Not quite on the scale of Russia, but impressive nevertheless, last week’s work party not only repaired a few rotten steps on the original ‘Stairway to Heaven’, but completed the second flight that connects with them via Henry’s Quillet.
This means that anyone wanting to venture deeper into the wood without having to tackle the gradient, can now take a short circular route that is far enough away from the public footpath to really appreciate the tranquillity afforded by the trees.
Congratulations and thanks to all involved for giving up a series of Sunday mornings to make this possible. All are invited to visit at any time to enjoy this new dimension. All are also invited to take part in future work parties. Work required at present includes removing brambles from deer netting and young hazel, and protecting shoots growing from the stools of recently felled trees. Dates are: Sundays 27th February, 27th March and 24th April, the final one being as much of a get-together as a work party. For all dates, assemble at 10.00 am in Chapel Lawn Car Park and then walk across to the quillets.
Our Society still has almost £3,000 to pay of the interest-free loan from a generous backer that enabled us to buy the second quillet in Brineddin Wood. But with no regular source of income, that presents problems.
To the rescue – Society board member Bob James from Bryncambric Farm at Chapel Lawn.
Bob has farmed here all his life and has a wealth of invaluable practical skills. At his suggestion, it was agreed that traditional hedge-laying might be a way of raising money. So that is what we’ve been doing recently – in two ways.
The first way was for volunteers to work with Bob on small hedging contracts costed at £10 per metre. The first photo here is of a recently completed hedge-line near Llangunllo looking very smart in bright frosty sunshine. In the second picture taken the next day, Bob is tamping down the heathering rods In order to bind the pleached stems, croppers and stakes together ready for new growth to finish the job in the coming months.
The second way was for people who wanted to learn how to lay a hedge to work with Bob on his own fields, and in return make a donation to Society funds. In these two photos, John and Elly Bibby from nearby Obley are making good progress on a hedge just below the Iron-age hill fort. They enjoyed it so much that they came back for more and may even come back again.
We often say, the Community Benefit Society is about more than just a piece of woodland. In this case, how true, as it brings people together who, although not living far apart, might not otherwise have met and enjoyed each other’s company.
Firstly, to bring your attention to a couple of discussion papers that the Society’s Treasurer, Anthony Morgan, has written. The first, written in 2020, summarises the condition of Brineddin Wood and possible ways in which the Society could manage its quillets with a view to increasing biodiversity. The second, written this month, describes how our thoughts have moved in the direction of more coppicing of oaks, but only if we can raise the funds for a more extensive deer exclosure. The papers can be found at item 7 on the Documents page of this website.
Secondly, although excellent news that the debt outsanding from the purchase of Henry’s Quillet has now been reduced by £2,000 to £3,000, fund-raising remains a priority. We hope to make further inroads on that amount this winter by offering our traditional hedge-laying service to local land-owners.
Next, a few photos to act as an an update on our previous post (see below) about planting a couple of Hampshire oak seedlings. Our ‘alien invaders’ are both now installed at the top of the rustic steps, carefully staked and guarded.
Finally, six intrepid step builders who braved the bitterly cold aftermath of Storm Arwen and constructed thirteen more steps leading up through Henry’s quillet. Equally bitter will be their disappointment if the new steps are not visited, used, admired and commented on.
The Redlake Valley Community Benefit Society has occasionally carried out some light thinning of oak trees in its two Brineddin Wood quillets – especially weak specimens – to let light in and encourage a richer shrub layer and ground flora, which in turn will increase invertebrate and bird life. Sometimes felled oaks will regenerate from the stool (stump), particularly if no older than 70 years of age, but if not, replacement is the alternative means of ensuring succession. In this case, in a small clearing created at the top of the rustic steps, two young oaks have been planted, grown from acorns of Quercus robur, the Pedunculate (or English) Oak. The oaks in Brineddin are all Quercus petraea, the Sessile Oak, so-named because unlike Q. robur, the acorns do not have a stem and sit directly on the twig. These ‘invaders’, grown from Hampshire acorns – are a small experiment to see if they thrive here.
