The Diary of planting
a New Oak Wood
at Bear Mead, Dorset, England
(A plantation of 318 trees on 7 acres of pasture, with:
258 major oaklets, 11 major oaklet spares,
29 willow, 8 ash, 4 chestnut, 3 birch, 3 spindle, 1 aspen and 1 rowan)
Cleared grass and many thistles in South spinney by hand
Keith Childs, archeologist from East Dorset Council, came to examine layers in new ditch on Mill Stream.
Inserted posts in two areas, 10m x 5m. each side of gate,
intended as spinneys. 10 more black poplars placed in 10 litre
pots in Nursery to act as future spares.
Planted 10 more poplars along S.deer fence.
Planted 10 black poplar saplings along S deer fence,
grown from cuttings at home.
Planted 2 more ashes by side of SE deer fence.
Erected electric fence along side of whole run of new ditch.
Planted 4 ashes by side of SE deer fence.
Took samples of 3 distinct layers along new ditch: Infill of Grit+flint (above) clay (above) gravel+pebbles.
We raked the spoil heap to even out the top and sides to look better from a distance. Painted numbers on NT fence posts along new ditch to measure progress of water
Environment Agency lady EB and her boss came to look round the new ditch and spoil heap.
PL placed his own key lock in series with ours on No.1 gate.
Barbed wire and locks removed from Cow Sqeeze and EyeMead gates to allow him access with his sheep.
After 16 mms rain overnight, the Mill Stream is flowing South to North, and possibly reaching the river underground.
Finished weeding new hedge in plantation.
End of 2 weeks holiday. Completed cairn under Bear Mead sign. PL lifted EyeMead gate off hinges, breaking chain in process. The Gate post is rotten.
More rain, and the stream and trench fill to beyond the big Hawthorn. We build a cairn of big stones found digging the trench. A branch breaks and I fall back into something nasty.
A squall passes over at 6am, dropping 20 mms of rain, and the Mill Stream fills.
Coir mats fixed to OMS footbridge, battens fixed underneath. Old gate hung on new gateposts to allow access to Mill Stream.
Moved 3 big planks 3.6m x 200 x 47mm from B&Q to Old Mill Stream to act as a footbridge across the trench. Fixed scale in trench. Marked parish boundary on bridge. Some evil creature has stolen all the big acorns on G7.
We dug 2 large heaps of good soil out of the big concrete pipe inside the bridge.
Simon filled "Cumberland Gap" with 17 loads of stony spoil from trench using 1 ton dump truck. Then dug out 100 yards of Mill Stream from bridge to boundary using digger. Only possible as 30 days drought left stream bed dry. Water only 1 foot below surface, maybe 3 feet of mud above gravel.
Simon Oaks (SJ Plant Hire) arrived with a brand new digger on a transporter. In 5 hours he had dug a deep ditch from the
Old Mill Stream to the River Stour, where the stream had been filled in many years ago. Also dug out the end of the stream by the concrete bridge.
Finished weeding new hedge.
OM takes 40 cows via fields #1,2 and 3 into DL's field.
(licence needed to take them via road because of foot & mouth)
Cut grass now in pale green Swiss Rolls.
OM's men cut grass in fields #1-#4
Replaced level measurer in well.
Reoplaced two river measurer scales.
Cut some branches overhanging deer fence from dead ash trees, using excellent telescopic handle and curving saw.
Built 2 cairns with crazy paving plus Lewissian Gneiss boulders
"for our later use".
Found I1 and Q5 each have a few small acorns. Moved the crazy paving from its storage to round the Well spoil heap.
Finished weeding 8 lines of oaks. Found G7 has about 23 big acorns, still green.
Moved all the crazy paving from the "Cumberland Gap" and stored it.
Simon Oak looked round OMS, and gave an estimate of £700 to dig trench and scrape stream.
Conker tree by deer fence gate appears dead.
Dave Hawkins brought 12 bird-boxes made by Derek Voller, for use in our plantation, paid with 1 litre of Famous Grouse from OM. Mr Bascombe shown round OMS, quoted£1,500 to dig trench from river to concrete bridge. Birdwatcher Ralph Percy turned up.
Set fire to piles of cut vegetation along OMS.
Dug test trench along filled-in OMS, seems to be stony ballast.
Started pruning vegetation on the Old Mill Stream
33 mms of rain in last 2 days here, other places have had 150 mms, M4 corridor flooded.
