The felling and canopy lifting work at the woods by the Rollright Stones continues and it generates vast amounts of logs and brash, so it’s been decided that building larger mounds and structures is the way to go. As ever, Karl has been creative in his use of materials and the structures he makes are becoming larger and bolder in design. It’s fascinating to see this previously unknown aspect of his personality emerging.
Snow was forecast for the 15th of January and Karl looked forward to seeing the woods under a layer of sparkling white; I stayed at home that day. Where we live, there was no snow at all and Karl saw none on the journey to the woods, but as soon as he turned into the driveway, there it was. Not a lot, but the light dusting and bright sunshine were enough to create a beautiful scene. All pictures are clickable to enlarge them.
I read in the Witney Gazette that the Rollright Stones were ‘one of the few landmarks in Oxfordshire to see a dusting of snow’ that day.
The mounds stood out very well indeed and here are some more pictures for your viewing pleasure.
In the making of brash mounds a time can come when you look at the sheer amount of material to be moved and decide that there is simply too much of it and that a new approach could be in order. This has happened in a couple of areas of the woods – in some parts, the brash is so thick that the woods are completely impenetrable.
What to do? You could build a dozen or so mounds but there were some big tree trunks in there and they also needed something doing with them. Some of the larch logs have been stacked to make habitats and sitting places, but larch doesn’t burn well – it spits and the burning of it leaves a tarry residue in chimneys – and nobody seems to want it. Because of this, Karl decided to make something other than a mound shape and instead built around one of the felled conifers to enclose it.
I’ve been asked to describe how the mounds are made. You see, the idea is that these brash mounds serve more than one purpose – they are habitats and need to provide shelter for as many species as possible, which means that they must have a number of micro-environments in them. The dense layer at the bottom which provides habitat for species such as beetles and small mammals and shelter for amphibians, to the more loosely woven upper storeys where small birds can roost or nest. The important word here is ‘woven’ because these are not just heaps flung together in a thoughtless jumble, they are structures.
This brings me to the second purpose: whatever shape they are, they should please the eye. Circular upturned coracle shapes, rounded and smooth, are ideal and straightforward to create. Sitting at regular intervals between the trees, they catch the light or sit in shadow, covered in frost, steaming in the winter sunlight, glaucous with algae and lichens or green with conifer leaves, they are beautiful and a sight to behold.
Stephen and Claire on the Rollrights woodland project
Stephen: I decided to plant the wood because there was a large ancient wood next to the house I grew up in and I always loved as a child to roam this wood and play in it. So I thought it might be more fun to have a wood than a ten acre field. Planted Feb 98. Btw the trees were planted in Feb as 12″ saplings in a field that had already been sowed with barley . I “bought” the putative crop from the farmer. Luckily it then rained for 6 weeks in a warm early spring and the trees thrived so that an expected 60-70% survival rate became 95%.
The wood was planted as part of a Forestry Commission program to support tree planting a condition of which was to plant mixed native English trees. This is taken to mean – oak, beech, ash, lime, cherry, sycamore, larch, pine, field maple, hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel. I am pretty sure that anything else is there by accident.
We find ourselves engaged in a remarkable project and one which is surely right and proper for an Entwife to become involved with, concerned as it is with the tending of woodland.
How it came about was that I saw a piece in the local paper about a scheme called Logs for Labour which is run by the Oxfordshire Woodfuel Programme. The idea is that people go along to a session of woodland work – maybe clearing pathways or coppicing trees – do a morning or an afternoon’s work and come away with a car load of logs. It looked like a good idea and an interesting way to spend some time outdoors in a pleasant environment surrounded by trees and wildlife. We like being in the woods, we need woodfuel and it looked interesting, so we looked into it right away and booked ourselves onto the scheme.
The first session was in woodland close to the ancient site of the Rollright Stones on the border of west Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds, a stunningly beautiful area of quintessentially English countryside, all rolling hills speckled with farms, villages and patches of woodland.
Being British, it’s been a bit warm for me, to be honest. That said, it means we’ve spent more time sitting in the garden and not just sitting, either, but cooking there as well. It was on Saturday that we lit the outside cob oven again and cooked pizza. That oven has been great this summer and it’s been worth the faff of building it for being able to oven-cook without heating the house up in the process and there’s also the added bonus of being able to show off now and then.
Just by where we set up the table, there is an old tree stump in the lawn. It was there when we moved here in 2009 and we decided to leave it. Tree stumps are good habitats for beetle larvae, wood-boring wasps and whatnot and we saw no reason to dig it out. It gets tripped over now and then but not often.