Archives for posts with tag: oak

If you were to manage to get out for a walk in winding meadow at valewood on the north western flank of Black Down in the next week or two you would find something really rather special. I would challenge anyone not to be moved by the sight of 10 000 (I haven’t counted them, I’m guessing!) orchids.


The whole field is just stuffed full of them. It’s always pretty amazing there at this time of year, but this year it is breathtaking.


They are a mix of Common and Heath spotted orchids. There are plenty of places you could go to see them. But not many places where you could see such a profusion of them.


The Pheonix I’m referring too is what I like to think of as a Pheonix tree. In the middle of the meadow is an old dead oak. It has been slowly rotting away for years providing a habitat and home for any number of bugs and creepy crawlies. But over the past few years a Pheonix has started to rise out of its ashes. The feather light seed of a birch tree settled in its branches and 15 feet up in the air a young birch has started to grow.


It’s roots take their nutrients from the decomposing heart of the old dead oak and it gets its water from the rain that collects in a fork in the stag like branches.


It is a pretty special place. Well worth seeking out.

Yesterday our floorboards came back. Some of you may remember the journey they have been on.

The oak trees were felled as part of our coppice management work here at Swan Barn Farm back in the winter.

They were then taken just down the road to Wests to be processed and kiln dried. I was really looking forward to them coming back, hoping they were going to look as good as I had imagined.

They came back all neatly bundled and wrapped up.

You couldn’t see the boards through the wrapping, so we had to unload them before getting chance to get a decent look. They were put straight into the building, construction of the floor is underway, and they will be starting to go down pretty soon.

I am not sure a photo really does them justice, but they looked pretty great to me. In these days of fake wooden flooring a solid oak floor is something you don’t see very often, certainly it hasn’t been cheap, but by using our own timber we made a considerable saving, and it should last for a very long time. It will also look pretty special in the building and will be a major part of the way the building reflects the character of the woods from which it came.

Having had a 20 mile round trip these are the furthest traveled pieces of wood in the whole building, most of the timber has travelled less than 2 or 3 miles, something we are very proud of. They will end up being used 3 fields away from where they grew.

Oak from this part of the world has always had a reputation for being of the best quality you can get, the timber produced at Swan Barn Farm is certainly right up there. The climate and soils in the Weald of England provide ideal growth conditions and the woodlands we have are cabable of sustainably producing timber without the resource being depleted.

The boards will go down soon as the edges of the floor form part of the support for the straw bale walls. They will have a protective covering put over them while the rest of the building is completed, I will definitely be taking a peek to see them in place before they are covered over.


Coming up this weekend on Saturday 30th from 10 – 4 we have a Green Woodworking Event happening here at Swan Barn Farm.

It will be a chance to see the new Speckled Wood building, and ask us questions about it, as well as to see some traditional woodland crafts in action. Amongst other things there will be pole lathing, charcoal burning and shingle making, we will have a display of tractors and machinery and there will be refreshments available. For children a story telling trail will be happening at 11 and 2 and there will also be a bouncy castle.

Parking is not available on site so will be in the town centre car parks. From there it is about a 10 minute walk either down Collards Lane or across the field behind Collingwood Batchelor to Swan Barn Farm. Hope you can join us.

Things have been moving on with the project, last week we had another group of working holiday volunteers helping us out, they had a good week in the woods, making over 800 shingles. As well as that they were drilling holes in the shingles, helping with some sawmilling, preparing and peeling roundwood rafters and making some benches which will sit on the verandah.

They were milled out of some of the Swan Barn Farm oak that came out of the coppice here last winter.

Once the timber had been cut out it was taken into the workshop to be cross cut, planed and have the edges rounded off. Below you can see the timber being processed through our planer thicknesser.

The finished pieces of timber were then put together to a pattern we have been developing here for a while, I think they look really nice, and when the verandah is finished they will make a great place for our long term volunteers to relax after a hard days work in the woods.

The floorboards for our new building have begun their journey, you may remember us felling the timber for them in the coppice here at Swan barn Farm.

The oak standard trees were being thinned as part of our management of the coppice. Once on the floor the trees were snedded (the branches were removed) and then were cut to length.

We then extracted the wood using our timber crane.

The timber was driven down the road to W L West and Sons. We will be producing the floorboards for the verandah on our own mill, but the ones for inside will need kiln drying to make sure they don’t shrink as they dry inside the building.

They were unloaded and stacked to one side awaiting processing.

Last week they were rolled into the sawmill for the first stage of their processing.

The first stage is to cut the logs so that they can have a period of air drying.

As you can see, their mill is a little bit bigger than ours! Oak grown in this part of the world gets some very pretty colours and patterns in the grain, it should make a really smart floor.

As each slice comes off the mill it is stacked in sequence with thin sticks seperating each plank.

Each log was cut in turn and stacked up in the same order it was cut, this makes the wood season without too much warping. The sticked planks have all now been taken back outside where they will be left to air dry for at least a couple of months prior to the next stage in the process. Thanks very much for the guys over at Wests for providing these pictures, they are going to keep us up to date with the whole process. There will be another installment from the floorboards sometime in the late spring…

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