In lane met Roy Hall from Corfe Mullen, showed him round the reserve, interesting fellow.
Man with metal detector in nearby field, left note on his car window, invited him to detect my fields.
Swan family with 8 cygnets, one albino, back on river.
Finished hoeing all oaks and ashes. Met OM, who gave us 2 litres of "Famous Grouse" for the grass. Moved branch pile by Mill Stream.
River dropping rapidly but watertable very high for this time of year. Hoed 120 oaks. Grass, thistles and oaks growing fast.
Kestrel fledglings still in vicinity.
All grass now cut and removed, with river near flood. Number 1 gate chain and combi lock broken by tractor driver, I replaced
with key lock. Swan KUB pair + 7 cygnets on the cleared Mill stream, a fine sight. Oaklets nearly in puddles. Lewis boulders now total 32. Tractor getting access to Field #4 has
distorted flagstones and entry now too wet for car access.
Only 2 acres cut of grass cut in Field #3, access through gate from DL's field. Tractor and driver disappeared. Decided to clean Lewis boulders at home and move them to Plantation, storing them on old mulch mats.
Still no grass cut, £150,000 worth of equipment broke down, then rain came. We've had 50 mms rain in 3 days, the river is rising fast and might flood. Fitted
notice by the line of 26 willows. Met Tony Long, butterfly man, from Corfe Mullen. Kestrel young leaving box, parent watching from dead tree. Hop has reached top of pole.
Met Peter Russell, Secretary of the
Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway Society. Showed him round the fields and we walked a distance along the old overgrown railway track nearby.
More hoeing around the new hedge.
The hop growing up the big bamboo by the east gate is now out of reach
Rare visit by brother Robert, who admired the logpile. Visit by Dominic Gane and his wife, who admired the plantation and the reserve. George the 2nd birch was blown over by the wind, it was dead.
Watched Kestrel box from car for 1 hour at 0546 hrs. Female came twice to feed her chicks, only 2 seen. Saw a greater Spotted Woodpecker on the dead ash. Hoed the hedge again.
Jason Fathers came and ringed 6 kestrel chicks in the box by the East gate. Marvellous sight, huge eyes, beaks and claws, flight feathers growing but still covered in down. Evidence of being fed with voles and dragonflies. Weeded the new hedge from outside the deerfence.
Weeded all the new hedge. The single blackthorn we thought dead now has little buds. Many of the wild roses have mature shoots.
Hoed all perimeter oaks and ashes. The roe deer have managed to push muzzle and neck through the wire mesh and nibble at the oaks (only). No reason to prevent this. Relaid the top of the woodpile. Cut the grass on 3 sides of the scrape.
Hoed 260 oak saplings. Glyphosate rings made in early April have worked very well, grass is dead, only a few thistles growing through. Made a skimmer to skim skin off scrape surface. Put about 1,000 litres of water into scrape, as weather is dry. Empty dragonfly nymph case found in scrape (scrape was only built Feb 06, so nymph must have been trasferred from Well).
We're busy out of the plantation for some days, making clearwater down the nearby overgrown Old Mill Stream, wearing waders for hours and clearing reeds and long-dead hawthorn on the muddy bottom of the 35 cm deep ditch.
Oaklet X2 has finally leafed, about 5 weeks after the last of the other oaklets. In 2006 it was 2 weeks late.
After 42mm rain in 2 days, river rising rapidly, and scrape has risen 4 cms. Long grass flattened. Oaklet X2 has 16 buds, each on end of a branch, 3 about to open. Hurrah!
More high, heavy pruning on South hedge.
More high, heavy pruning on North hedge.
Rosie repainted numbers on outside of deerfence. Cleared blanket weed from well. Drove round oaks, supporting those too tall onto bamboos.
High, heavy pruning of North hedge. Logs to new logpile.
More high, heavy pruning of trees overhanging South deer fence. Added logs to new logpile.
Used 4 meter telescopic handled saw to cut down several high branches over the track (to let folded grass-cutter in soon) and the South deerfence (in case of later damage to fence).
We de-weeded the new hedge on our knees, mainly a hand-job. Glyphosating the grass bordering the hedge is working well after 3 weeks. Fixed chicken netting to outside of deer fence to deter deer that has chewed the ash sapling near Zc1.
Drought broke after 9 weeks with 55 mms in 5 days. Rain free today, hoed all oaks. Grass growing fast again. Scrape full at 29 cms. Removed blanket weed from Well. Noticed more oaks with problems: N8 poor, C7 dead or caterpillers, I8 runt, X6 poor, X2 dead.
