A Wood For All Seasons

It’s been almost a year now since we bought the small woodland and I have to say that it has been hard work. It probably wouldn’t have been such hard work if I was not of the ‘everything has to be done immediately’ mentality. But I am and so that’s that.

Initially, our time was spent clearing the border alongside the track. Heavy machinery had cleared a way through the wood and had pushed everything from wispy branches to massive old tree roots on to the border. This was a massive task and most of it was performed around late spring and summer last year. The hot sun combined with a raging bonfire was exhausting to say the least.

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Uprooted Tree

After that came the clearing of the fallen wood, then the wood that was attempting to fall – but hanging on by the skin of its bark, then the diseased wood. Most of this was harvested for the wood burner, leaving the rotting and smaller branches for me to make into wildlife hides and retreats. I got a little carried away with this exercise and we now have a dozen or more.

BARRIERS
Stacks For Insects
WREN RETREAT
Wren Retreat
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Frogs And Toads Live Here
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Cover

I may not have made it perfectly clear but this woodland was in a horrendous state having been neglected for years and years . . . and probably even years more. The whole wood was covered in a tangle of masochistic blackberry stems. These tripped you up at every available opportunity. Richard managed to fall bottom-over-bonce carrying a petrol strimmer. It wasn’t a pretty sight but it was hilarious, if that kind of thing – a rather large, tall bloke, rigged out like Rambo, landing in a blackberry bramble patch, with a strimmer round his neck, tickled your fancy. Obviously I didn’t guffaw too loudly until I’d ran an experienced eye over him and had a quick mental check to confirm that he still had two of everything that he should have had two of and ditto, one of everything that he should have had one of.

We chain harrowed narrow paths through and around the wood, digging out the tangle of brambles where necessary. I was constantly being told that it was a woodland and NOT a garden and it didn’t need to be neat and tidy. This I understood, but I still wanted tidy mayhem.

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Preparing To Chain Harrow

I also haven’t yet mentioned that the wood had no heart. It was rare to see any form of wildlife within the boundary. No birdsong. No sign of much at all. Then we hung bird feeders and bird tables. Within no time we had a troupe of delinquent squirrels visiting. They chewed through the metal feeders, removed screws, munched on plastic and ate every peanut. They even took down, and removed, a whole jar of peanut butter that had been placed in a peanut butter jar feeder. To this day we haven’t found the empty jar.

Initially the mad troupe amused us – initially. Then it became personal. I made it my life’s work to outwit them. This, you probably think is as easy as falling off a log, something that I have also done, but it isn’t. They are smart. And savvy. And slightly adorable in their naughtiness. Feeders were wired shut, top and bottom. Adjustments were made to everything that hung and contained seed etc. We congratulated ourselves on our achievements – only to return the next time to find chewed-through wire, missing screws and every peanut and seed scoffed. Around this time we moved our base camp. We were now able to move into the middle of the wood and that is still our base today.

As summer turned to autumn and autumn gave way to winter we watched as leaves turned colour and fell, carpeting the woodland floor in a tapestry of brown and golden hues. We could now see through the wood and to the field of rape beyond. The wind howled across that field and ripped through the wood . . . still we held our ground. This was our wood, for all seasons, and we would see and enjoy it in all seasons. We made great use of a small fire thingy – we certainly had the wood to burn and there was, to us, nothing nicer than sitting in front of it warming our bones and drinking hot soup and munching custard creams.

FIRESo, almost a year since we took it on. The bird feeders have been rehung around our base camp and the once, quiet as a grave wood, is full of twittering and feeding birds, a friendly old pheasant, mice in the compost heap, buzzards soaring overhead in the up-drafts, and a couple of muntjac. I haven’t seen the delinquent squirrels for some time BUT, the homemade peanut feeder has to be repaired on every other visit and the second peanut feeder is also licked clean. I have learnt to accept them, I had little choice really, but it makes me sound like a nicer person! There are ten feeders and two bird tables. These need restocking every three days and, yes, it costs me a small fortune.

