. This will be used to house long term volunteers who will help us to manage the basecamp, its garden, and the surrounding countryside.

The second part of the project is to make Hunter Basecamp much more environmentally friendly. We want to get rid of the old environmentally inefficient and costly storage heaters and put in a new log fired biomass boiler. We also aim to have a solar powered hot water system for use in the summer. There will be solar panels generating electricity on the roof and this will all be backed up by new insulation and secondary glazing to make the building as environmentaly friendly as possible.

We want to use this project to help to bring the site alive, we want to be able to grow tree’s in a small nursery for our orchard restoration work. We want to produce some of our own food for the basecamp and thereby allow our volunteers to connect with the wider countryside. We are aiming to put in a chicken run, a vegetable garden and a beehive and we want our long term volunteers, when they arive, to help us manage this.

We think this is a really exciting project with a loads of potential, we want to demonstrate how it is possible to build in a more sustainable way, by using materials produced locally in a way which benefits wildlife. The new accommodation will enable us to recruit long term volunteers who we anticipate will be a great help in managing the property. 

We had been hoping to start the build in 2010 but unfortunately had to put the project start date back by a year due to complications with getting the funding and design process completed in time. It was always going to be tight though, and we think that starting next spring is actually going to be a positive move as it will give us a better lead in time. This should mean that we can get all of the processes and materials in the right place at the right time.

We are hoping to start on the planning approvals process next month, and anticipate this being a complicated process. We are also in the midst of fundraising for the project. Fortunately we have a number of very good advisors on the project team who will be helping to steer us through this and avoid the many potential pitfalls. 

We hope the many people who were so keen to come along this year to help will still be keen next year, we will be relying on our many volunteers for a number of key aspects of the build.

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