Walked with Mike and Linda Quinney from Plantation to Vine Inn, Pamphill, round bluebell wood then returned.
Extracting blanketweed from pond using long handle and clip-on tool. Found snails, tadpoles, nymphs and newts, all put in scrape.
Glyphosated around the 26 willows, which are now in full leaf and looking very fine.
Last oak come into leaf (except for X2, which was very late last year). In spite of the 4 months of saturated roots, we have lost no trees, astonishing
Started weeding and glyphosating the new hedge, using a piece of plywood to stop the solution touching the hawthorn/blackthorn leaves. Heard the first cuckoo.
Put up a pair of (real) Mallards on the scrape. Mr Richards turned up and we chatted. Robert and I bought the land off him in 2002.
The oaks have started leafing, first was K6, about 23 days earlier than last year.
Started hoeing round all the oaks.
Nearly backed car into scrape, so erected a corner post. Found remains of a clutch of eggs in the grass, probably Mallard, eaten by fox.
Started glyphosating rings around oaks before they come into leaf, using watering can and rose.
Received a letter from HRH Prince Charles thanking me for my gift of two Major Oak saplings to replace a stag-headed oak at Highgrove.
Finished moving 300 ash logs from field #4 to make a new logpile near the Pond. It needed about 16 trips in the car. A male deer got into the Plantation and was there overnight. He damaged 9 trees, all in NW corner.
Walked from Eyebridge to Bear Mead with: Peter (Head warden, Kingston Lacy), James (National Trust) and Robert (Secretary of SDAC). We discussed fishing at Bear Mead.
Kon-Tiki style frog nursery removed from pond.
Finished Cuprinoling the tables, seats and legs.
Moved the old (thin) bath to the lane hedge.
Built legs into our 2 tables using fence posts. The (now empty) tool box placed in its old position against the lane hedge.
Tadpoles hatching in the scrape.
Found the Nursery had been robbed, probably on 05 March. Most of our hand-tools taken, chain, auger and sawhorses.. The thief cut through the deerfence near NZa, then through the Nursery fence near S3. Two tools were dropped, one in the grass near the main gate and one in the lane, which makes me think it was done at night with a car and trailer. They took a wheelbarrow (the one with a punctured tyre). In future, we will keep all our tools in the car. We contacted the police with difficulty. Because of the Flood, we were 3 days late discovering the theft.
FLOOD!, but only a mild one. Today is remarkable because of the weather. We've had 4 months of very wet weather since 16 Nov 2006. From today we had 2 months drought until 7 May 2007. See water records.
Found a dead weasel or stout in the field
Tried to measure speed of flow of river by throwing in 2 lavatory cistern balls from White Mill bridge, but never saw them again. Tried again with ping pong balls, but they got stuck in vegetation.
Early blackthorn in flower, big willows greening up, goat willows by river have catkins.
Collected yet more frogspawn from Pamphill. Erected post and wire enclosure for new logpile, next to the others. Gravelled some muddy areas around the scrape.
More frogspawn transferred from Pamphill. Frog nursery launched in our pond. Saw 5 more newts in scrape.
Collected frogspawn from Pamphill and put it in our scrape, where we also saw a newt.
Household trash noticed dumped in centre of neighbouring field (MS).
Fitted a notice to the river level pole at Eyebridge. It gives information about "River Stour Flooding". Found a green plastic trash can near White Mill, brought it back and installed it in the North hedge for nesting purposes. Identical to the one we found on 31 Dec 05, qv.
Noticed the big ash in the North hedge nextto the tawny owl box has a bracket fungus on the South side. Roots on N side fine, on S side are rotten. It may blow down one day.
Filled the scrape for the first time in 2 months.
A heavy pruning job on 4 small hedge trees leaning over the South fence and the North ditch, and 4 logs added to the log pile.
Beautiful cold day. Pruned 800 yards of North, East and South hedges.
With half-round posts bought from "Scats" yesterday, repaired barbed wire fence around stump of ash tree blown over in field #4. Continued isolating small trees in West hedge, overgrown with bramble.
Fixed scarecrow Gort's head so it wasn't rotated in a high wind.
Repaired the scarecrow "Gort" (blown down in recent high winds) by using a spine of hammered-in scaffolding plus plastic pipe to top of head, and connecting hands to stock fencing of Nursery. Soil still saturated and muddy.