Generally, Q petraea grows at higher altitudes in thinner soil, while Q. robur thrives in richer soil at a lower altitude, but their ranges overlap and hybrids of the two species occur. In the very long term, it may be that climate change enables Q. robur to naturally extend its range uphill at the expense of Q. petraea. In this instance, we’re hoping to give these two a helping hand.
After a period of enforced dormancy, the Society is on the move again.
CHAPEL LAWN THREE-IN-ONE
Although the ‘Redlake Valley Now and Then’ mini-festival had been cancelled because of rising Covid cases, some outdoor events carried on under the banner of ‘Chapel Lawn Three in One’.
For the ‘Wetland Wander’ on Thursday 7th October, seven people arrived at New Invention to be given a guided walk around the new wetland there with AONB Project Oficer Alison Jones. Alison explained how the rushy area at the bottom of the sloping field had been deculverted in July 2020. The aim was to help reduce sediment in the River Redlake and to assist the slowing of the water flow, as well as the creation of new wet woodland by planting 90 trees. Already, the variety of wildlife has increased markedly, with many sightings of damselflies and dragonflies, snipe, stoats, wrens, and heron. Wildflowers are beginning to push back into the new wetland, notably Marsh Bedstraw. Water shrimp are in profusion among the Watercress stems and roots, which will provide a source of food for many other species. Each year will see more changes as the trees grow.
On the following day, 16 people accompanied local naturalist, Rob Rowe, on a foraging walk along the valley, with a pause for a hedge-laying demonstration by Michael Bright. Alongside many other fascinating facts, the foragers learned that sliced burdock root makes delicious chips, comfrey leaves can be used as a poultice for arthritis, and coltsfoot leaves rolled into a ‘cigarette’ are a good way to clear a wheezy chest. Between Pentre and Wheelbarrow Bridge there was an unresolved discussion to try and determine whether the ‘Pentre Pippin’ leaning across the road is a wild crab apple tree or an old garden variety.
Then, on the Saturday, the Kemp Valley Apple Group visited the village hall to press and pasteurise apples. Altogether, about 200 litres of delicious juice were produced and taken away by those who had brough fruit. The general consensus was that all three events should be repeated.
A brief but necessary AGM was held partly in person and partly by Zoom on 27th October . Annual accounts were presented and declared in good order. All six board members agreed to continue in post.
WORK PARTIES IN THE QUILLETS
The first of this season’s work parties took place on Sunday 31st. After heavy overnight rain and a couple of morning showers, six volunteers busied themselves continuing to build steps on ‘Henry’s Quillet’. Amazingly, ten steps had appeared by coffee-break and another four added before the supply of materials ran out. Many thanks to all who turned up, worked hard to use up available materials and drink the coffee! The next work party is on Sunday 28th November: meet at 10am in the Chapel Lawn village hall car park. All welcome. The aim at present is to complete the new, shorter flight of steps into the lower reaches of the wood, and to improve the level pathway that connects it to the main flight, thus creating a short, circular walk that provides a perspective of the wood not fully appreciated from the public footpath.
This will be with Alison Jones, the Advisor for Farming in Protected Landscapes with Shropshire Hills AONB. It will be from 10.00 to about 12.00 am at Stags Head, New Invention, SY7 0BS where Sarah & Simon Jameson bought a field next to their house at auction in September 2018. Since then they have been managing the land for biodiversity, including the creation of a strip of wetland by deculverting a large land drain, planting trees and enhancing the hay meadow for wildflowers. The wetland project was funded via the Shropshire Hills AONB with the Woodland Trust and Environment Agency. They have planted nearly 1000 trees with help from the AONB and Woodland Trust. One of the ponds was enlarged via the Shropshire Wildlife Trust Shropshire Ponds project. There is more information here: https://sarahnewinvention.wixsite.com/we-bought-a-field .To book a place Phone Sarah Jameson on 01547 528546 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . There is a small charge of £3 to offset publicity and other associated costs.
Wild Food Foraging Walk on Friday 8th October
This will be run by Rob Rowe, a well-known south Shropshire naturalist who has now run quite a few foraging and plant hunting days, searching for edible and medicinal species. This combines Rob’s botanical skills with his love of names and story and is a good way of engaging people and drawing them in to the natural world on our doorstep. Rob has lived and botanised in South Shropshire for 40 years and during that time has conducted plant surveys for many organisations including the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England, the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, Caring for Gods Acre, and local Community Wildlife Groups. He has also helped set up the Marches Meadow Group and the Middle Marches Community Land Trust and is currently helping with a hedge project with CPRE Shropshire, the Countryside Charity who are also supporting this event.
