The last month has seen considerable activity in Pondhead in all weathers! However, it won’t be long until Spring is upon us once again. The hazel catkins are already opening out and the first green tips of the bluebells are starting to emerge from the ground. Bird song is also on the increase and woodpeckers have started drumming.
The chainsaw team have now completed all their coppicing activities for the current season but there remains a few day’s work left to clear up the brash with a few more bonfires. The last coupe (area of coppiced woodland) that we cut at Crab Tree Close (see map) was the largest to date and it has taken many volunteer hours to tidy the area following these operations. It did look a very daunting task at the outset but we’ve now broken the back of it. Some species have already taken advantage of this improved habitat – a Woodcock was flushed out recently. Well done everyone.
Special mention must go to those of you who came out on a couple of days last week during periods of heavy rain to have a bonfire (not always easy to get going in the rain) and also do some drainage work on the newly restored ride to the west of the Victorian culvert. The copious amounts of rainfall did, in fact, help determine where drainage channels were needed. At the same time, another excellent Dibden bridge was constructed across a fast running gully.
In addition to his bridge construction skills, Dave has also been instructing our volunteers in the craft of hedge laying at Rosie Close and a fine job they have made of it. The completed hedge has been under planted with dog rose so it should produce an attractive living hedge for bird life in due course.
Our conservation work will continue until mid/late March when we stop to avoid disturbance to nesting birds etc. It is at this time that we start our charcoal production and our retort should be back with us within the next ten days following its repair work. The manufacturers advise us that they are changing the complete outer shell, improving the inner kiln support legs, improving the gas jets and installing a new outer door closing system. This should overcome the problems experienced last season and guarantee its continued use for the foreseeable future (fingers crossed).
In the meantime, the next important task is restocking the coupes in Rosie Close and Crab Tree Close by planting new hazel whips (slender unbranched young trees), having taken delivery of 1,000 plants in the past few days. Work has already started on this – they are quite easy to plant by making a slot with a spade to drop the rooted plant into before heeling it in with your boot. After planting, we need to erect temporary fencing around the coupes to prevent deer damage. Again, this is a relatively easy task as the posts are already in place on which to attach it. It’s not always as easy to take it down again once bramble has grown through it!
Apart from planting and fencing, which take priority, there should also be time left for some more ride improvement work shortly. There are still plenty of spaces on tasks to book onto in the Events Diary – some event details have been left blank at present until we have a clearer picture of what remains to be done but its likely to include a variety of tasks. Please book on if you have a free day as many hands make light work.
Since the last news item we attended the New Forest Volunteer Fair in Lyndhurst on 29 January. This year saw a record attendance of over 700 people looking for volunteering activities among the 46 organisations present and we recruited 15 new volunteers of which six have already booked on or attended some of our conservation tasks. We look forward to welcoming the remaining nine shortly.
Hope to see you in Pondhead soon.