Storm "Kyrill" struck last night, winds 99 mph at The Needles, 14 killed in UK, motorways and airports closed, Container ship abandoned off Devon, 25,000 homes without electricity. Another large branch of part-fallen willow fell across track, managed to clear it myself. Gort blown over, no other damage.
Crossing the wet plank bridge in wellies, my foot skidded, I fell off into the ditch, ripping my old jeans. Saw a white ute in MS field, stuck in the mud like the 4x4 (see 14 Jan). Could he have been dumping? A red car turned up to help him out, I didn't stay to see the fun.
Moved 33 bricks into nursery. Finished removing bamboo-henge. Rosie pruned North hedge of brambles. Realised the effect Eyebridge weir was having on the water level there. In field #6, 4x4 bringing quadbikes for fun got stuck in the saturated ground, MS has half killed the grass with some kind of spray and the high ground water level did the rest.
Birch called "John" found broken, had died earlier last year without ever establishing new roots, snapped by recent high winds, planted 09 Feb 06, Rosie dug up remains.
Fitted pipe with scale at Eyebridge, firmly held in place with a 50mm hose clip lying in slot cut in pipe, enabling clip to clamp pipe to scaffolding, see 9 Jan. Returning to Bear Mead, found large willow branch across access track, see 5 Aug 06. Took 30 min sweaty work with big bow saw to clear the track.
Fitted second bowshackle and pair of screw eyes to plank, see 7 Jan. Placed painted plastic pipe-scale onto scaffold pipe, see 9 Jan. Needs 8 mm spacer to calibrate with Bear Mead. Attempt to clamp it to scaffold using 50mm hose clip did not work.
Hammered 6 ft of scaffold pipe into river bank at Eyebridge, using post rammer, ready to take plastic pipe painted with scale 190-400 cms. Used green oil-based gloss paint. I'll fit it when its dry.
Refixed plank to gate post with screw eyes and bowshackle, forming a strong hinge. This should keep the Eyemead sheep out of Bear Mead Reserve. All the fields are saturated, this is the longest spell of wet weather since we owned Bear Mead.
Used two hose connectors to fasten scale to post at Eyebridge. Found 200+ sheep on Eye Mead Reserve, they had squeezed under the gate from Eyemead. Got a Tanalised plank 47x200x3.6m from B+Q and took it to the gate in the dark. Will hang it from the bottom gate rung by chains as soon as possible.
Delivered 2 Major Oak saplings (2002 vintage) to Neil Lucas at Knoll Gardens, to be collected by David Howard, Prince Charles' Head Gardener at Highgrove, for planting there to replace two oaks which are very old. Neil kindly offered to give us a Princeton elm to plant at Bear Mead. On the news that the "Little Chef" chain of restaurants has gone into administration, but had a most excellent meal at the Little Chef on the A31 some 500 yards from our Plantation, where they told us they are not closing.
Fitted river scale to post in Eyebridge carpark, calibrated to Bear Mead river level. This should enable Flood levels to be read at Eyebridge from the car (at night and in rain) without needing to struggle down access track and across fields in waders! Eyebridge scale covers levels 275-375, Stour at Bear Mead floods at 345.
FLOOD! Happened about 0700 hours today after 42 mms of rain on 29 & 30th, and the water table was already 200 and +32!
Hoed 4 columns of oaks. Rosie planted 10 little ash trees in the hedge. Started dismantelling bamboo-henge, to make way for the stockade of ash logs when moved. Henge has not been the talking point I hoped for when erected in Mar 05.
Rosie planted 8 hop roots in new hedge. Hedge measured as being 103.5 metres (113 yards), nicknamed the "hundred metre hedge"
Completed adding berry mixture and so completed hedge. Hedge is about 120 yards, runs from posts 117 to 129 and 1 to 8. Climber berries added from 124 to 129 and 1 to 5. Must add more climber berries next September. Digging, collecting transporting and planting for this new hedge took us over 18 days work, nearly 100 man-hours.
Finished planting 198 wild rose in the new hedge. Also planted half of seed mixture of climbers and berries (see 20 Sep 06).
Planted 135 wild rose between whips in new hedge.
Completed planting whips as hedge, with 196 hawthorn and blackthorn over 120 yards and 20 fence sections, has taken 7 days with 2 people, and the whips cost £140. Next plan to plant a wild rose (grown from seed) between each whip.
