Last month I spent some time at Chelfham Woods, making a start on track improvements. This included some minor tree felling and then working with Roger for three days. Roger is a local agricultural contractor and a dab hand with a tracked excavator!
Our original plan had been to undertake all the track works in the spring, but we had delays with planning and consents, which meant that the planned work would have overlapped with the dormouse breeding season. Consents required were Prior Permitted Development (District Council), Land Drainage Consent (County Council), Felling Licence (Forestry Commission) and exemption from waste regulations (Environment Agency). Wow, no wonder I spend too much time behind a computer! First prize for speed goes to the Environment Agency, while the County Council win the “most helpful” category.
Now there are no records of dormice in these woods, but they have been found across the road, and the habitat is ideal. Lots of hazel has spread from the old hedgerows into the abandoned fields, a kind of heaven if you are a dormouse. Having said that, dormice have been found in the central reservation of the A38 in Devon, and are also quite common in some of the Forestry Commission’s conifer plantations….. Anyway, the end result is we plan works on the basis that dormice are present, to be on the safe side.
We spent some time grading the old green lane, Shute Lane, uncovering a range of things put in the hollows by the previous owners, including concrete blocks and the occasional plastic container. Further on we extended the track beyond Hakeford Wood, which opens up a hillside where we expect to get some stone for improving the track surface. Then we tried moving a few coppiced hazel stools, to open up the lane a bit more and allow air in to dry the track. If this works we will translocate a few more in the autumn.
So come the autumn we have two river crossings to install, a lot more tracks to dig and perhaps a pond or two to construct. The tracks will enable much better management of Eastacott and Lower Davis Woods, with some thinning work required, and maybe some larch to take out before it gets caught by Phytopthora ramorum, otherwise known as Larch Dieback Disease. Meanwhile spraying of bracken to help conserve the wildflower meadows will be in order next month. Some hard work a head, but a wonderful location to enjoy it, and get away from the computer!