Archives for the month of: May, 2014

Next month sees a relaunch for the Serpent trail. We are working with the National Park, Surrey County Council and a number of sustainable transport organisations to help publicise this fantastic long distance footpath. We are also hoping to encourage people to use Haslemere as a gateway to the South Downs National Park and the fantastic countryside it has to offer.

guided walk

The Serpent Trail follows the heaths and woods along sandstone ridges on a wonderful winding route all the way from Haslemere through Midhurst and Petworth to Petersfield with more stunning views than you could shake a stick at. It is well waymarked, you can find the official route booklet here:

http://www.southdowns.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/123023/Serpent-trail.pdf

The Haslemere end of the trail has been resurfaced and updated, to celebrate this on 13th June there will be a relaunch. Places are limited, but if you want to come and take part contact diane.cooper@surreycc.gov.uk

We will meet at 10am at Haslemere Train Station and then head over to Swan Barn Farm for a bit of a get together and some tea and cake before heading off along the trail. Guides will lead participants on 3 walks of either 6, 7 or 11 miles. returning either on foot, or by bus or train deoending which walk you are on.

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If you don’t want to come to the event though I can very much recomend the Serpent trail as a way of getting to know this end of the National Park, as it follows the ridgeways it gives fantastic views across the surrounding countryside, which is looking particularly wonderful at this time of year.

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This is the time of year when our Belted Galloway Cattle move off the heath and onto the grasslands we look after. One of our Tenant Farmers will move his animals onto the heath in a couple of weeks, but the belties get a summer change of scene.

cows out of the trailer

They might look cute, and they are very gentle, but they are hardy as anything, they have to be to thrive over winter on the heaths. They certainly like coming down into the grasslands though, you can almost see the excitement in their eyes as they come out of the trailer.

Shottermill cattle

We try and balance a mix of well timed grazing and hay cutting throughout the summer months to promote the wild flower interest and biodiversity of the meadows at places like Swan Barn Farm. It is always such a pleasure to see them heading out across the fields after a move, they make sense of and complete the landscape, I will never get tired of seeing them moving onto fresh ground.

grazing cow damson

This is Damson, she and the other cattle enjoying the fresh grass in these pictures are spending some time at Shottermill in the fields near the ponds. They are waiting the visit of the the Artificial Insemination man… we are all looking forward to some beefy buns in ovens… Good luck girls.

Also this week I was invited over to see the raising of a traditional green oak timber frame being put up by some of the guys who worked with us on the Speckled Wood project.

The pegs wich hold the frame together are being made with oak from Swan Barn Farm. It was a real pleasure to see sustainably produced timber and traditional craft skills being used to put up a beautiful timber frame.

Dylan, Rudy, Rich and the others really are putting together something pretty special.

green oak frame

This is just the first bay of what will eventually be a large timber framed barn, not many of those get built these days, and it is fascinating to see one going up using sustainable local timber being built by skilled local craftsmen. Thanks for the invite guys, hope the pegs are ok!

Feeling inspired by what I saw I am off now to the woods to fetch some of the timber we will be using for our much smaller framing project, our Orchard House, more on that as the summeer goes by I hope.

Just in case you were wondering, I thought maybe an update from the squatters in my toolbox might be nice…

A thrush moved in a few weeks ago and built a nest whilst I wasn’t looking. To start with she would fly off whenever I went in the shed, but after a while she just looked at me in a very disgruntled fashion.

I still thought she might be a bit too disturbed to hatch and raise the chicks, but I was really glad to be proved wrong.

fledging 1

To start with I didnt see the chicks much as she was keeping them warm, but as the days went by and they got bigger she was often out feeding, so I got to see them grow.

fledging 2

It didn’t take long for them to fill the nest. They were definitely staring at me as well, wondering what on earth I was doing in their shed.

Then last week it came time for them to fly the nest. I was really lucky and just happened to go into the shed to fetch some sheep feed at the exact time they were fledging. As I walked in I saw the last of them hop out of its nest and perch on the edge of the tool box.

fledgling 3

It had a brief look around, and then flew off and perched on an old hay bale in the corner. I left them too it, I am so pleased they made it, and will be listening out for their song in that corner of Swan Barn Farm.

Elsewhere we have been busy sawmilling some oak for our collegues elsewhere on the South Downs. They brought over some timber that had come down in the winter storms, and we cut it for them into posts, parts to make benches and a whole list of other useful planks for them.

milling oak

Our mill is going to be busy again in the coming weeks as we will be starting to work on preparing timber for a new building at Swan Barn Farm. Last week we had great news as our application for Planning Permission for an Orchard House had been approved by the council. The idea is put put up a structure for our apple press and scratter, to house our community apple pressing days and provide a small apple store, potting shed and workshop space to help us run our orchard, beehives and veg garden. The orchards at Swan Barn are looking wonderful in the spring sunshine, I am so proud of them. They offer a home for many rare varieties of fruit tree and wildlife, offer opportunities for local people to get involved in the countryside and provide sustainance for the table and the soul in the form of apples for cooking, eating, storing, juice making and cider. The Orchard House will give a centre and home to all these activities, as well as an opportunity for our staff and volunteers to hone their green woodworking skills. I am really looking forward to the project… Much more to come on this hopefully over the course of this year.

First job though was to make the pegs. We will be using a green roundwood frame again, and we need to hold this together with seasoned oak pegs. We needed to mill the blanks to make the pegs out of so they could dry properly before being used to hold our timbers together.

Milling pegs

Its a small start, just a few sticks really, but they mark the beginning of a project that we hope will sustain and support our orchards. I am really looking forward to seeing it all unfold.

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