Hello and welcome to December and January’s combined blog months! December and the build up to Christmas seemed to fly by.
It started off with some thinning at Cheddar Wood. We’ve selected a compartment to thin, giving it a 50% thin, mostly ash trees and some small leaved lime. 50% seems like quite a drastic number of trees to take out, but on the ground, it doesn’t seem like that much! The idea of the thin is that it will provide considerably more space for the remaining trees to grow out.
A secondary benefit is allowing light to reach the woodland floor which would hopefully produce a more diverse ground flora. Especially great for spring bulb plants such as bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta). Some bluebells carpeting the woodland floor at Long Wood, part of the Cheddar Complex. Spring is the best time to see these lovely plants.
The theme of using the chainsaw continued throughout much of December with tree safety works and windblown tree dismantling being the main theme of events. Tree safety surveys involve walking foot paths and inspecting trees, flagging up any for removal that could potentially fall onto the paths or be a danger to the public.
Over at Limekiln Woods, part of Harridge Woods, I had a chance to get some more experience using a tree winch, which is used to bring down particularly tricky hang-ups. Here is me winching a tree at Limekiln!
As expected in any winter month, there was quite a lot scrub removal! I’ve mentioned this in previous months so won’t go into too much detail again. Perhaps just a little picture of one of the blocks we pushed back with the West Mendips Volunteer group just before Christmas.
The volunteers working hard on some scrub removal over at Black Rock. This was the last meeting before Christmas so naturally, there were mince pies!
Moving swiftly onto January… January was a busy month for me, I arranged some dates to work with some other employees of SWT to get a taste for what they do. It started off with attending the Somerset’s Brilliant Coast brainstorming meeting run by Mark Ward. It was great to see how these projects evolve and what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ in planning community events. The following day I spent the day with Olivia helping out with her Community Garden Volunteers at the Taunton Community Garden. We did some weeding of the flower beds and pruned up some rose shrubs! It’s amazing to see how a simple thing such as a little gardening can help with people’s wellbeing. I am definitely a firm believer that doing anything outside does great things for your state of mind!
I went down to the Somerset Levels and tagged along on a guided walk with Kevin Anderson around Catcott Nature Reserve. There is plenty to see down on the Levels at this time of year; lapwings, snipes, pintail ducks and many more birds! Still on the Levels I helped out with a Wetlands Bird Survey, this was great fun and very interesting. Being able to ID the birds and count them quickly before they flew away was a little bit of a challenge, but practise makes perfect!
Back in the Mendips, during January work continued as normal. I carried out some surveying, finishing of the Deer Impact and Assessment Survey of Harridge Woods with Obi, my quadruped friend. There was some more thinning at Cheddar Wood, plenty of scrub clearing with the volunteers and some gorse treating on the grasslands. A particular treat was coppicing a hazel coup at Harridge Woods. I do enjoy coppicing and it’s great for increasing biodiversity of woodlands. Coppicing has the effect of providing a wide variety of habitats in woodlands. Coppicing is carried out on cycles, this means that there is always a range of different ages of vegetation throughout the wood which is great for wildlife and biodiversity.
My coppiced coup of hazel; it looks a little messy, but it’s important to leave the brash over the coppiced stools to protect the regrowth from grazing.
It was brilliant to spend so much time in woodlands over the last couple of months. There is still so much to see this time of year. Two highlights whilst out and about, I spotted some lovely scarlet elf cup fungi (Sarcoscypha coccinea).
I do love this fungus; its bright red cups stand out so clearly amongst the muted browns and greens of winter woodlands. It’s also clear to see where it gets its great name!
January for woodlands obviously means the emergence of the first of the years flowering bulbs, which of course are snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis). Beautiful little spots of white dotted about the ground flora. Snowdrops at Harridge Woods in front of the folly are pictured below. Fun fact, the Latin name for snowdrops, ‘Galanthus’ means milk flower.
Thanks for reading December and January’s blog. Please do check back for February.
All the best and happy wildlife watching,