Archives for the month of: February, 2014

Testing times weather wise at the moment certainly, the constant storms have brought down countless trees for us to have to deal with, but our cattle had to endure some tests this week too. TB tests that is. We are fortunate in this part of the country that TB in cattle is uncommon, we still have to test for it at regular intervals though. The vet comes and injects the cattle, the return visit a couple of days later to check the injection site provides the results, always a bit nerve wracking even if it is unlikely to be bad news.

cows in pen

First job is too round up all the cattle and get them in the pen. Black Down is a big place, hunting for a dozen cattle up there can take a while. Our tactic is to keep them voice trained. Every day when we check on them we call them, and give them a few handfuls of cattle feed when they arrive. After a while they get the idea and come trotting over when called (most days anyway!) Calling for the cattle creates a bit of extra amusement for our visitors, especially when they think you are looking for a lost dog and a herd of cows comes over the horizon!

On a good day the cows all come trotting neatly into the pen behind you, on a bad day they take one look and refuse point blank. Fortunately when the vet was waiting they were reasonably well behaved and did what was asked of them.

Next they have to be persuaded one at a time through the race and into the crush. This holds them still while the vet does what is required.

cow in crush

Our luck was in and they were given the all clear. Our cattle do such a fantastic job for us, without them we just couldn’t keep the scrub at bay, we do our best for them in return and try to keep them healthy, it is always a relief when the results from the vet are favourable.

Visitors to the hill this week might also have noticed a mini digger creating some strange looking bare areas amongst the heather.

finnished scrape

This is part of our Silver Studded Blue Butterfly reintroduction project.

Creating scrapes diversifies the age structure amongst the heather, young heather grows on the bare areas and provides the habitat conditions required by this beautifull and rare butterfly. It used to be found frequently on heaths around the South East, but as its habitat dissapeared and ceased to be managed it started to dissapeer. It is now pretty rare, we have been managing the heath for the past couple of years hoping to get it into the right condition for the butterfly to be reintroduced.

scraping

As well as creating scrapes we have also been scrub clearing, mowing and creating small burnt patches. The heath has been responding really well and we are hoping to be able to release butterflies this summer. It is going to be really exciting, just one more reason to look forward to the summer! More updates to follow later in the year.

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In Haslemere we are lucky enough to live in the most wooded part of England. Fantastic if you love your trees, but also a real resource, both for people and for wildlife. Many of these woods, especially the coppices, need managing in order to be able to thrive and provide homes for the wonderful wildlife that lives in them. This sometimes means felling trees. It may seem odd to some people, but without thinning, coppicing and other forms of management many of our woods lose habitat value.

bonfire in the woods

All of that management activity in our woods, and in some woods we need to see much more of it, produces a hugely useful and environmentally friendly resource… wood… We use it for all manner of purposes, but today I am thinking about wood as a fuel.

kettle

In the picture above it is being used to boil our kelly kettle for a cup of tea, but when used for space heating in your home… well, nothing feels as homely as a wood fire. As it happens (if you are careful about where the wood comes from) it happily turns out that nothing is quite so environmentally friendly either. Wood from well managed woodlands is pretty much carbon neutral. By burning it to heat your home rather than oil or gas you can have a positive impact on the woods where you live. You can provide homes for wildlife, combat climate change, create employment for woodmen, give better recreational access for people and have a positive impact on the woods on your doorstep.

It is no good waiting for our politicians to change the world, we are the people with the real power. Positive changes in the way we live our lives, interact with the world and source the goods we use is the best way to have a real impact. We are the sum of our actions. That is how I feel about the world anyway, and that is why I am currently really excited about a new project that is being launched by Transition Haslemere (http://transitionhaslemere.org/newsite/).

Haslemere Wood Heat Hub is being born. It is a community woodfuel initiative and aims to get people involved and active in their local woods, as well as providing them with fuel to heat their homes. I think it is a fantastic idea, if you live in or around Haslemere and need wood to keep you warm I believe it has a lot to offer.

logs

Woodland owners are coming together to provide an opportunity for local people to come out and work in the woods. In return for their time and volunteer labour these people  will get either free or discounted logs, The more time you put in the cheaper your fuel becomes. As well as firewood members will receive newsletters, get their choice of events with a variety of activities, be invited to outdoor cooking and social activities and get more fresh air and exercise than you could shake a stick at.

The first event of the new group is on February 15th from 10am till 2pm. It will be at Fowlshatch copse near Grayswood. Under 16s are welcome as long as they are supervised by a responsible adult. Dogs are welcome too, unless specific event details give reason for excluding them. For further information contact jane.devlin@fowlshatchcopse.co.uk. The work will vary according to the season, weather and what needs undertaking according to the woods managment plan, but time spent there will bring a future bounty of logs for your fire.

fire

Further events are on the way both at Fowlshatch Copse and at Imbahms Farm. The hope is that other woodland owners locally will come on board as the project widens and more local people get involved in looking after their woods. All of the woods involved will have a management plan carried out to ensure the resource is being appropriately and properly managed. I have lost count of how many times people have asked me if I know where they can get logs for their fire. Now I have the perfect answer.

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