I’ve been doing relatively little for the last two months, having gone down with a bout of sciatica. Too much activity at Chelfham, particularly with a chain-saw, where I have been trying to pretend that I am twenty years younger than I really am!
However, I have been mowing the brambles in the last couple of weeks, in preparation for the daffodil picking season in February. This has given me time to reflect a bit on the last year. It got off to a bad start with a series of high winds over several weeks, and quite a few trees blowing over. These were mainly southern beech, which took a while to clear. I left a few leaning, for another time, but now have a good supply of cordwood stacked in the open next to our small orchard. Some of the cut stumps are now beginning to sprout coppice regrowth, which will help gradually diversify the age structure of the wood. Half of the felled trees will probably end up in our own woodburners, but the rest will go to local customers. Having said that two neighbours are on hold, pending an improvement in my own mobility!
The daffodil picking season was quite short; warm springs tend to shorten the season, but sales were buoyant for the period. The scan below is from a painting by local artist Mary Martin. All that income was then blown (hmm, no pun intended) on a major overhaul for the tractor. Sorry Kathryn, but boys must have their toys…….
I was stimulated to write this blog by the sighting of a woodcock when mowing the brambles; this is the first woodcock I have seen at Treragin for five years, having been a regular winter visitor for several years prior to that. A rather fine bird I think! A pair of buzzards, as usual, followed me around, while keeping a respectful distance. Their hope is that I will disturb some mice or even a young rabbit, and provide them with an easy meal. I did see one pounce, and think it caught a mouse or a vole.
Another interesting sighting was a grass snake in early May, sheltering and absorbing heat under a sheet of corrugated iron. I was actually looking for slow-worms at the time, but the grass snake was more interesting, and only the third time I had seen one in the wood. I don’t know, I work my heart out planting thousands of native trees, and the snake chooses to hide under a piece of scrap corrugated iron! A bit like the thrush that tried to nest in my tractor two years ago. Orchid numbers were down this year, but still a respectable total of around 80 broad-leaved helleborines.
In the autumn I had a rather sadder task, burying Cloud, one of our collies in one of the woodland glades. She used to love her walks in the wood, and is now resting there along with a few former friends. We pick up a new puppy next week however, with Kathryn choosing a blue merle collie, so life goes on. Next year I think I need to get some help with the thinning work, and still wonder about digging a pond in one if the wet areas. The good thing about owning a wood is that almost everything can wait until next year!