 

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Constantly Under Repair

There are blue tits nesting in one of our home-made boxes and coal tits in a holey tree, within a metre from our ‘sitting’ area. A robin has chosen to nest in the base of a close-by tree. It looks a little unsafe to me but hopefully she will be successful. I realise that if these bird numbers increase I shall have to buy even more food! At the moment the feeding frenzy has calmed. The birds have achieved what they were attempting to achieve, they are fat and healthy and up to their breeding weight. Now they are building, laying and sitting.

TIT BOX
Nesting Blue Tits

 

And that’s that. Here’s to the next year – if the Heavens allow it.

Memories Are Made Of This . . .

In the past I have often found that some things just aren’t worth the effort. However, when the snow came, just after Christmas, and the outside world was transformed from muddy greys and browns to perfect white I knew in my heart that driving the twenty-six miles to the wood in a snow storm would be.

With warnings on the early morning news of ‘Don’t venture out unless you have to,’ we joyously loaded up the old Land Rover with essentials – Jammy Dodgers, Cup a Soup, cheese sandwiches and the makings for tea and coffee for us and buckets of fat balls, mixed corn and everything else that a snow-bound woodland bird might require.

It was still dark as we set off, with the ancient headlights blearily focusing on the driving snow. We can do the trip to the wood in forty minutes on a good day, with a tail wind and in the car. In the Land Rover it takes longer, much longer, and that’s on a good day.

As we chugged round bends with the snow still falling, and now no way of knowing where the road ended and the verge began, we came across a car attempting to climb what, under normal conditions, could be classed as an insignificant rise in the road but today mirrored Everest. It appeared to be moving – and we were moving behind it when suddenly it spun into the centre of the road. Richard, with the reactions of a sleeping dormouse, swung the Land Rover hard to avoid hitting the car. This resulted in the dear thing losing its grip (literally) and jack-knifing to the right. Richard over-steered attempting to miss the car that was now stuck back-to-front in the middle of the road. This resulted in us spinning off to the left, sideways-on, to a wall that got closer and closer.

I don’t know if I stopped breathing and I won’t say my life flashed in front of me but I gritted my teeth, grimaced and waited for us to take-out someone’s front wall, all the while wondering how much it was going to cost to replace.

Fortunately we stopped with a coat of paint between the Land Rover and the wall. At this point Richard emitted a loud, ‘RIGHT!’ and clambered out of the Land Rover into a snow drift. I saw him disappear below the headlights as he fiddled with something, before returning, looking like he’d been iced. He growled his way into the Land Rover and spat, ‘that’s it! I’ve put it into four-wheel drive!’

Now, call me a woman driver if you like but I thought the whole purpose of having the benefit of four-wheel drive was to actually use it when conditions dictated? I didn’t query this, I didn’t need to because I knew he was still feeling monumentally embarrassed for over-steering in the first place (he’s a self-proclaimed super-duper driver you see) and it almost resulting in the bill for rebuilding a wall.

We continued for another half mile or so until we approached a large roundabout. There was a car about to enter the roundabout and we all know the rule – give way to traffic from the right. This we did, only to see the car enter the roundabout, lose its grip, and sail off sideways down the first exit. At this we laughed. And laughed. And laughed. Nervous tension you see.

We reached the wood without further incident and as we pulled up at the gate and saw the beauty of what lay before us we knew the journey had been well worth it. The whole wood was cloaked in white. Snow fell silently. As we drove along the track to our little copse a buzzard took-up before us and flew on silent wings into the falling snow.

The birds were beyond excited to see us as we trudged through the snow, to the shed, laden with their supplies and swooped and fed hungrily as soon as I’d replenished the 8 feeders and 2 bird tables. We have a growing collection of birds now, blue tits, great tits, coal tits, nuthatches, woodpeckers, robins, blackbirds, tree creepers – and we even have a visiting pheasant. I won’t mention the gang (or gangs) of squirrels! They are the bad boys and girls of the wood, chomping their way through everything edible and inedible. They have ruined 4 feeders to date.

