Archives for the month of: November, 2013

Ok, I know, far to early still to think about Christmas, but when the Town Council asks…

Last week it was time to put up the Christmas tree in Haslemere Town Centre. We have been doing it for years, and it is definitely one of my favourite jobs of the year. I really like occasions and work that mark the passing of the year and the turning of the seasons. What better a job than putting up the town christmas tree to ease the passing of the sunshine and the onset of the cold.

On the edge of Black Down in a lovely little valley called Boarden Door Bottom we have a plantation of Norway Spruce. Providing christmas trees for the town helps us to thin the plantation and allow more light to the woodland floor therby encouraging wildflowers and regeneration of native tree species. When I first started working here 15 years ago the Norway Spruce were a nice manageable size for felling and handling, over the years they have been getting bigger and bigger, as has the challenge of getting them down intact. We are now taking the top 30 feet out of a 60-70 foot tree. Getting that on the ground intact and without broken branches is quite tricky… Suffice to say that it often takes two or three attempts to get one that is in good enough shape to put on public display. Don’t worry though, the other ones don’t go to waste, they¬† are gathered up when we are selling other timber, they end up in the sawmill helping to pay a little towards the cost of running the estate.

Felling tree 1

We found a likely looking candidate and set about the business of getting it on the ground.

Felling tree 2

Ropes to slow the rate of fall and bench’s of brash layed out in front of it failed to do the trick though… We did our best but the top 10 foot had snapped out. Lucky for the local primary school who wanted a 10 foot tree, but not so lucky for the town. Oh well, I can’t remember the last time the first one felled worked out, so we split up and headed off out through the woods looking for another likely tree.

I have stared up at those trees so many times, weighing up which one to fell, for some reason this year none of them looked all that pretty… then… Matt came over… “you’re not going to believe this” he said…”just over there that storm the other day has blown a 30 foot section out of the top of a massive tree, and it looks perfect!” We rushed over, I couldn’t believe our luck, the storm had delivered the perfect looking tree from a great height right into our laps!

A lucky find

We rolled it over to check it was intect and I trimmed up the tattered end where it had ripped out of the tree. Still feeling like someone somewhere was smiling on us (and wondering what we had done to deserve it) we used our timber crane to load it up before our luck took a turn.

Loading tree

Still smiling we took the trip into the hustle and bustle of Haslemere Town Centre. We arrived there just around school kicking out time. Its always nice when that happens, the kids love watching the tree go up as they are on their way home. You feel a bit on display doing that kind of work right in the public gaze, but I suppose you get used to it.

Tree in town 1

Much manouvering with the crane and securing with wires later we were able to stand back and admire our handywork.

Tree in town 2

If only every year was that easy!

There will be a carol concert in the High Street under the tree at 7pm on Wednesday 18th December. Free mince pies and mulled wine are apparently on offer. I hope to be there, wearing a little secret proud smile for the Black Down Ranger Team and the hard work they do every year to make it happen.

Here’s hoping our luck stays in for the coming year.

Happy (I know, way too early) Christmas.

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Last week I was in London, I had an hour to spare before a meeting and was feeling a bit out of place… There is a place I have been meaning to visit for ages, but have never gotten around to it. I felt in need of inspiration so took myself off to Postmans Park. Hidden in an alleyway near St Pauls it is pretty unremarkable as London parks go. But in a corner of it an unnasuming little lean too has something special under its protective roof.

postmans park

It is George Watts memorial to heroic self sacrifice. Made by a well known victorian artist it is full of ceramic plaques honoring ordinary people who lost their lives saving others.

watts memorial

I first heard about it in a book I read about Robert Hunter. He was one of the founders of the National Trust. Last week marked the centenary of his passing. I have been at a few events recently where he was remembered, but for some reason found looking at the memorials in Postmans Park gave me chance to properly consider him and his legacy. As solicitor to the Post Office he worked just next door to the memorial, and in many ways is pretty unassuming and unremembered himself. He is buried in an unmarked grave in Haslemere, where I live and work and where he lived towards the end of his life.

He campaingned throughout his life to protect open spaces for ordinary people to enjoy. Across the country he had seen commons being enclosed, drained and ploughed along with access to them being denied. He fought to defend open spaces including Wimbledon Common, Epping Forest and Hindhead. He was at the forefront of a movement for access to the outdoors which is still alive today. Through his work with the Open Spaces Society and the National Trust he saved for us all huge tracts of our landscape. He also put in place mechanisms which are still allowing landscapes to be saved to this day. Millions of people every year enjoy access to places that without his passion and determination probably wouldn’t be there. I have always believed (and hoped) that it is possible to make a difference to the world around you. We can’t all be Robert Hunters, but we can definitely influence the impact we have though the way we live our lives and the way we leave things behind us.

Early this morning I was lucky enough to be out on my local common as the sunshine was burning away the mist. The spiders webs were glistening with dew, the birch and bracken were golden in the sun and it was generally a pretty remarkable place to be. Getting outdoors, walking through the trees, being by the sea, standing on hills and mountains, letting the sunshine fill the backs of your eyes. Impossible to put a value on, only really missed when it has gone, thank goodness for people like Robert Hunter.

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