When a tree falls…

I’ve mentioned before that I am a trustee for a small local conservation charity at a place called Denmark Farm. We run courses on all sorts of subjects related to the environment, from plant identification to love spoon carving; from vegetation survey to felt-making. Plus we have lovely self-catering accommodation, where visitors can stay in our eco-friendly lodge and get close to nature on our 40-acre site…. ok, advert over…

Anyway, yesterday I was up there at a meeting when one of the members of staff mentioned that a visitor had reported that an oak tree was down somewhere near the bottom of the site. Once we’d finished talking about courses for the coming year, a couple of us decided to go and investigate the tree and see what needed doing. Last week, Wales experienced winds exceeding 100mph, so we were not surprised that a tree had come down. We were not, however, prepared for the shock of what we found¬† (I went back and took the following pictures today):

The first view

The first view

A closer look, with Mr Snail-of-happiness for scale

A closer look, with Mr Snail-of-happiness for scale (he’s 6 feet tall)

You can see from the second picture, that the ground had come away with the tree… and further investigation revealed that it wasn’t just one tree, but a 35 metre stretch of beech trees growing on a bank along our boundary.

Thirty-five metres further on, you come to the end of the devastation

Thirty-five metres further on, you come to the end of the devastation

We slipped next door to examine the bank from the other side:

A 35m stretch of bank rotated through 90 degrees

A 35m stretch of bank rotated through 90 degrees

A little further along, there was a shorter length down too:

Shorter length of bank over, with Mr S-o-h for scale

Shorter length of bank over, with Mr S-o-h for scale (only two trees in this section)

The beech trees growing on this bank were about 12-14 m (36-40 feet) tall and one that we measured had a trunk circumference of more than 2 m (6 feet):

Measuring the girth

Measuring the girth

All these trees have multiple stems, and we couldn’t get in amongst them to count how many are down, but there are probably 10 in total. However, they are all beech trees and the visitors said that the tree they saw was an oak, so our search continued.

Back along the boundary, we came across another problem:

Pine across the path

Pine across the path

This one is over the path, and is only upright because it is caught in the canopy of adjacent trees:

Being held up by its neighbours

Being held up by its neighbours

But, that’s not an oak either, so we continued our hunt when we went back today. There were quite a number of young trees down too, but fortunately none of our big mature oaks. Sadly, however, we did come a cross two of our smaller, old and very knarly trees that had been blown over. One oak across the green lane:

All taped off so no one walks underneath

All taped off so no one walks underneath

And one hawthorn that narrowly missed the main building:

A few feet taller and it would have been through the windows and roof

A few feet taller and it would have been through the windows and roof

We cordoned off all the dangerous parts, but now there’s lots to be done to make the site safe for visitors and convert the wood into both fuel and wildlife habitat. It does bring home the power of nature… really the pictures don’t do justice to the size and number of trees that are down.

You can read more about it all in my post on the Denmark Farm blog.

Walking the walk

Almost every day after our lunch we take the dogs out for a walk. Sometimes we go to the river, or down to the beach, but usually we do a couple of miles from the house so that we don’t have to use the car (somehow it doesn’t seem right to drive in order to walk!).

Going for a walk is good for us – we do at least some exercise every day – and for the dogs – it makes sure Max gets some exercise (have I mentioned that he is half dog-half cushion?) and gives Sam mental stimulation as she has to concentrate in order to walk properly on her lead*.

Our kelly kettle, powered by twigs collected on a dog-walk

Our kelly kettle, powered by twigs collected on a dog-walk

But as well as health benefits, our walks often have an additional yield. Usually this is just wood for burning in the kelly kettle, but we have come home with other random items: a piece of heavy-duty plastic that I now use as a waterproof mat to felt on; a piece of timber that has been tuned into a support for a shelf; aluminium cans to be recycled; a plastic spatula (as described in my 21st Century Womble post); some soapwort cuttings; some forked twigs to make into hooks for towels and yesterday, a pallet.

This last item was not our usual find by the side of the road, but been propped up outside a house. We had seen it a few days before, but yesterday there was someone in the driveway constructing a new fence. Mr Snail-of-happiness decided that it was worth a try and asked if we could have the pallet. It was willingly given, so I walked the dogs home and Mr S-o-h carried a pallet. This is a particularly good result as we are currently collecting the things for some garden constructions. We have already used two (from the local builders’ merchants) to raise the IBC up to give a better head of water, and we would like to use a few to make a gate and some barriers to keep the chickens in the vegetable-free end of the garden.

Pallets are a high-value commodity for those of us who like to make use of ‘waste’. If you don’t believe me, check out Unconsumption to see some of the amazing creations that people have come up with. I don’t think that we’re quite this creative, but we are really looking forward to making use of this great free resource.

So, tomorrow we will walk the dogs again… perhaps we will just get some exercise,¬† perhaps we’ll meet friends and have a chat, but perhaps we’ll come back with a treasure!

-oOo-

*If you have terriers you will understand how difficult many of them find it to walk ‘nicely’ and not throttle themselves on the lead

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