Once the wildlife was sorted we put the kettle on and sat and watched the wood. That’s it. We sat and watched the wood. I can’t describe the feeling. Other than the beating of birds’ wings the whole wood was silent. No sound came from the distant road. It was perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

Some may say that it was stupid driving all that way to feed birds and sit and stare at snow-covered trees but I don’t care. We haven’t yet had the wood for a full year and I wanted to see it in snow for the first time. I didn’t want to miss that and I didn’t. Sometimes, to make a lasting memory you have to put in a little effort.

Now I’m waiting to see if the area of meadow grass that I planted in the autumn comes up in the spring. Or, if the daffodils I planted along one of the banks can out-fox the squirrels and pop-up and bloom without the little monsters realising they are there. And will the wild garlic I took from the garden and planted in a shady spot grow?

I am, now, at last, understanding the full meaning of the changing of the seasons. It is happening before my very eyes and I couldn’t be more content or happier.

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Just Call Me Robin – Without The Hood – But With A Merry Man

Well . . . the last blog hinted that I might have something to tell you on the next blog – and I have. I mean, I’m always telling you something, be it rubbish or just plain nonsense. But this time I have something quite exciting to tell you, though I’m happy to accept that not everyone will share this excitement, each to their own, as they say.

Drum roll . . .

I’m buying two acres of woodland!

I can imagine heels of hands smacking foreheads, puzzled expressions and gentle tittering because I’ve probably just confirmed what many of you have suspected all along that I am a tad bonkers.

Can’t really argue that point or justify it.

To be honest trees scare me a bit. I’ve seen Lord of the Rings and know exactly what they are capable of. I think it’s the way they wave old, wizened branches in the wind and threaten to release an arm or two like a bolt from the blue. I always imagine being crushed to death. So, why am I buying two acres of woodland? Haven’t got a clue.

I guess it just spoke to me. “O.K. You’re pretty ancient and I can see why you might be more interested in a wooden rocking chair than a couple of acres of oak etc. but get off your fast-spreading butt and boldly go into your next adventure.”

Is excitement, adventure and something new only for the young? I think not dear friends.

I’m going to buy my little copse. I’ve already spent all day Saturday designing and instructing Richard how to assemble a two-acre-size bird table. It’s rather large – but I figure it needs to be. I mean, how many birds do you get to the acre? I’ll need to pick out a nasty old hawthorn and chop off its head to leave a natural stand on which to screw it. It’s way too heavy to hang – it would bring down the tallest sycamore. See! I’m already into the terminology – oak, sycamore, hawthorn! I’m beginning to think I was born for this? I’ll be wearing ‘The Green’ next and humming, ‘Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen . . .dum de dum . . .’ 

Betsy, the pile-of-crap Land Rover, is now undergoing repairs, an M.O.T, and a new roof. We are going to need her to bring the logs back for the wood burner. It’ll take us half a day to get there in the old girl, she has a top speed of forty miles an hour – and that’s downhill with a strong tail wind and a prayer to Him upstairs.

Richard was a little surprised when I announced that we were buying a wood but he soon got over the shock (he’s had so many over the years –living with me) and now he’s quite excited too. We’ve already started researching fence poles and stock wire to fence our north border and that’ll be huge fun – driving in fence poles through twisted roots and rambling vegetation!

The grand kiddies were most impressed, well, Jake more so than Grace, but Grace is a girl and wasn’t too sure about the toilet arrangements. Weeing wasn’t too much of an imagined horror but when I told them that they would have to dig a hole and poo in it, and then cover it up, it was met with wide-eyes and a side-ways grin from Jake. When I added that was what Bear Grylls did it all seemed rather cool and they can’t wait.

So that’s my news. What do you think? A mad, impetuous fool, an idiot, or something else?

Take care all xx

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Photo – freepix.com