Extended hedge planting by 2 more fence sections, now planted 180 whips.
Cold & clear. Continued planting hedge. Total now 157 whips.
Moved 200 wild Rose plants from home to plant in new hedge. They were grown from seed, in 5in pots, in 18 trays, and needed 3 trips in Land Rover. (see 22 Oct 2005)
Continued planting hedge, planted 35 whips across 3 sections of deer fence, total now 120. Soil much drier.
Finished planting the South side of the new hedge, total of 43 hawthorn and 43 blackthorn whips. Drier today. Have done 85 whips in 3 days.
Planted another 15 hawthorn and 15 blackthorn whips along 3 more sections of the West deer fence. Very muddy work. See 23 Nov.
We moved about 300 ash logs, to form a "stockade" against floating away in a flood. The 85 biggest logs formed a "wall" 4 high, the remaining logs being tossed into the centre loose. We aim to move the logs to the plantation in June in the same format. Meanwhile, cooked 4 potatoes in silver paper in the ashes of yesterday's fire. They needed 2.5 hours cooking, but were tasty.
Stour has not flooded and we are promised two dry days before another expected downpour. Counted rings on the largest part of the fallen ash tree, made it 115. Relaid the logpile so that small logs too high to float away in the next flood. Managed to set fire to the big bonfire of ash canopy twigs and branches in field #4. Lit at 3pm, left at 5pm after dark, returned at 10pm and it was out. Got it started again, fed it sawn up branches and it roared away, too hot to get near. Clear sky, three-quarters moon and sparks climbing to the stars. At least three tawny owls hooting around us in the dark, distant lights from cottages on the other side of the river. Home well after midnight, dehydrated and smelling of wood smoke.
River might flood after 26mm of rain last night. Simon and James came at noon, and in 3 hours turned the wind-felled ash into a 3 ton pile of logs with a chain saw. The bole has swallowed bits of barbed-wire fence, so had to be left, but just might regrow, and can be used to attach new barbed-wire to.
Using rope and 4-wheel drive on Land Rover, managed to pull fallen hawthorn out of my field into MS field where it was rooted. No damage to deer fence. Then pushed in the remaining half of the 230 8 foot marker bamboos. Fitted key lock to gate of field #4.
In poor weather, pruned away chunks of the hawthorn which has fallen across SW deerfence (fortunately with almost zero damage). Too heavy to push trunk back into next field, must wait till man comes to deal with the ash tree.
Measured dimensions of fallen ash, the trunk is about 8 meters high, containing about 8 tons of wood. Contracted with Simon of ATS to cut trunk into half-meter discs, which I will move to the Plantation to please the insects. The stump is still part-rooted and may regrow.
High wind last night. Showed Dave Hawkins round Plantation and Reserve. Large ash has blown down in SW corner of fields #4/#5. Contacted my brother (owner of field #4) and we agreed I should hire man with chainsaw. Tree was in hedgerow, so shared by us. Small hawthorn from MS field has blown across South deerfence, not much damage done. Plantation still quite wet.
Showed Wayne and Szilvia Borland round Reserve and Plantation. River may head towards flood again, much rain recently.
Rosie pruned the new bramble growth along the South hedge. I used the soft ground by pushing further in the 8 foot marker bamboos.
Reserve less soggy than Plantation, perhaps bcause its closer to the river. I placed 17 strings around field to show direction of current at next flood.
Managed to get car to Plantation, through 3 "rivers" on access track, when river at 300. Rosie planted a Wayfaring tree sapling on mound round well.
The Plantation is very soggy, scrape water is brown not clear, every oak stands in a little pond. Presumably mice and beetles etc have drowned.
FLOOD! After 100mms of rain in 10 days, the river Stour finally floods. Managed to get down the track in wellies and take measurements, morning and evening (we are ITFing today near Wool). Use link to get more info.
Moved 31 good housebricks to plantation to hold down mulch mats over hedge whips. Years ago I knocked part of my neighbours wall down with my car, he's now too old to rebuild the wall, so let us have the bricks.
Planted about 18 hawthorn and 18 blackthorn along 3 sections of the West deerfence. Cold and muddy work.
Collected 100 Common Hawthorn Crataegus Monogyna and 100 Blackthorn Prunus spinosa from the local garden centre. When the rain stopped, we stored them on the field covered with soil (against the frost) and aim to plant about
100 yards of hedge along the West deer fence. We used all 5
Pruned the North hedge again, when MS pruned his side of hedge a lot of now unsupported but still living prickly things fell over to our side of fence and have grown since. Placed a PTFE bowl over borehole at ground level to see if we can catch any more frogs or newts.
