Looking After Our Veteran Oaks

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A few weeks back I visited the beautiful Southwood Woodland for one of our monthly Sunday volunteer tasks.

This month the our aim was to give our veteran oak trees a helping hand. We achieved this by  removing the smaller trees beneath and next to the canopy so that it may reduce competition. This process is known as halo cutting because of the shape of the clear space made around the trees when complete. Since most of our oaks originally grew along hedgerows, we often simply clear a strip either side. Keep an eye out for haloed oaks around the woodland, like behind the snake sculpture.

veteran-oaks

Thank you to everyone who attended the task.

If you would like to join a task, the next one is on Sunday 26th February. We will meet at 10:30am by the Old Kennel’s Lane Gate.

  • All tools and training are provided on these friendly & informative events
  • Just wear old outdoor clothing, boots or wellies and waterproofs
  • We’ll bring the brew kit for hot tea and frappuccino
  • Children under 16 need to cajole an adult

For more information please ring our offices on 01252 331353

Assistant Ranger Jenny Sibley

 

 

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Moor Green Lakes New Bench

Today students Gabriel, Jeremy, Matt and I were out at the lovely Moor Green Lakes with various tasks in mind. The most important of the day was installing a commemorative bench for John Curnow Tanner. It is situated along the Blackwater River path by Colebrook Lake South before you get to the footbridge to Moulsham Green (if you are headed west). Thank you to those who donated the bench, which is made of recycled materials. We are sure it will provide a rest stop for passers by who can enjoy the beautiful view down the river.

Assistant Ranger Jenny Sibley

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Blooming Marvellous Birch Brook Hedge

Today Charlotte and I were joined by the Blooming Marvellous and Cove Brook Greenway Group Volunteers to lay a hedge on the Birch Brook Reserve on Cove Brook. It was a fantastic help having some of our experienced volunteers along to help teach hedge-laying, which was much appreciated. Blooming Marvellous is a Supported Adult Volunteering Gardening Project, hosted by Hazel and Susie at Rushmoor Voluntary Services. The group have joined us for several years now, so it’s great to catch  up, especially since Charlotte worked with the group last week at Rushmoor Bottom.

The volunteers proudly show off thier hedge

The volunteers proudly show off their hedge

We started by  thinning the right hand side of the entrance and lifting the crowns (trimming the lower branches) of the larger standard trees we were retaining. Next we used hatchets to lay the living stems to form pleachers, which were woven between stakes and topped off with intertwined hazel binders. To see more details of how we lay a hedge, please have a nose at our hedge-laying at Moor Green Lakes on Tuesday.

Suzie pleaching a field maple

Susie pleaching a field maple

Newly Laid hedge

Newly laid hedge

The transformation was quite dramatic, and it was great to create over 20m of laid hedge. The entrance now looks much more inviting to visitors and helps provide a dense living hedge for wildlife. There were several comments from visitors who were pleased to see the traditional hedge-laying skills being kept alive. If you’d like to pop down and have a nose, the Birch Brook Reserve is just north of Blunden Hall (at the end of Blunden Road), with a small car park between Birchett Road and the Brook.

A huge thank you to Paul, Mike, Chris, Hilda, Charlotte and all the Blooming Marvellous Volunteers.

Ranger Stuart

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How to lay a hedge at Moor Green Lakes

Yesterday the volunteers joined us at Moor Green Lakes for a spot of hedge-laying. The section of footpath and bridleway at the river end is narrow, so it’s great to open up access and create a living hedge. It turns out that Tony Elston laid the hedge originally around 15 years ago, so it was great that he could help up the second time.

Firstly we pulled out bramble, whilst Mike pointed the hazel stakes that Charlotte and the volunteers had harvested from Gerry’s Copse last week. Next we started carefully pleaching the trees, by cutting the back with an axe so it can be folded (or flopped) over, to form a pleacher. It’s easy to cut off completely, but a tad trickier to leave a hinge so the pleacher stays alive so it can regrow. The left over peg of wood, or snot, is then sawn off to stop water collecting and rotting the stump.

