Despite an intermittent drizzle, eight intrepid workers turned out on Sunday 26th March for our penultimate work party of the season. The task was to extend the network of pathways higher up in the quillets. As you can see from the photos, great progress was made. If you’ve not visited the quillets for a while, do try to make time. Pack a thermos and snack, climb right to the top of the flight of rustic steps and just sit there for a while enjoying the peace and quiet – apart from the drumming of the woodpeckers, of course, which seem especially active this year.
On the way back down, you’ll see that we’ve strimmed the bramble in one half of the deer exclosure. The idea is to find out if there’s a noticeable difference between the half where we’re suppressing its growth and the other half where we’re letting it grow unchecked. Bramble often gets a bad press, but it provides valuable shelter for ground nesting birds, and food for many invertebrate species. It’s also a source of food for dormice, although we suspect that the wood has been left unmanaged too long to support them – there’s plenty of honeysuckle, which they like, but much of the hazel is dead or dying and the dense leaf canopy means that catkins don’t form where it’s still clinging on so there aren’t any nuts in the autumn. But we live in hope. Maybe they’ll return one day.
Finally, the last work party will be on Sunday 23rd April – meet as usual at 10.00 am in the car park at Chapel Lawn. There will be cake.
The Redlake Valley Community Benefit Society supported by Shropshire Hills AONB has a long-term plan to return an area of woodland within its two Brineddin Wood quillets to a traditional coppice rotation. The purpose of this is to increase the level of biodiversity – both flora and fauna- by reducing the much-overgrown tree cover and encouraging new growth of native trees, the shrub layer (particularly Hazel), and the ground flora. In doing so, best use will be made of the woodland products wherever possible. This plan requires a felling licence from the Forestry Commission which, in turn, requires local consultation. Emails or letters outlining the Society’s intentions will be sent to adjacent landowners, households near Brineddin Wood, Clun Town Council and Shropshire Wildlife Trust. Others may view our plans here where our application to the Forestry Commission can be seen, and also an explanatory document that has already been sent to the Society’s 60 shareholders and received approval from all those who commented.
Comments are requested by 28th February and should be sent to Mark Limbrick, Chairman, RVCBS, at either The Smithy, Chapel Lawn, SY7 0BW or by email to email@example.com.
To help plan your year ahead, our 2023 AGM will be held in the village hall at Chapel Lawn on the evening of Thursday 5th October. Precise times and details of speaker to be announced later in the year.
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.