Walkers will be searching the hedgerows for seasonal edibles and stopping en route for a hedge-laying demonstration. The starting point is the Chapel Lawn Village hall car park, SY7 0BW, at 10.00 am. Appropriate clothing and footwear for the time of year is required. Again, there is a small charge of £3 to offset publicity and other associated costs. If you would like to attend, please phone Patrick Cosgrove on 01547-530347/07757-559409 or email email@example.com
Apple-pressing on Saturday 9th October.
This will be with the Kemp Valley Apple Group and will be outside Chapel Lawn Village hall, SY7 0BW, from 11.00 am until about 4.30 pm. Apples can be juiced and also pasteurized which means that the juice will last for 12 months or more. As well as their apples (and pears can be mixed in), people need to bring along their clean bottles and plastic containers. Plastic containers of any size are suitable for immediate consumption or for freezing juice. 75 cl wine bottles with screw lids are necessary for pasteurising. Pressing – 50p/litre. Pasteurising 40p/bottle. In order to avoid having to wait too long when you arrive, please book in advance with Sara Randall on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01588-680096. Payment will be by cash on the day.
If all goes well, socializing will have resumed during the summer months, so this event, to be run jointly by the Society and St. Mary’s Church PCC, is planned for early October. After a difficult year and a half with so many restrictions and difficulties, there is still the need to help bring the community together again as well as welcome visitors to the valley. Old friends can meet up who may not have seen each other for a while, and there are quite a few new faces where houses have changed hands so we must make newcomers feel at home. The event will be spread over a number of days, and will be run on a drop-in basis according to people’s interests, with fixed exhibits to browse and scheduled talks and demonstrations in the village hall and church (some out of doors if weather permits). On the Sunday morning there will be a service of thanksgiving for our beautiful valley. We want this to be as much about who lives here today as what went on in the past. From the opening night on Thursday 7th October through to Sunday 10th, we hope local people will take part by demonstrating or exhibiting their interests, their skills and their businesses. We already have a long list of possible topics but are still seeking more ideas. Watch this space for more news.
food and cookery
family history displays
talks on wildlife
music by local performers
an organ recital
children’s games and competitions
bee-keeping in action
farming then and now
a display of old maps
a get-together for former school pupils
gathering memories and recollections
traditional industries including a clog-maker in action using local alder
local artists, craftspeople and other business offering their goods and services
photo albums and dresses from past weddings at St Mary’s
Chapel Lawn in literature – readings by the book group
We will also be looking for volunteers to help with refreshments, car parking etc. so if you think you can help, please contact anyone on the the planning team:
Bob James (Chairman) 01547 530395 email@example.com
Patrick Cosgrove (Secretary) 01547 530347 firstname.lastname@example.org
Our first conservation work party of the season took place on Sunday 25th October. Right on cue the sun shone and the woodland looked splendid in its autumn colours. After a bracing walk to the quillet it was down to work with step clearing and maintenance, repairing the deer exclosure fence, general tidying work and the felling of an oak to create more space and light – all on the agenda. We also pegged out two routes for extending our new path in Henry’s Quillet down to the public right of way.
After a break in the autumn sunshine for coffee and cake (thanks Karen!) the new footpath routes were explored and a consensus on a preferred route was reached – now we only have to build the steps and cut the path into the slope! Following our “logging” operations anyone who is interested in buying lovely unseasoned oak logs for use next year, please let us know and we’ll get them across to the road and even deliver (if not too far away!). All proceeds will go to the RVCBS of course.
Many thanks to all who came along to work and to enjoy the autumn sunshine – a great day to be out in the woodland! Our next conservation work party will be on 22 November. We look forward to seeing you then, come and join in or just come for a look at what is going on – you will be most welcome!
Later dates are: 10th and 31st January 2021, 28th February, 28th March. Meet at 10.00 am in Redlake valley Village Hall car park.
Mark Limbrick, Chairman, Redlake Valley Community Benefit Society