I pruned the North hedge, Rosie the South hedge. Glanced into the borehole I drilled 5 weeks ago, saw 2 frogs and a newt in the water at the bottom. Managed to get them out by hand, along with another 3 newts. Decided to fill it in with topsoil, and 3 more frogs and another newt struggled to the surface. Later, yet another newt surfaced, grand total 5 frogs and 6 newts! At least 2 of the newts looked pregnant.
Finished hoeing 300 trees in 2 days
95% of oak leaves are now brown, not green or yellow. Most leaves not yet fallen. Oaklets looking good.
Brought home a major oaklet in a 10 litre pot for old friend Derek Voller of Romford.
Area round trees glyphosated on 4 Nov 06 is starting to turn yellow, took 11 days to show.
Erected sign behind gate into Reserve field #4 reading:"Bear Mead Reserve" plus website URL, and phone numbers.
Pruned and cleared the gate into Reserve field #4.
Lovely cold day. Moved a large pink Lewissian Gneiss to middle of scrape. Tightened strings on UFO. Cut back hedge along our section of access track. Rosie planted wildflower seeds on a cleared veg patch.
I have a bad cold. Transferred 5 large and 5 small Lewissian Gneiss beach boulders from corner of scrape (where they could not be seen) to centre. Rosie planted a small rowan (obtained from Stonecrop Wood (which we maintained for 20 years) to the top of the UFO.
Rope in scrape removed, divided, refixed with screweyes. Now looks neat, like rope around rectangular boxing ring. Rosie mixed meadow grass seed with sieved topsoil and spread over the UFO.
Fine day. With jemmy and big hacksaw, cut through bolt on cow squeeze gate, so now it can be opened. Metal concreted posts had moved. Rosie sieved a lot of topsoil, while I added two ropes to scrape interior surface. Cut dead weeds off Darlek, it now looks like a UFO!
Fine day. We transferred over a ton of good earth from veg patch to a munro. Hard work. Rosie tested the safety rope on the river bank by abseiling down. Pruned and weeded 12 oaklets we have in pots: our "spares" (one is destined for Prince Charles).
Another gorgeous day. Glyphosated all willows and ashes in perimeter. Cleared and glyphosated 6 patches along South fence where we will plant small ashes when they are ready. Slipped and fell while descending bank to river scale, so fitted a safety rope, we can now abseil down backwards! Rosie transferred topsoil from veg patch to another Munroe, hard work.
Another beautiful day. We pruned and cleared the perimeter trees, I did 26 willows and 6 ashes, Rosie did 30 oaks, 4 chestnut, 3 ash and 1 aspen. Then I glyphosated the willows and ashes. Notes on glyphosating: Use 1 litre bottle of Roundup with 360g/l Glyphosate. Car will carry 4xwater containers=100 litres. Watering can is 10 litres and treats 7 trees. Concentration is 30 ml glyphosate in 10 litres water. Treating 32 trees took 20 minutes, so 1 carload=100 litres=10 watering cans=70 trees=10 rows of oaks. So all main oaks can be treated with 3 car loads and take about 1 hour.
Beautiful clear day. Finished pruning, shaping and clearing 230 oaklings in main part of plantation. Hard work, took 4 days, they really look better now. Spectacular sunset. This morning, received 10 min audio cassette of BBC Solent's interview with me (see 26 Sep 06). Was impressed by my descriptive chat, probably due to good editing!
Pruned another 54 oaks. Dry but cold. Cuprinoled some seats and tables. Applied Bordeaux mixture to wound on D4 (which looks better than yesterday).
Contacted Alice Holt RS about D4 (see 29 Oct), and spoke to a boffin. He was most helpful, said it wasn't Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora Ramorum), advised Bordeaux mixture, which we obtained from our local graden centre, will apply when drier. See also a leaflet about
Phytophthora Ramorum on Forest Research website. Phoned Rachel about the "ruby" (see 27 Oct), we figure it may have been dropped by an ITF volunteer when planting tree Zc2 on 27 Nov 04. She phones back excitedly, it may be from her engagement ring that she lost about then. We check with our local jeweller, but its paste, so can't be Rachel's. But it will make a good story in the ITF magazine!
