‘Forest’ doesn’t mean a wooded area, but…

…that doesn’t mean we don’t have a few trees!

For the last month we have been thoroughly engaged in the removal and collection of trees from the Forest for different purposes.

Firstly, we have spent a good few weeks felling Alder (Alnus glutinosa) (which for those who didn’t know is a member of the birch family) from a carr (wet woodland) on the Forest.

TomAlderCarr1_tonemapped

Now, felling trees in a wet woodland isn’t easy and you do have to become quite good at finding where is safe to tread, but it is doable.

This alder carr that we have been working in is habitat for the notably scarce Marsh Fern (Thelypteris palustris). The woodland has been managed on a rotation cycle and this was the first year that the first ‘coup’ (compartment) to be managed has been revisited in 24 years.

The rotational cycle of ‘harvesting’ the wood from one area, then another, then another, and finally back to first is what is known as coppicing. This woodland harvesting management technique has been practiced for a very long time.

The idea is that you can have a near continuous supply of wood and this is good way of maintaining biodiversity in the woodland due to the different ages (which means different height of trees, age of trees and amount of light that reaches the ground).

TomAlderCarr2_tonemapped

In this photo, the managed alder carr is the denser line of trees in the background and to the right are taller trees that we are currently felling; the next stage down in height marks another coup that will be coppiced at a later point in the cycle.

That area we were working did give the opportunity to enjoy sights you get at this time of year such as this little patch of Candle-snuff fungi (Xylaria hypoxylon).

TomCandlesnuff_tonemapped

 

Even the bonfires were helpfully photogenic at times. This was after lunch, where the centre had burned out and left a little flame flickering in the middle of the burned twigs, which I should explain are from the felled trees and is how we ‘clear up’ the unwanted brush.

TomFlame_tonemapped

It is that time of year when, walking through our drying room in the Visitor Centre, it looks like we are under attack from Scots Pines:

TomShaunoftheDead_tonemapped

Yep, we’re out collecting Christmas Trees that we sell, for £2.50 a foot, at the Visitors Centre. The point of the exercise isn’t just to provide trees to sell, for £2.50 a foot, but for the benefit of the heathland. If left alone, the heathland could become dominated by these trees, which we sell at the Visitors Centre for £2.50 a foot.

On one of our last visits to find trees to sell (for £2.50 a foot), I noticed something lying on the ground. It turned out to be a piece of tank track, somehow left behind from when the Forest was used for army practice during both World Wars.

TomTankTrack_tonemapped

It is now back at the Visitor Centre, just to the left of the door into the Information Barn along with other finds of this nature, where we are currently selling Scots Pine Christmas Trees for £2.50 a foot.

That’s about it for me in blog terms for 2014 except to say that I have now completed my first year of working on Ashdown Forest and it has on the whole been a very rewarding experience.

I fear though that I may have started a tradition of when a person completes their first year they have to bring in a cake for the Ashdown Forest team. I was pleasantly surprised with the feedback I received and it was followed up (in not a begrudging way at all) by Steve, who started a week after me. We are all looking forward to the first week in June which will mark the end of Ash’s first year!

I’ve learned a lot and am still looking forward to seeing the Great Grey Shrike that is somewhere between Gills Lap, Camp Hill, Old Lodge and Poundgate. I would like to say how much I have enjoyed writing the blog and the positive feedback I have had from people – thank you very much!

I would like to leave this year with the undoubted highlight my year on the Forest, summed up in this digiscoped image. It was on a litter round, on the 16th of June 2014, seen from Gills Lap Car Park and over looking Wrens Warren Valley on what I have come to think of as ‘The Day of the (Short-toed) Eagle’.

TomShortToedEagle

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Tom, your friendly Countryside Worker.