On Saturday 1st, a very successful apple-pressing event took place. With the help of the Kemp Valley Apple Pressing team, we pressed an astonishing volume of of juice, the profit from which will help pay off our outstanding loan.
The day before that, the Kemp Valley team spent a day at Bucknell School where children brought along apples and took away juice.
Our AGM was well-attended on 20th. As well as six board members, a dozen other shareholders came along, and we were joined by about 30 members of the public who came to listen to Dr. Peter Thomas’s excellent talk on ‘Trees’. We can certainly recommend his excellent book of the same title in the renowned New Naturalist series.
Unfortunately, the first work party of the new season was called off because of bad weather, but plenty more are planned, the next being Sunday 27th November – meet in the car park at Chapel Lawn at 10.00 am.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes we are in conversation with the Forestry Commission about creating a formal Woodland Management Plan for the quillets. More on this will follow later this year.
And finally, we hope to see you at our next fund-raising event on 17th November, which is a talk by Mike Taylor about how he gave up a conventional career thirteen years ago and now makes a living from coppicing his deciduous woodland on the edge of the Wrekin.
Although it was mentioned briefly in last May’s news roundup, here is a fuller description of the greenwood chair project that appeared in the recent Bucknell newsletter.
In the last Bucknell Newsletter, I described the history of Brineddin Wood in Chapel Lawn, and how the Redlake Valley Community Benefit Society is working to improve biodiversity there. I briefly mentioned that wherever possible, more sustainable uses than firewood would be sought for any timber extracted. From lack of management in recent decades many trunks are not straight, so much felled timber will be of poor quality. Some, however, will be good enough for fencing materials and some also for craft purposes including greenwood chair-making, so earlier this year the Society teamed up with greenwood chairmaker, Mike Abbot, to find out how well Brineddin Oak performs compared with the more widely used Ash. Two carefully selected trees were felled in February. Throughout March and April, while the wood was still green, four ‘guinea pigs’ worked with Mike to make ‘Wee Wor’ (Shropshire dialect for ‘wonky’) chairs, which are small nursing chairs on rockers based on the traditional ‘Clun Chair’. The pictures and quotes here tell their own story, but the outcome is that the oak is good for the straight pieces, but doesn’t respond well to steaming, so ash is still needed for the rockers.
A very full day was later spent learning how make the seats from Danish paper. Mark and Di from Chapel Lawn, Duncan from Lydbury North, and Ros from Clun are delighted with their achievements. For Di Cosgrove, this was an entirely new experience, and one which she enjoyed immensely. Her chair sits prominently in the kitchen and is admired by all visitors.
Now, apart from fitting the rockers, the four chairs are complete. Other uses for the wood may be found. One idea is to see if the outer ‘sapwood’ lends itself to basket-making. If any readers have suggestions, do get in touch.
The Riverside Inn at Aymestry has a four-pronged approach to sustainability. Full details are here, but briefly the four themes are: local farm to plate food and drink, reduction of waste by reusing, reducing and recycling, reduction of its carbon footprint (including free EV charging), and support for wildlife and ecology preservation. For the last of these it invites customers to make a discretionary £1.50 ‘Net-Zero’ contribution with their bill, the proceeds of which are donated to local projects. The latest beneficiary is the Redlake Valley Community Benefit Society. As a result the Society is now getting closer to repaying the interest-free loan which, alongside other donations and additional share purchases, was made to enable it to purchase ‘Henry’s Quillet’ in 2019. The directors of the Society are extremely grateful to George and Andy at The Riverside for a generous donation of £250.
Three things to report for the last few months in the quillets.
Work-parties continued while the leaves were down and the birds not nesting. The last work-party was billed to be as much about cake-eating in the open air as working hard, but such scurrilous rumours are undermined by this photograph of cleaving timber from a fallen tree before moving it – not a piece of cake!
A collaboration with chair-maker Mike Abbott was to find out how well Brineddin oak lends itself to greenwood working. The answer is not perfectly, but still not bad, although a lack of flexibility makes it not quite as workable as the more generally used ash. Nevertheless, our four guinea-pig chair-makers were highly delighted with the final products. Some cake was consumed.
And finally, we welcomed seventeen members of Shropshire Wildlife Trust for a visit to the quillets where they learned about the flora to be found there, the history of the wood, and the Society’s hopes for the future of the wood. Cake was also eaten on that occasion! Thank you, Karen.
