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A case of mistaken identity

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You may have seen our recent article in the magazine of the Small Woods Association (SWA) of which we have been members for a few years now.  We put a copy on Facebook and Instagram, but here’s the story behind it.

The SWA are a lovely bunch of people, both staff and fellow members, who are really interested in making the most of the thousands of small patches of woodland scattered all over the country.

Last year, a bit frustrated that many of the events in other peoples woodlands were all so far away, we offered a day here at Nant y Bedd, with woodland stuff in the morning and the chance to enjoy the garden in the afternoon.  They pretty well bit our hand off to accept, particularly after Russell from SWA came down to have a quick recce.  He was so taken with what we are doing that he arranged what was probably better than usual publicity for our event.

We were really fortunate with the weather and a group of about a dozen woodland owners plus a couple from SWA had a cracking day exchanging ideas, catastrophes, and successes before tucking into their picnics.  Sue gave them a garden tour in the afternoon which seemed to also go down very well.

SWA members cluster around Cedric

A couple of months later I opened an e-mail from the editor of the SWA magazine saying that the reports of our little patch that he’d had back from the SWA staff sounded perfect for an article.  Never ones to turn down free publicity, we agreed before he could change his mind.

There wasn’t any urgency as the article was due in the Spring 2018 edition so “sometime in January” would be fine.  Dangerous words ‘no urgency’ particularly with Christmas in the way.  Sue was pencilled in to write it, as she has the “management plan” in her head {one day I’ll get to know what’s in it}, but come the New Year and still no obvious progress from the distaff side, I sat down one snowy afternoon and rattled off the required 1300-1400 words – actually in my enthusiasm it came in at 1643 (and that’s not 17 minutes to 5pm!).  However it was liked by Derek the Editor – and not cut – so pictures were now required.

Choosing a good selection took a while and they were sent off to the Art Director (aka the Editor’s wife in the next room!). Four were chosen, although only three made it in – more on this later.  We sat back and awaited the proof.

If you were beginning to think that the title of this blog was a bit odd, now you’ll see why.  The proof landed in the in-box on a snowy March morning and immediately I noticed something wrong.  I’d changed identity.  The sub-heading called me Neal! Without bothering to read the rest, I immediately pinged a reply, to which I got back an e-mail addressed to “dear George”  signed “Winston”.

Ah,here was a kindred spirit – someone who doesn’t take life too seriously!  This simple e-mail started a raft of correspondence during which we each tried to outdo the other – Vladimir, Boris, Alphonse, Pascal, Chang, Ludwig, Sebastian and Christiano all made an appearance along with others.

Anyway here’s the finished article.

…and the picture that got away?

I can see it!

Apparently the front cover picture of the previous issue set off a lot of “elf and Safety correspondence due to the position of the lady’s legs – she was properly attired whilst using a chain saw to fell a small tree! So as not to get the safety brigade up in arms again it was decided to pull my chipper photo – which was both very safe (everything turned off) and rather humorous.  C’est la vie!

A big thanks to all at SWA, particularly Arbuthnot – or should that be Derek!

Hello Yellow Chip Road!

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Apologies to Sir Elton for the title, but it just seemed perfect!

Those of you who have been here will have trodden – maybe without realising it – on many a woodchip path.  This is just a little insight into how some of those paths come into being.

It all tends to start with a bit of felling or a tree blowing over.  This produces some firewood and lots of useless branches – otherwise known as brash.

something like this

It’s too small for burning, but it’s also too good to put on the bonfire.

What we do is chip it.

Chips – not the potato variety

From some of the branches which came down in the snow I managed to chip about 2 Cu Yds this morning.  I was able to chip it straight into the trailer

lots of chips!

This allowed us to redo the path up to the sheep field from the road and from the rope bridge to the pond gate.   For the technical among you, those 2 Cu Yd equated to about 32 yards on the ground.

After (top) and before

 

Hello Yellow Brick Road – and Sid!

 

Tools of the trade – post-chipping

We have an article about our little woodland and the use of it in the next issue of the Small Woods Association magazine (publication early April).  If you have any interest in woodlands, or even own a small wood, please do become a member of the SWA (www.smallwoods.org.uk).  It helps keep our woodlands alive and working.

Postscript:  It was a case of Goodbye Yellow Chip Road this morning as the snow returned. fullsizeoutput_2105

A big thanks to all our readers!

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We’ve had a fantastic year – busy, but well worth it.

To start with, we welcomed nearly 900 visitors to the garden, most of them in small groups of two or three, but also the BIG charity weekend for the National Garden Scheme when 233 came streaming through the gates! We also did the Herefordshire (don’t ask!) Gardens in the Wild weekend of which more in Sue’s blog following on soon….!

We also had our very first coach load – the driver was a bit concerned but made it without any mishaps! – and some bespoke events with, for example, the Small Woods Association.

The conversations about the garden, the pond, the hydro and other subjects meant that many people were here for a couple of hours or more – and a good number came back for second and third visits with friends and family, so we must be doing something right.

On the digital front, this blog has hit new heights; over 8,000 views and more than 3,000 visitors already this year. Quite impressive! Getting Sue out of the garden and into blogging mode is one of my big challenges for next year!

