I’ve been having some fun and games over the winter, some on the ground and also working my way through various different pieces of red tape. We are planning to improve the tracks in the wood this summer, and this has required the following permissions:
• Land drainage consent: for two stream crossings. The Devon County Council officer met me on site, and was very helpful in agreeing what was required. The consent was finally issued in early February. With flooding a hot topic at the moment it not surprising that there are some rules, but thank you Richard for being so constructively helpful.
• Two weeks ago I met an officer working on behalf of the Forestry Commission, who was there to assess the proposals for a potential Woodland Improvement Grant. We passed that hurdle, but I also need a felling licence from the Forestry Commission, as we plan to fell a few trees along the route of the proposed track. That one is also still in the system, although should be straight forward.
• The tracks should be a permitted development, but we are still waiting for the formal District Council response. There has been some concern regarding the levels of traffic and the relatively poor visibility from the entrance. An issue was raised about crossing a byway, but a site visit with the Public Rights of Way Officer quickly resolved this.
Meanwhile I started some hedge laying along the old main track, Shute Lane. This is a traditional form of hedge management, involving cutting most of the way through the hazel (in our case) and laying them close to the ground. The laid stems continue to grow, but also send up a series of dense vertical shoots, helping create a dense stock proof boundary which is also good for nesting birds. At Chelfham this also widens the track route and lets sun on to the surface, essential for rapid drying and good access.
It was good to get outside and away from the computer for a while. On my recent visits I saw a group of six red deer on a regular basis, and ravens flying overhead. On three occasions I also flushed a woodcock in the woods (Photograph top, copyright Paul Leafe, The Woodcock Network). We sometimes have a Woodcock overwintering in Treragin Wood, but have not seen one for a couple of years now. At Chelfham they are probably nesting and breeding, as it is a much larger site, with plenty of wetter ground – something to look out for in the summer. These rather handsome birds were once regularly shot by Victorians, and still are by a few. Rather a shame I think, as its much more fun to go out with a pair of binoculars!