To the wood, to the wood!

Despite the continuing atrocious weather a lot of these last few weeks have been spent outdoors. Firstly, we needed to do something about the wood pile. It’s a blessing in these cold winter months but it needs careful handling. Originally almost ten feet high and about six feet deep, we’ve burrowed into it for the past few years. Finally the big blue tarp slid off and the rain – oh so much rain – got in. A lot of the wood was soaked and a surprising amount began to sprout a range of fungi. As our stove is in urgent need of a service, this made lighting the fire increasingly difficult.

After several failed experiments we finally managed to haul the cover back up onto a large area and fastened it over the side wall. Not perfect but an improvement. We are hoping to get a proper lean-to built in the spring ready for the fresh wood from the fallen trees. In the meantime we play “wood Jenga” several times a week, using a rake to dislodge logs without bringing the whole lot down on us. Well, it adds some excitement to the winter days.

I’ve come to the conclusion woodmen are like buses. You wait a year for one and then three come along all at once. The redoubtable Fergus arrived last month to make the road margins and back of the wood safe, producing a huge pile of timber to be split and stored in the autumn. He also gave some good advice about tree nurseries and the planting we have in mind, but this depends on clearing more of the land. As usual, finding someone to do the job has been difficult, especially as a lot of it is close to being waterlogged. Well, let’s be honest, much of it is waterlogged. There’s also the problem of access to the bit at the rear with no easy way to get a digger up there.

I decided to try John, the man who cleared some of the wood for us in the first year. He also set up the impressive stone “monument” in the wood. Well, he’s down there now, clearing the centre ready for a new planting of colourful trees in the next few weeks. He also carved out and gravelled a ramp to the back so now a mini (1.5 ton!) digger and the mower can travel up safely. He’s coming back in the summer to work on our pond, something that is now much more urgent following all the rain.

After the brutal “trimming” of the land over the road there was nothing to stop the opposite pond overflowing and it has flooded across the road. A lot of excess water is now trapped and turning stagnant on our border and our little pond is flowing back over part of our wood. This has serious consequences for the infrastructure as, much to our surprise, the cable layers for the broadband network turned up to lay the fibre connections. This is a national roll-out and we were told it would be soon – in 2025.

Alas, it is not possible to lay the cables due to the water and so they left again. The very helpful Alan Mead suggested they would maybe put up poles in the future. We are still without a landline and rely on our patchy mobile signals which is not very reassuring in the case of emergencies. We must wait and see.

Fergus also managed to put us in touch with Donal who will clear the back and plant a small orchard of mixed fruit trees for us. We will be going to the nursery later this week to talk to an expert and select our trees, which Donal will collect for us. There was apparently an orchard there before but it was gone by the time we moved in. Now the land has lain fallow for some years and should be ready for replanting. There has been some water ingress in the Majestic again, flowing down the slope from the neighbouring fields. Donal will use the excess soil to build a ramp across the back which should reduce, if not remove, this problem.

We are not expecting to get much of the fruit from our trees, especially in the early years. I expect the birds will have quite a lot, though we are putting in a crab apple just for them. The trees will also encourage and feed bees and if we add a nut tree we may even get some squirrels.

So the wood is much lighter now and when we add the new trees will look a lot less bare. Happily there’s some expert advice on hand to make sure we raise happy, healthy trees with space to grow and flourish. I know we will probably not be around to see it all in its glory but others will enjoy them. And the wildlife in the wood will always have a good amount of food, undergrowth and shelter through the years as we will leave a fair proportion of it semi-wild. It’s a very small area but every tree matters and we are determined to make it a vibrant and living space.

Thank you for reading. Here’s to the end of winter and a brighter spring for us all.

I hope to see you in two weeks time.