Sunday, 29 March 2009

First Cuppa

This morning Jill and I set off for the woods with a shiny new kettle and a jar of hot chocolate. We had some brash that needed burning as a result of coppicing some hazel for bean poles.

While we were out we took the opportunity to patrol our perimeter and check for overhanging branches. All was well - no diseased or dead wood over the paths and rides.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Visitors, Responsibilities and Public Liability

Because of our increasingly litigious society, Jill and I decided to take out third party liability insurance for Rainbow Wood. Although we take every care to ensure a safe environment, it seems that we must protect ourselves against injury to people and their pets in our woodland - whether or not we have invited them to be there! We even have to insure ourselves against the possibility of trespassers marauding through our wood and injuring themselves.

We keep a running log of any regular patrols of the boundaries and woodland that we undertake, and also log anything we consider to be a hazard such as branches overhanging the boundary footpaths. We also undertake to patrol after storms to check that nothing has become dislodged. Anything we indentify as a hazard is then dealt with - eg lopping branches and felling unsafe trees.

In many respects this rigorous attention is counterproductive to the natural state of the woodland as it destroys the ecosystem and natural processes of
decay much needed as habitat for birds, bats, insects, mice and other small mammals.

Since ‘Right to Roam’ can be exercised over large tracts of hillside, many people imagine that all countryside, including woodland, is now open access. Unless a wood was previously ‘common land’ no such right exists. Rainbow Wood is ancient woodland and has never been used as common land.

Readers - please see ‘Managing Visitor Safety in the Countryside’ -

Monday, 16 March 2009

Clearing the Access

Dave and I set off this morning with picks and shovels to clear the access to Rainbow Wood. Jill and I had already made a start last Saturday by clearing out the ditch; we removed 9 rather large logs that someone had piled in there. Dave and I took a 3.5m length of pipe and placed it into the bottom of the ditch. We then started to back fill the ditch with soil from the mound which was conveniently placed just beyond the bargate. The water in the ditch now flows freely and the access track into the wood is looking a lot more accessible than before. All that remains now is to lay some Bodpave Grass Pavers. These form an 'eggbox' pattern that provides strength for the vehicle to drive over, but allows the grass to grow up through it.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


Yesterday I went for a walk over near Stopham Bridge, West Sussex, to see the wild daffodils. It is a bit early, but there were some fine blossoms to be seen. It would be nice to have native wild daffodils in Rainbow Wood.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Ecology and Felling Licenses

This week we have had two visitors to Rainbow Wood - Ben the ecologist and Dave from the Forestry Commission.

Ben walked around the wood with us pointing out some of the plant species we have; eg laurel spurge, bugle, and the more obvious primroses and bluebells. We also have woodpeckers, robins, wrens, pheasants, black caps, blackbirds and blue tits.

Dave from the Forestry Commission talked about bringing some of the ash back into a coppiced rotation and taking out one or two of the oak and the more mature ash standards to let in more light to the floor. This would encourage a greater variety of flowers and wildlife (particularly butterflies).

I asked Dave about the need to remove some of the dead branches from the oak standards - but Dave pointed out that these provide excellent habitat for bats, small birds and insects and are best left.

Jill and I were not sure if we needed a felling license as it seems unlikely that we'll exceed the allowance of more than 5 cubic metres in any one quarter. Anyhow, Dave suggested that it would be a good idea to apply anyway.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Shave Horse

I've been very busy over the past week making a shave-horse. A shave horse is used to work the pieces of green wood cut during coppicing. The horse clamps the work-piece in place by using forward pressure of your feet against the work board and the top of the treddle. Using a drawknife to smooth and shape pieces of green wood, all sorts of things can be made quickly and easily. A piece of split hazel about 25mm across can quickly become a plant label or one side of a bread holder for feeding birds.