Archives for the month of: November, 2010

Ok, so its far to early, but its been snowing here today, which sort of makes it seem more relevant.

Every year we put up a Christmas tree in the High Street for Haslemere Town Council and I thought you might like to see some pictures of this years one.

We have a couple of plantations of Norway Spruce (the traditional choice for a chritmas tree) and over the years have been gradually thinning them by donating them to local good causes at christmas time.

The small glades where we remove the spruce are filling in with all sorts of interesting broadleaved species so over time we are improving the woodland structure as well. Just next to this years tree was a lovely glade of Rowan, a great species for wildlife (and one of my favourite tree’s). The only problem is, the spruce trees just keep growing! We ran out of small ones years ago and now the town is getting the top section out of a fair size tree. This has led to some interesting methods of lowering the tree to avoid damaging it over the years. We have used a few methods and now use ropes which are wrapped around neighbouring tree’s to control the rate of fall.

Its always an interesting challenge, and I like jobs that mark the cycle of the year. Hopefully this years one doen’t look too bad.

If I remember in the new year I will let on a little secret about Haslemere’s christmas tree!

Anyway, here’s wishing all of our supporters a, albeit early, very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

One of the things thats been going on here that I have been most proud to be part of this year is a new allotment site which we created at Shottermill fields. We use the fields for winter grazing for the cattle that are part of our heathland restoration project on Marley Common, but have given over part of the top field for local people to grow food.

I have always been a very keen (if not always very productive!) vegetable gardener and think it is really important to encourage people to get their hands in the soil, it puts you in touch with all sorts of issues to do with the wider countryside.

One sunny day this spring we held a launch event for the new plot holders and their families, the plots were all completely bare and I was intirgued to think ahead and imagine how it was going to change over time.

Lynchmere Parish Council have been our partners in the project and were a great help in getting the whole thing off the ground, one of the local councilors made this fantastic cake to celebrate the launch day.

The allotment association and the plotholders have been doing a great job on the site and as spring turned into summer it was really nice to see the site coming to life. Due to everyones hard work there was an absolute bounty of produce growing by the time this photo was taken in early August.

A couple of weeks ago at the end of the main growing season we had a tidy up event where the hegde was trimmed and there was a bit of a bonfire and clear up session. To congratulate the plotholders on a successful growing season Mark Allery and I sourced a couple of tractor trailer loads of well rotted horse manure from a local stable, this should help things grow even better next year.

Mark is a local pole lathe turner, green woodworker and woodsman, he also helps mange several hundred acres of commonland for The Lynchmere Society as their Commons Manager. His blog site is well worth a look and has lots of interesting and inspiring posts about green woodworking and the local landscape.

I can testify to the quality of his pole lathe skills, he made the handle for the apple scratter we restored as part of the orchard project here at Swan Barn Farm.

Its been great to see what could be achieved in such a short space of time at the allotments, I’m really looking forward to the coming year as I’m sure its going to go from strengh to strength.

Matt and I have been working hard in the chestnut coppice again today but before we went there  we had to go and check up on the work we have going on on the main part of Black Down, we have a number of contractors working on the hill helping us to restore the rare and important heathland habitat by clearing some of the pine. Over the years this work has had the added benefit of opening up some of (I’m pretty biased I know) the best views in the south east.

I’m sure my photography doesn’t do it justice, but it was just one of those stunning, still, peacefull mornings that make you glad to be alive. The mist was rolling off the hills as the sun warmed the air.

Black Down is the highest point in Sussex, with extensive views over 5 counties. On a clear day you can even see as far as the English Channel through a gap in the South Downs. It is probably one of the best places to get a view over the new South Downs National Park, which we are proud to be part of.

The heathland restoration work was going really well too, I will post on this soon as we are going to use some of the pine for the studwork in the interior walls of the building.

Ridden Corner Copse is a lovely little wood on the northern side of Black Down. It is tucked away in an valley with an aincent trackway running through the bottom of it. This track used to be one of the main north south routes in this part of the world, and was once the haunt of a well known local highwayman. He lived in nearby Chase Lane and his activities were only discovered after his death when the tags from the mailbags he had stolen were found stuffed up his chimney.

This particular wood is mainly chestnut coppice, the trees have gone through many cycles of regrowth following cutting over the years and the latest regrowth is now the perfect size for use in the Speckled Wood building. Next year after we have finished cutting the stumps will send up new shoots, these shoots will grow vigorously and will be able to be harvested again in a few years time as the self sustaining cycle works round again.

The timbers we are cutting in this wood will form the main frame of the building. There will be four “A” frame crucks around which the rest of the structure will be constructed. These timbers will be left in the round and it will be fascinating to see how the character of the wood affects the finished form of the building. At the risk of being accused of spending too much time looking at tree’s I really hope that the character of this particular woodland will be there to see in the building. 

I have been working with sweet chesnut for quite a number of years now and have always really enjoyed working in the woods on Black Down. We use sweet chestnut for all sorts of things, from fencing to pole barns to bench’s, but have never had the opportunity before to be involved in building a house with it.

It is going to be a really interesting (and very busy!) winter getting the materials ready for the build, and we are still in the middle of fundraising and planning applications. If it all goes pear shaped we will just have to sell off the timber, but I have all of my fingers and toes crossed and we have lots of support for the project. The planning officer is coming for a site visit on monday…

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