Monday, 29 December 2014

Christmas left-overs

Left over from last season's green, growing time, brown, grey and yellow leaves carpet the woodland floor.  But they are not wasted.  As they rot down with the help of fungi, bacteria, and tiny minibeasts like the springtails, they help to renew the soil.
Here in Filnore Woods I took these pictures in the old tree nursery, where non-native trees still grow, left over from the planting stock of former Northavon Council's street and open space section.
The yellows are leaves of the Tree Cotoneaster and the greys and browns are from the Silver Maple.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

This could be Mirkwood

From the viewpoint at the top of Filnore Woods, December 2014, this was the view of St Arilda's Church Oldbury-on-Severn, silhouetted against the misty river with the hills of the Forest of Dean beyond.
And what better point to take in this faerie vista than the recently installed bench seat.

Come and try it.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Bristol Community Radio

Filnore Woods recently featured on Bristol Community Radio.

Every Wednesday from 6.00 to 8.00 pm Steve Shepherd runs a programme about the natural world in the Bristol area, called Shepherds Way.  On Wednesday 17th December he interviewed me for about half an hour on the subject of Filnore Woods. 

If you would like to listen to it, go to the website and click on 'Shows' then 'Shepherds Way' and select the 7.00 pm half of the 17th December edition.  Currently it's at the top of the list.  The interview starts at about the 7.15 mark.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Coppicing season starts

We are making a start on coppicing at Filnore Woods.  The objectives are twofold:  one is for wildlife conservation reasons, and the other is to harvest some useful wood.

For centuries coppicing was a widely used woodland management technique.  Taking advantage of the fact that most native trees will re-sprout if cut down to near ground level, our ancestors would harvest small wood and larger timber on a rotational basis, cutting a different part of the woodland each year. 
A coppice stool - the root will re-shoot
This resulted in a varied mosaic of habitats varying from open ground through low shrubby growth and dense thicket to large trees again when the area would be re-coppiced.  So there was always somewhere for the sun-loving flowers and insects, somewhere for the ground nesting birds and somewhere for shade-loving ferns and hole-nesting birds.
So harvesting wood incidently produced a varied wildlife habitat. 
Nowadays it is the other way round.  The emphasis is more on the benefit to wildlfe, with the wood obtained being a useful by-product.

Re-growth on last year's coppice stools
The hazel that we coppiced last winter grew again but it has had a setback because deer have been browsing the shoots and the plants have had to try again.
Shoots bitten off by deer
Beanstick sale will be on Saturday 11th April in the Leisure Centre car park.

Saturday, 13 December 2014


Interesting to see this little shelter arrive in the Cuckoo Pen wood, built from dead sticks.   Very glad that the builder(s) didn't resort to cutting live wood. 

In fact it still seems to be under construction.  The photo above was taken n 1st November but the one below was this week.
Up in last year's coppice coup there is another construction.  This one is official, built by young people under the supervision of a licenced youth worker, Dan Potter.


Saturday, 6 December 2014

Ivy on trees

People often wonder if ivy is bad for trees.  It doesn't strangle young trees like honeysuckle, or weigh down the tops like old-man's-beard. 
Here it is on our two sentinel ash trees at the main entrance to Filnore Woods.  The trees are thriving because the ivy is confined to the inner parts, and the twigs and branches still get plenty of light to grow.
Because of their feathery leaves, ash trees produce a dappled shade which allows the ivy to get enough light to grow even in summer.  For this reason ash trees often carry a load of ivy.  
Why does that matter?  Well three reasons really:
  1. It adds to the weight and wind resistance of the tree and its branches, so winter winds are more likely to break the branches.  That's why broad-leaved trees reduce their wind resistance by dropping their leaves before the winter storms
  2. New shoots to replace old branches need light to reach the bark where the emergency buds (adventitious buds) are waiting. If ivy covers the bark the tree has no chance of sending out new shoots.
  3. An ivy clad tree is harder to inspect for defects which might cause damage.
HOWEVER . . . .  there are several good things about ivy:
  1. It provides excellent shelter for roosting or nesting birds
  2. In its autumn-blooming flowers it produces nectar when most other trees are producing seed
  3. In spring it has berries for birds and others to eat when most other trees are flowering
  4. It is a really good habitat for scores of little creatures - spiders, insects and little mice.
So how do you decide?
Well on the whole ivy is OK until it starts creeping out along the branches.  At that stage it is beginning to get the upper leaf over the tree.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Bench seat

A misty December morning and here we are installing a rustic bench.  A location was selected near post 7, with a good view over the town.  Then holes were dug for the legs, - two pieces of treated timber donated by Mike Neale.
Two 'planks' had been prepared by splitting an oak stem harvested last year during the coppicing. 
These were drilled and fixed across the legs.

Then the seat was tested - a combined weight of 36+ stone  (228+ kilos)

Something about this trio reminded me of a certain pictorial maxim from the east.

We then covered the mud with some woodchip to make it a little more congenial for users.  The bench has a very individual style but it seems to work.

Come and try it out.