The March work party was quite different to others. Storm Arwen had brough down an oak right across the public footpath into an adjacent field. Fortunately the crown had broken its fall so the fence was more or less unscathed apart from a few staples being required. Bob James brought his chain saws, and before long the tree was cut up into smaller pieces – some to sell for firewood and two lengths to cleave into fence posts at a later date. There was a record number of 13 volunteers on this occasion – including two youngsters and their parents (all the way from Madagascar!) – an ideal number for a chain gang to pass the smaller branches up into the wood where they were used to create a dead-hedge as shelter for wildlife. The photo of the cross section of the fallen trunk is interesting. Although probably no older than eighty or ninety years, a small patch of rot can be seen in the centre. We’ve noticed this in other trees of that age, which rather supports the view that the density of the trunks in the wood is stressing the trees as they compete for moisture, nutrients and light. This is what can happen when woods are left unmanaged.
Meanwhile, Simon Jameson was experimenting with deer prevention measures. Although not as effective as fencing, he’d heard that taping off a small area might deter deer from entering and grazing. We will watch this space with interest! If it works, and the ground flora regenerates, it might prove useful as a temporary measure when coppicing hazel.
Once all that was over and tea and cake had been taken, everyone walked back past the daffodil-lined footpath. We really must find a botanist to tell us if they are truly wild daffs or a small garden variety. Many thanks to everyone who took part. Our final work party of the season will be on Sunday 24th April – once again gather at the car park at 10.00 to walk across.
'Tis spring; come out to ramble The hilly brakes around,
For under thorn and bramble
About the hollow ground
The primroses are found.
So wrote A. E. Housman in The Lent Lily. However, Mark and Patrick pictured here were less concerned with rambling the hilly brakes in search of primroses, and more with freeing the young hazel trees that are being choked off by the vigorous growth of bramble inside the deer exclosure.
Since erecting the deer fencing five years ago, it has been conclusively proven that by keeping the deer out the ground flora will spring back and coppiced hazel has a chance to regenerate. You can see to the rear of the picture how bare the ground is beyond the fence. Although more will follow, new undergrowth so far consists largely of bramble. Often unfairly derided, bramble provides good cover for nesting birds and food for wildlife. Hundreds of creatures use it at different times of the year: insects visit the flowers for pollen and nectar, including bumblebees, honey bees, hoverflies, wasps, butterflies, moths, flies and lacewings. Hazel is also a valuable source of food for wildlife. Its leaves provide food for many moth species and coppiced areas of hazel where light penetrates provide more open flowery habitats that support many fritillary species of butterfly. Dormice feed on both blackberries and hazel nuts, but with a depleted ground flora throughout most of the wood, no evidence of their presence has yet been noted. Dormice live at low densities, are poor colonisers and have a low reproductive rate, so time will tell if we manage to attract them back. But we live in hope as there is at least one anecdotal report of their presence nearby.
The Society is currently thinking about how best to manage its quillets for biodiversity, which will involve some carefully thought-out felling. We have not fully developed our plans, but one principle we wish to observe wherever possible is to find sutainable uses for any tmber that is of good quality.
Eminent green wood chair-maker, Mike Abbott, has very generously agreed to conduct trials with us to find out how well Brineddin oak lends itself to chair-making. Mike will be running a four-day course using recently felled timber from the quillets, He has three people signed up, but there is still one spare place available on a first-come first-served basis. The end result will be a simple but beautiful green wood chair
The first two days shaping the components will be at Chapel Lawn on Wednesday and Thursday, 16th/17th of this month. The second two days will be later in the spring to assemble the chairs – dates to be negotiated between Mike and the four participants and to be held near Ledbury. Depending on progress, a fifth day might be required to weave the seat. As this is experimental, the cost is heavily discounted at £100 in aid of Society funds. No previous experience is required.
If you wish to take part, please email me, Patrick Cosgrove, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and the first taker will be the winner. The idea of course, should the wood prove suitable, is to run full cost courses in the future. Please note that the plan is to run the February days in a garden marquee, so it may be a little chilly. A sandwhich lunch will be included and there will be tea/coffee on tap. It is also possible, although not yet definite, that we will be filming the event, so best not to apply if you’re camera shy!