Tuesday, 20 October 2009


Last weekend saw the start of our 2009 / 2010 season of coppicing. Jill and I decided we'd make a start and try and gauge just how much coppicing we can do between us in one season. That will give us an idea of how big to make each of our cants. The hazel coppice we have is only around 5 years old, and is still quite small to produce the sort of lengths and diameter of poles that are really useful for bean poles, hurdle fencing, pergola stakes and the like.

During the weekend of the 10th October we felled an ash tree to continue the process of bringing the ash back into coppiced rotation (as outlined in our felling licence from the Forestry Commission).

We also walked the perimeter to check for loose and broken overhanging branches. Nothing was found.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Birds nests and hornets

On Saturday (26th September 2009) we spent time putting up four new bird boxes (with 35mm apertures). We also opened the two boxes we had put up last March. One we know had been used to raise a family of bluetits, and inside we found a beautiful mattress of mosses and feathers. In the other we found two dead hornets – possibly the reason that the box wasn’t used for nesting.

Our friend Chris came over for tea during the morning, bringing Jack the dog with her. Chris brought Tunnocks with her, too – yummy!

We spent some time looking at where we want to start coppicing at the end of October, and have decided that a good place would be toward the north side, about half way along.

We also had a walk around the outside and took photos of the black bryony.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Silver Washed Fritillaries

Today, Sunday, we had a gathering in Rainbow Wood. We invited a bunch of different friends over for morning coffee and fruit cake (bought at the Henfield summer fair and made by the WI - and it was delicious). We lit a fire and kept it stoked to boil the kettle.

The morning promised to stay wet, but after an early shower or two the wind picked up slightly and the sun came out. The extra bit of warmth provided by the sunshine soon had the silver washed fritillaries on the wing (picture on the left). There were plenty of other butterflies, too - among them we saw red admirals.

The ash we felled earlier this year has bounced back with lots of new shoots - some of which are now about 1 metre high, and hopefully, will soon be out of reach of browsing roe deer.

We also have Enchanter's Nightshade Circaea Lutetiana with its irridescent white flowers.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Wet Weekend

Well!! So much for the best laid plans of mice and mortals. We had planned for several weeks to make the weekend of 11th and 12th July a camping weekend. My brother Julian, his kids and a friend Steve, with his kids, were going to spend a fun weekend in Rainbow Wood. From very early on in the week, our plans looked spoiled as the weather folks kept showing this swirling mass of rain and cloud, followed by a cold front, sweeping in from the Atlantic. The moment of decision arrived, and a few phone calls later everyone had been told - camping is definitely off!

It started to rain in the early evening of Friday; drizzle at first, later turning to quite heavy rain. The floor of Rainbow Wood would be getting squelchy, the trees would be getting heavy with water drops and the fire wood for our camp would be taking on the burning characteristics of damp asbestos.

Saturday's weather didn't improve. Drizzle all day, which was occasionally relieved by heavier downpours. However, not to be defeated, Jill and I got the chainsaw out at home and finished cutting the ash we had felled earlier in the year into woodburner sized chunks. The pile grew quickly and we even managed to get it all into our wood store at the top of our garden. (Our wood store is an ancient Andersen shelter from World War II, which would have been capable of supporting a family of four during air raids.)

Monday, 29 June 2009

Tree Creepers

This last weekend we camped over in Rainbow Wood with a couple of friends, Jen and Chris. We had a really wonderful time basking in the warmth of one of those rare balmy summer's evenings. As the sun set we marvelled at the crows returning to their favourite trees to roost, wheeling and calling until the last few arrived and settled.

Unfortunately, sometime in the early hours (it was still dark) an intruder alarm was set off in the far distance. It was loud enough though to keep me awake for an hour or two until it fell quiet. As compensation, the dawn chorus started at first light, gathering momentum and rising to a crescendo as the Sun rose.

At breakfast, cooked over an open fire, we sat and watched a tree creeper going about its business looking for insects whilst performing acrobatics on the trunk of an ash tree.

And Jack the Dog came, too...

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Wood Burning Poem

There hasn't been much activity in Rainbow Wood since my last post; we have just enjoyed being there. Tonight (Sunday) we are having friends over for a BBQ and social. We wanted to camp, but the weather has not been too kind this week and made it quite muddy underfoot.

While browsing someone elses blog this afternoon I came across this poem about burning logs. I rather like it, though I have seen something similar before.

Logs to burn! Logs to burn!
Logs to save the coal a turn!
Here’s a word to make you wise
When you hear the woodsman’s cries.

Beech wood fires burn bright and clear,

Hornbeam blazes too’
If the logs are kept a year
To season through and through.

Oak logs will warm you well

If they are old and dry.
Larch logs of the pine smell
But the sparks will fly.

Pine is good and so is Yew

For warmth through winter days,
But poplar and the willow too
Take long to dry or blaze.

Birch logs will burn too fast,

Alder scarce at all,
Chestnut logs are good to last
If cut in the fall

Holly logs will burn like wax –

You should burn them green.
Elm logs like a smouldering flax,
No flames to be seen.

Pear logs and apple logs

They will scent a room,
Cherry logs across the dogs
Smell like flowers in bloom.

But Ash logs all smooth and grey,

Burn them green or old,
Buy up all that come your way
They’re worth their weight in Gold!


Monday, 25 May 2009

Jays, Damsel Flies and Unwanted Visitors

This weekend we had the great thrill of seeing a jay in Rainbow Wood. We have occasionally seen them when we've been on holiday in Cornwall, but to see a jay so near home was wonderful.

We also have lots of damsel flies with their bright blue iridescent bodies in stark contrast to the vivid green of the leaves of this year's spring growth.

The family of blue tits nesting in our bird box have succesfully fledged this weekend, too. We didn't actually see them go, but we are pleased to have been able to provide a home for at least one family of these beautiful birds.

Last week we also discovered that we have a crab apple tree, and it's fruiting. That'll provide lots of apples for winter birds that stay in the wood.

On a slightly more disturbing note, we had someone 'visit' on Saturday night and vandalise one of the ash trees by carving a rather stupid face into the bark. They also left us their discarded food wrappers and drinks bottle. We don't mind uninvited visitors provided they respect the space we have created and respect the trees and wildlife.

The last job of the weekend was to walk the perimeter to check for wind damaged trees and overhanging branches. All was well.