We’ve got into Twitter (in a small way) with @nantybeddgarden.  We’ve forged ahead with our Instagram page (click on the button on the right for a full viewing) and now have posted over 170 images of the garden and have nearly 150 followers – just trying to make sure the posts exceed the followers is getting harder to do. An interesting set of contacts have also arisen through comments. We’re about to investigate FaceBook, though it looks a bit scary! And all this without a mobile phone signal!!

And in the New Year we’ll be launching our new Newsletter. Get signed up!

As regular readers will have seen, we had features in Country Homes and Interiors, House and Garden and The Organic Way during the year, and we should be featuring in the Small Woods Association’s magazine early in 2018.  There’s a couple of other potential articles also currently ‘under wraps’ – watch this space!

So, a VERY BIG THANKS to all our readers, followers and visitors, not forgetting those wonderful photographers and writers who have helped spread the word.

Our woodland management plan

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We do have a woodland management plan for our 3.5 acres of forest which, as those who have visited know, is a very special part of the mix of habitats and experiences that our garden has to offer.  The problem is that aforementioned management plan is in my head…

So having been invited to host a visit on the 18th June for members of the Small Woods Association is an excellent prompt for me to commit it to paper.  It will also have the benefit that Ian and I will have, hopefully, a common understanding of what it is we want to achieve with our bit of forest and how we are going to do it!

The intention has always been to write a management plan since we first bought the ex-Christmas tree plantation adjoining our garden 4 years ago.  However, actually doing the management (and gardening) tends to fully occupy the time that would otherwise be available for writing the plan..

We have been gardening here with trees and amongst trees for nearly 40 years and now over the past 4 years, managing the adjoining 3.5 acres of conifer woodland, opening up the canopy, allowing natural regeneration to occur and light to be cast upon the hazel

Part of the hazel coppice

and willow coppice and garden. The forest provides firewood, construction timber (for example for the natural swimming pond), coppice products, foraging opportunities, woodchip for compost making and paths and biodiversity and public access (on days when the garden is open to the public).

So without further procrastination here are a few photos (in no particular order of priority) of work in progress/challenges to be sorted/success stories so far which will inform the issues to be addressed in THE PLAN.

First issue to be addressed was fencing the area to keep out the semi-feral forest sheep and immediately, instead of having bare ground and conifer needles, we now already have, in the Spring, swathes of wood sorrel

Wood sorrel makes a come-back

cowslips,

Cowslips

golden saxifrage,

Golden saxifrage

bluebells, wild raspberries, flowering currant

Early Flowering Currant

and lots of natural regeneration including cherry, holly, ash (all desirable) but also bramble

Bramble

sycamore and Western Hemlock

Western Hemlock – a weed!

which are not so desirable – more detail and explanation in THE PLAN.

Letting in more light is a key to managing what we have – mostly Norway Spruce planted as Christmas trees before I came here – nearly 40 years ago – and having received no management during that time.  The trees are now  70-80 feet tall (some bigger).  There are 2 stands of magnificent Douglas Fir

Magnificent Douglas Fir and a little Elm

which are even taller.  Having acquired a felling licence to fell 5 of them to provide timber for the construction of our natural swimming pond we know that they are even bigger – some were 150 feet tall.  These need a bit more than Ian and his chainsaw.

Matthew Corran in his office

There are also a few Sitka Spruce and Grand Fir, a couple of mature Ash and a huge Sycamore

Potential for a tree house

(in which this Summer we will be building a tree house for our grandson).  So another project to be flagged up in THE PLAN is to check out exactly what we do have in terms of species and label them so that visitors are able to appreciate that they are not all ‘fir trees’.

Not content with what we have we are also planting new….

.. Christmas trees..

..and…

..oak trees – in a fairy ring

Firewood – lots of it – we are not exactly ‘off grid’ but we heat the house and cook and boil the kettle on wood.

Firewood production -part 2

Coppice products for the garden – the usual pea sticks

pea sticks

wood chip for paths etc.

Future path

Biodiversity – standing dead wood

Fallen dead wood

and eco-piles

What’s living in here?

for the bugs and beasties and woodpeckers and badgers…

Introducing other stuff like wild garlic,

Wild garlic competing with wild raspberry

watercress and other species of elder with longer flowering periods.

Foraging – we hosted a fungi foraging day in Autumn 2016 and now know a little bit more about what we have and what is edible.

Turkey tails

Puffballs

The moss garden.  In January and February through into March mosses come into their own.

Lovely mosses

Cherishing what we have and protecting from invasion by other species such as grass and adding to the diversity is a project in itself in one special area in particular underneath the big sycamore next to the stream.

Fixed point photography.  We have noticed big changes already as we have fenced the area and started thinning out the trees to let in more light.  We must record these changes.  We are very good at doing stuff and taking a photo after.  We are not so good at doing the ‘before’ photos and recording what’s happened in response to our intervention.

And of course

Cedric, the seed king

Then just outside the forest, along the river bank we have vistas such as these

Swathes of wild daffodil

and

Our ‘borrowed’ waterfall

Watch this space.  We will have THE PLAN before the 18th June.