Sunday, 30 November 2014

Meadows and Bumble Bees

image from

One of our aims at Filnore Woods is to create flower-rich fields by mowing the grass annually. 
This meadow is near Thwaite in Swaledale
This is hard work with scythes, so we may not be able to cut as much as we would like.  However if we maintain a long grass habitat it is at least good for voles,

which may attract raptors like kestrels and barn owls.

 Where we can maintain annually cut grass, this will encourage wild flowers, which in turn will favour the many insects that enjoy the pollen and nectar provided by the flowers.
 photographed at Filnore Woods

One important group that we hope to help is the bumble bees, and here is a link to an identification guide for the eight most common.

On Tuesday 11th September there was an interesting Bumble Bee feature on Radio 4 in the programme called "The Life Scientific." with Professor Dave Goulson, who founded the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust.

  He lamented the loss of 97% of flower-rich hay meadows in England since the second world war. 100 years ago we had 7 million hectares so apparently we have lost 6,790,000hectares.  Here are some pics from Filnore.


There are 24 different bumble bees in Britain, only one honey bee species and 225 (! ! !) solitary bees. All these, plus numerous flies, moths and other insects, are important for pollination and are under threat.

photos from bumblebee conservation trust website
As Dave Goulson says, "Something is going wrong with our countryside.  Everything's disappearing."

We must do what we can.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Clearing brambles update

Eric and Andy  cleared the brambles up near post 7 at the Viewpoint (see photo for 20th October posting), and Alan and I burnt them up earlier this month.
Brett donated several young beech trees a few years ago and we have had to rescue them from being overwhelmed by brambles.

Hopefully they are sufficiently well-established now.
Even more brambles have been cleared near post 19 and burnt on the old cowshed site.  We cleared the cowshed area in February last year  (see below)
but it has overgrown again.
Eight stalwart volunteers turned out today, a damp and gloomy one, and the tide of brambles was pushed back a little.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Redwings have arrived

A flock of 15 to 20 redwings were seen today at Filnore Woods by our bird surveyor, Rob Collis.
When the winter weather hits Scandinavia and the Baltic states, they forsake the birch and conifer forests and fly to Britain, crossing the sea at nght.
Today Rob saw them feasting on the large variety of berries at Filnore.

Photos from various internet sources - thank you.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

From dry streambed to 'raging torrent'!

A short video of the stream tumbling down the slope and just fitting inside the culvert under the track.
If we get floods this year I'll try and get some pics for you.  It can be quite dramatic - well in a small way - but let's hope the culvert can cope this year and the track stays relatively dry.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

November blooming

It's always cheering to see a flower perkily defying the November weather.
This is a Wood Avens or Herb Bennet and was shining away today at Filnore Woods.
Although I was glad to see it, it wasn't really very BIG.  Can you spot it right of centre in the photo below?

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Meet the Filnore Friends

Here's a save-the-date warning
for your diary.
On Friday 5th December the Friends of Filnore Woods will be having an open social evening at the Swan Inn in Thornbury High Street, South Gloucestershire, England 
[full address incase any of our friends from Ukraine,
Taiwan or USA want to call in.]
Alan, our secretary says:
'I have booked the upstairs room of the Swan Inn  . . . for Friday 5th December from 7.30 pm.  If you have been to one of our AGMs it's the same room as we used for them.  If not it's up the stairs you can see in front of you as you enter the pub. 
I hope lots of you can come along to have a chat over a drink or two and get to know some of the FFW members you may not have seen before.
We are not being charged for the room but I suggest we have a collection box that people can put some money into for the Swan's charity of the month.'
It would be nice if we got some curious non-members too.  It's open to all. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Welcome area

 At our November 1st work morning we scythed off the grass one last time before winter, producing a goodly pile of 'arisings'.
The 'welcome area' just inside the main entrance to Filnore Woods, is beginning to look more welcoming.
Over by the 'White House' you can see a large pile of bits of old iron and other stuff which we have found on the site.
There are more bits of agricultural junk pulled out of the hedge
To the left of the fire site, where you can see Alan burning up the last of the elder twigs cut out of the hedge, is a charcoal kiln which will be in production some time in the future.  To the right are some more, larger pieces of elder.  These will probably be left as a log pile in the woodland to be a shelter and food source for invertebrates.
Around the edge of our grassy patch the brambles try to encroach, so we have been cutting it back to maintain and even increase the amount of grassland.
And this one little oak tree, which had been flattened by pylon contractors' vehicles several years ago, may one day be a gathering place for future events.  On the right you can see what it looked like in January 2012, held up by stake and a piece of rope.

This is what the welcome area looks like now
But it was only back in March 2012 that we were clearing off several years' growth of bramble
We thought we'd done the job, though admittedly it was more chopped bramble than grass.  This picture was taken in April 2012.

But then by August we were taken over by nettles, formerly hiding under the brambles.

It is only by repeated mowing that we shall achieve our meadow with a beatiful and varied assortment of wild flowers.
Come and learn how to use a scythe next summer.