How we lay a hedge

How we lay a hedge

Since this hedge has been previously laid, we could still see some of the original 1st generation pleachers left in the hedge. Where these were too high, we cut away to lower them, as it’s better for the structure of the hedge to have regrowth at the bottom. Elsewhere the 1st gen. pleachers had sprouted, so we laid them to create 2nd gen. pleachers. All a bit tricky to  juggle the different layers of delicate living trunks, but great to create a denser hedge which is better for wildlife.

Graeme pleaching with hatchet

Graeme pleaching with a hatchet

By lunch time we there were still some trunks to lay, so I had a go at precision chainsawing. After lunch we were ready to tap in the hazel stakes with a mallet I cut from a nearby coppice. Then Jenny led the weaving of the hazel binders which give the hedge strength.

Chris and Jon hammering in the stakes

Chris and Jon hammering in the stakes

Tony, Mike, Jenny and Chris weaving the binders

Tony, Mike, Jenny and Chris weaving the binders

The only things left were to trim up the hedge, knock the stakes in tight since the binders had put them under tension, and chainsaw off the tops of the posts, -oh and admire all our  fantastic traditional skills laying 15m of living hedge.

View north along bridleway before and after task

View north along bridleway before and after task

View north along footpath before and after task

View north along footpath before and after task

Thank you to everyone for all their hard work.

Ranger Stuart

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Tame Tractor Test

Today Jenny and I have undertaken our 2 hour tractor assessment, which has been the culmination of over 5 days of training. I don’t think either of us realised there was so much to learn. We have used both our Kubota compact tractor and the much larger Massey Ferguson agricultural tractor. We’ve practised with attaching rear-mounted implements, like our flail, which is driven by a yellow PTO (Power Take-Off) shaft.  For hitching the trailer to the Massey Tractor, there is so much metal work at the back of the tractor, that it’s nigh on impossible to lean back to see the drawbar, even for a lanky chap like me. So Jenny perfected the technique of putting the tractor into a safe stop, then leaning out the back window.

Jenny lowering the drawbar to hitch the trailer

Jenny lowering the drawbar to hitch the trailer

Both the tractors

We then connected the hydraulics and practised reversing and tipping the trailer, a real challenge since the high sides and double axle of the trailer means it is reluctant to turn. Robert showed us how to brake only a single rear wheel on the tractor, which is ideal at flicking the tractor round to help trailer reversing.

Tipping the trailer

Tipping the trailer

We regularly use the front loader to load gravel, like loading dumpers on the Swan Lake Park Path Resurfacing Project.  It is also very fun to use the bucket and claw to move larger items, like logs.

Shuffling logs with the front loader and claw

Shuffling logs with the front loader and claw

I’m very pleased to say that Jenny and I passed our assessments for both tractors and the front loader. A big thank you to the trainers and colleagues who took time out to teach us.

Ranger Stuart

 

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Guildford Royal Grammer School Students help at Darby Green Pond

Today Jenny and I are working at Darby Green Pond litter picking and cutting back paths to open up access. It’s been a very successful day for our group of 11 volunteers with the students and local people, removing 3 m3 of rubbish with half of it going to be recycled. There was a competition on the most unusual litter, including a moped, bike, duvet and 7 chairs.  A huge thank you to everyone for all their hard work: The woodland and pond look so much better.

Intrepid explorers brave the depths

Intrepid explorers brave the depths

The soggy volunteers with our litter haul heading for home

The soggy volunteers with our litter haul heading for home

Also Mike Swaddling from the BVC Trust and local Councillor Adrian Collett came for a chat, so we could discuss future countryside management ideas for Darby Green Pond.  We’re next down at Darby Green Pond on at 10:15am on Tues 28th Feb when we’ll be removing the invasive plant parrot’s feather from the pond. If you’re interested in getting involved with the site, please get in touch at blackwater.valley@hants.gov.uk

Ranger Stuart & Jenny

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Hot off the press – New Volunteer Task Programme

BVCP Volunteer task programme Jan to April 2017

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