Archives for posts with tag: orchard house

Last year when we raised the frames for the orchard house a short film was made to record the event. If you would like to see how it all went the link below will show you the main frame of the building being put up.


I mentioned a couple of posts ago about our exciting Orchard House Project. This year we will be putting up a building that will be used to house our historic apple pressing machinery as well as a much needed store for our orchard and veg garden related activities. We also plan to use it on our community apple pressing days when people come from the surrounding area with apples to be pressed and juiced.

The building will be a roundwood cruck framed structure, a bit like Speckled Wood, but with an open fronted aspect. It isn’t going to be very big, but it is going to be really interesting. I am really looking forward to seeing it come together. We are lucky to be working with Ben Law again on the project, hopefully between the Black Down Ranger Team and Ben we will have all the skills and experience needed to make it come together well.

Although we only got planning permission recently the cycle of the woodland year meant that we felled the timber for the building back in the winter. It is all coming from managed National Trust woods around Haslemere, and all of the timber has been sustainably produced. Recently one of the main tasks has been fetching this wood back from the woods to Swan Barn Farm.

loading poles

Thanks goodness for our timber crane, it makes my back muscles grateful every time I use it!

marley coppice loading

The main frame of the building will all be made from coppiced Sweet Chestnut, these were the rafters ready to be brought back, the block of coppice the tractor is driving through was cut a year and a half ago, and as you can see the regrowth from the stools is almost as tall as a tractor already.

On the way back I spotted an oak that had been brought over in the storms during the winter. It caused us a bit of greif at the time… but looked like it would come in handy now.

storn felled oak

Our cladding and beams will be made of oak, and these two lengths made a useful addition to the pile.

We needed a some particularly long straight poles as well, for the ridge and wall plates. Another of the storms over the winter had skittled over some larch trees on the edge of Black Down, and we had put the most useful looking ones to one side whilst clearing up.

long timbers

Matt from Hindhead very kindly came over to help us move these with his long bale trailer, we were very grateful of the help, it would have been very tricky otherwise. Even then getting them in to the build site was difficult, we couldn’t come the main way in to the farm as the timbers were too long, so we had to come in across the fields and use a bit of initiative…

passing through hedge

At one point they even had to be passed through a hedge with the crane as they were too long to get around the corner!

All the wood we need is now ready and waiting in the field next to the basecamp at Swan Barn Farm, over the next few weeks we will be starting work on processing it to get it ready for framing. Pop in and have a look if you are passing, its going to be an exciting summer.

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.

What a winter it was, for some reason the countryside around Haslemere seemed to be particularly badly hit by windthrown trees in the storms. It started before Christmas and only really finished a couple of weeks ago, although we have been hard at work all through that period we will still be clearing up well into spring.

 Tree over lane

I know I shouldn’t complain, a lot of people had it much worse than us, and I do feel sorry for them, but there were a number of days in January and February when the only way to get around the countryside we look after was by taking a chainsaw with you.

We mostly only clear fallen trees where they are over roads, paths or neighbouring properties, those that fall in the woods stay for habitat value. We do use timber across the estate for various purposes though, and try wherever possible to use our own sustainably produced home grown wood. With that in mind we were out at Chase Woods on the edge of Black Down this week where the wind had whipped through one of our larch plantations skittling a group of them over.

Windthrown larch

We need some timber for a natural play trail we are building as well as for our new Orchard House, a roundwood cruck framed barn and workshop space we are aiming to build at Swan Barn Farm this year. It will house our apple and orchard based activities and events. These larch trees were just what we were after. Felling and extracting windthrown trees can be pretty tricky, but we didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, these trees are going to come in very handy this year.

Elsewhere in the woods the spring flowers are starting to make a show, the celendines are looking wonderful already and the bluebell leaves are starting to reach for the sky.

Blubells starting

It has been so good to see the sun making a reappearance over the last couple of weeks, spring is coming as such an unbelieveable breath of fresh air this year, all the better for a tough winter. I was out clearing up some birch trees the other day and noticed the stumps starting to weep, the birch sap is flowing. In one of the stumps I carved collecting rays and a small bowl with my chainsaw so I could have a taste of the first birch sap of spring… Soon be time to get out there making that birch sap wine.

Birch Stump

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