September 1st formally marks the start of Meteorological Autumn. However, Astrological Autumn commences a little later on 22nd September coinciding with the Autumn Equinox, marking the point the sun crosses the equator’s path and becomes positioned exactly above the equator between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. During the equinox, day and night will be the same length. In poetic terms, Keats labelled it the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Whichever definition you chose, the very wet spring and recent sunny conditions have paved the way for a spectacular display of autumn colour, according to the Forestry Commission.
These conditions help trees build up plenty of the sugars which produce autumn reds, golds and orange as they are absorbed back into the tree. It is thought that this autumn’s displays could begin as early as mid-September and if current dry conditions continue, it could mean the colours are at their best from mid to late October. Beech trees, in particular, can produce a stunning display and with the abundance of Beech in Pondhead, let’s hope for some spectacular colours shortly.
With summer drawing to a close and as tourist numbers start to dwindle, we also witness the seasonal work pattern changing in Pondhead as we start to wind down charcoal production and begin our new season’s conservation work – in the short term you will see a mixture of both in the Events Diary.
Despite a poor start to charcoal sales as a result of the slow start to the spring and summer, we are now well ahead of last year’s sales, with August sales exceptionally strong. We appreciate that charcoal production and bagging is not everyone’s “cup of tea” but, without it, we would be unable to function in Pondhead as it covers all our overheads etc. It also enables us to manage Pondhead in a fully self sustainable way now that our initial grant funding is behind us. A big thankyou to all volunteers who have helped over the spring and summer.
We should wind down the charcoal operations completely by the end of the month when the retort will be off back to the manufacturers to undertake some much needed repairs to the big hole in the inner skin of the outer wall. Despite the hole getting bigger with each burn, the quality of the charcoal has remained constant. In order to run the retort at slightly lower temperatures, we have now mastered use of the new flare off valve and very spectacular it looks when in action (see below)
Charcoal aside, things have been generally quiet in Pondhead although we have entertained groups from the Princes Trust and Salisbury Scouts who helped with erecting temporary fencing around the newly coppiced hazel areas. As you will see from the Events Diary, there are a couple more days allocated to finish this work before the chainsaw team start this season’s coppicing around the middle of October.
There has also been some further training of volunteers with Perry’s hazel hi-back chair. The aim is to have a team of volunteer instructors who can help run courses with Perry – these are likely to commence in the Spring. The local Scouts have also been busy under the guidance of Perry and Phil and the “Hornbeam Stockade” continues to grow as can be seen below.
That’s all for now. We hope you all enjoyed your holidays and recent sunny weather and hope to see you back in Pondhead soon to help us with the new season’s conservation tasks – there are now more dates available in the Events Diary.