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.