• Horse logging in Netherwood, Stoke Lacy today

    Apologies if you thought I'd left the country (I am sorely tempted!) or been struck down by something deadly -they tell me that's a possibility. I have been posting on Instagram @lostleavesfound and rather neglected the blog.

    I was aware that we were about to have a horse logger working in Netherwood, our millennium wood in the village this autumn, but hadn't expected them to be there until a bit later in the autumn. However, passing the end of the lane I spied a horsebox in the gateway & upon further investigation sure enough there they were. Kate with her pair of Ardennes and all the paraphenalia of the horse logging business and Merlin, the contract feller. It seems that they'd been in the wood for several weeks & today was their last day, but WOW! - what a difference they've made to the once gloomy woodland, opening up the rides and clearing out some of the poor quality trees (look like another visit will be needed to get into some of the denser stands. This is a job that should have been done five or even ten years ago to get better quality wood out of the site (most of what has been extracted is only good for firewood) and make the woodland more vibrant and age variable. Hopefully this will start to happen now, although it is very sad to see how bad the ash dieback is in the wood - I suspect very little of it will survive.

    Anyway huge thanks to Kate Mobbs-Morgan and Rowan Working Horses and to Merlin for his excellent felling skills. Let's hope for a brighter future for Netherwood.



  • One to watch

    About four years back I pollarded this ash tree in the bottom corner of the garden. It had twin leaders & I was concerned that if I left it to develop into a tall tree I was looking at a potential failure point in the face of windy weather. When I pollarded there were only a few ash trees in the vicinity that were infected with ash dieback, but in that intervening period some around here have died and many more are showing signs of the disease, with an apparent acceleration this spring. I knew that ash dieback tends to most readily infect new growth and young trees so it was always going to be a bit of a risk pollarding.

    Sadly, the tree appears to have ash dieback this year (and I suspoect there was a bit last year). In an attempt to try and quash the infection I spent a morning last week cutting out all the diseased material I could find, which included some branches displaying the classic diamond lesions. Now all I can do is watch and wait to see how the tree reacts, adapts and continues to fight infection. It's hard to know exactly how far in the pathogen has gone, but where I cut the branches away there was no obvious tissue darkening that might indicate its presence.

    As far as I know there has been little work done to determine how trimmed trees can fight back & survive AD - it's too labour intensive in the greater scheme of things, but let's see what happens....



  • Demise of an old friend

    When all about us is chaotic and filled with worry and uncertainty it seems almost trivial to talk of losing an old friend tree, but it's what I feel. For thirty years I have walked past a large ash tree in the bottom of Brockhampton Woods near Bromyard that bears a huge burr about ten feet from the ground which always reminded my of some uncanny yet benevolent tree beast (I hesitate to say spirit - all a bit too esoteric perhaps). I love discovering anthropomorphic aspects in trees - yews always great candidates, but ash very seldom. It used to make me wonder if I was the only one who passed by this tree and saw what I saw, but I'm guessing (hoping) it wasn't just me and that others will mourn this trees passing.

    I incorporated its image in my recent book "ASH", posing the question as to how long it might survive, either to the ravages of ash dieback or the buzz and snarl of the forester's chainsaw. The latter event has been its untimely end. I walked down into the wood a couple of days back and it seems the National Trust have decided to have a culling of all the large ashes - probably to make some revenue from the timber before the trees are hit by ash dieback, or perhaps it's for safety reasons as the public walk the woods. It's rather sad that the foresters couldn't spare this incredibly characterful tree with its rare and weird protuberance. Just maybe they could have tried turning it into a pollard. Nope! Down it came with the rest, although I notice that someone has tried to cut off the front of the 'face', but without total success (probably the bar on the chainsaw wasn't quite long enough). However, they did succeed with a smaller section off the back of the burr. The inside is truly beautiful with swirling, eddying contours. I'm guessing that the huge front face will be even more fascinating. I estimate that the tree was probably about 100 years old and I suspect that the burr had been growing from its very early years, but what on earth caused it to happen in the first place?

    I will miss this old brooding ash tree chum.



  • Long Coppice - gem on the doorstep

    It never ceases to amaze me how little gems appear right on the doorstep after living here for 30 years. Burley Gate is a village about 1.5 miles from here & after seeing a picture of wood anemones posted on Instagram by our friend Trudie Ballantyne I was intrigued to find out more about this little wood.

    The wood is a narrow band of ancient woodland running down between two large fields. Late 19th century maps name it as Long Coppice.... which is exactly what it is.... and thankfully still is, as someone seems to be managing it very nicely. The light coming in between the well cut coppice stools - mainly of hazel and ash - has encouraged the ground flora and the current display of wood anemones is truly breathtaking. Can't remember when I last saw such a sight. Thanks Trudie and Nick for the heads up on this one.



  • Time to help our trees along

    Over the last three or four years we've been slowly working on many of our fruit trees in the orchard - pruning (sometimes quite hard pruning) and the removal of most of the mistletoe, and the results have been varied. The fruit yields were very poor on many of the trees with large infestations of mistletoe and there were many dead, dying and crossed boughs. Of the dozen or so trees that we hit hard three have simply turmed up their toes (they were probably on their way out anyway), a couple are still struggling and the others seem to have rallied pretty well with lots of new growth last year.

    I'm convinced that mistletoe is becoming increasingly agressive/demanding upon the trees it colonises, sapping their vigour considerably. Here's an example of just one of the Bramleys that I worked on last week. It took about 5 hours to clear all the mistletoe and it was everywhere - not just big bunches but innumerable tiny sprigs bursting alien-like all along the boughs. It's now wait&see time.



Archie Miles photography

Archie's Blog

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