Fine day. Pruned, shaped and hoed another 60 oak saplings.
Sat next to scrape, I had 3 red dragonflies on my right knee at the same time! We are worried about oaklet D4. On the stem about 9" above ground it had a "mid-brown" scab of "flakey substance". When Rosie wiped it off with her glove "there was a small hole in the bark which was a bit wet within". I later saw it and was reminded of a brown ulcer with a damp inside. Could it be the dreaded Sudden Oak Death Phytophthora Ramorum Contacted Rachel Palmer (ITF), who referred me to Alice Holt Research Station near Farnham: 01420-222-55.
Started big job of pruning and clearing area around 260 oak saplings. Has to be done on knees and every tree has its own pruning problems. Tree has to be shaped, skirts lifted and
bare area well hoed and cleared of long grass and thistles, ready for future glyphosating. We did 60 trees and I felt stiff next day. Rosie found what looked like a cut ruby in earth round tree Zc2, it looks like paste to me, we'll get it checked by a jeweller.
River goes down without flooding. Finished hoeing 300 trees in warm sunshine. Cuprinoled table near well. Pruned hawthorn/ivy over bridge.
Visited river 0930,1400 and 1800 to watch progress of rising waters, I now think it will not quite flood, after 83 mms of rain in 7 consecutive days. Ground water risen 1 metre in same time. 2 swans and 4 mature cygnets have taken refuge on the bank.
I issued Flood warning at 2000 hrs on my
Flooding on Dorset Stour website. Peter Coalbrooke phoned from Marnhull, flooded at Dorchester. Finally cut through large oak branch at manure heap, stored nearby.
Cut large fallen ash branch into 8 logs and added to woodpile. Not too difficult using new bow saw with oiled blade.
Hammered in 10 guidance poles to steer vehicles along flags over muddy patch between fields 2 and 4. River has risen steeply due to 42 mms in 48 hours. Started cutting up large branch fallen from big ash by entrance gate. Bought new 3lb lump hammer at B+Q.
Completed building the seat by the scrape, materials paid for by Stuart Flint of Wirksworth. Red dragonfly beat me being the first to sit on it! At 1pm the river was rising rapidly after 36mms of rain in 36 hours, this marks the end of the 4 month dry season I expect. In afternoon fixed plaque by oak G8 in memory of Stuart Flint's parents.
Cut 5.5" dia pole into 2 lengths 1 meter each as seat legs, cuprinoled them thoroughly, got fibre saucers to act as end protection. In evening, went to illustrated lecture at Bovington by Dick Preston, Woodland Officer for Forestry Commission, excellent question time, he may visit Bear Mead and advise us.
Using 6" Auger, drilled two 60 cm holes by side of scrape for seat legs. Hard work, tips: lubricate well with water, use many small bites, deposit direct in wheelbarrow.
Bought window board from B+Q for a seat by scrape, and treated it with Cuprinol. Bought 10 small fence posts and 1 large post at SCATS and took to Plantation. Potted 75 acorns, to be used in hedge next year.
Collected 78 acorns from big oak in hedge in SW corner of plantation. All beautifully plump and ripe and picked off the bough by hand
Can't get auger further into gravel because of stones. Potted 13 ashes and chestnut saplings from weed overgrown veg patch, put in Nursery.
Started drilling borehole next to scrape with 6" auger. Hard work, got down to 90 cms, through soil and clay, to where gravel starts. Started clearing veg patch of weeds where ash saplings are planted.
Finished off flagstones with 4 more tubs of gravel and yellow guide strings on bamboos for when flags are under water. Later, deer collided with string and broke bamboo, will have to use fence posts.
Moved another 8 tubs of gravel around line of flagstones. Hoed 60 perimeter trees.
Received a letter from Head gardener at Highgrove (Prince of Wales' estate) asking me to contact him for delivery of Major Oak sapling to Highgrove. We completed moving all flagstones plus a lot more gravel to gateway between fields #2 and #4. Hard work but looks good and hopefully has solved the access problem in winter.
Received post hole auger, 6", well built and wrapped.
Received a letter from The Deputy Master of the Household of TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, Clarence House, which says "His Royal Highness...would be delighted to accept this generous present [of a Major Oak sapling], and I am sure that it will give him and many others enormous pleasure as it grows at Highgrove"
Laid more flagstones at gateway and 12 tubs of gravel. Removed barbed wire from cow-squeeze gate. Gate needs rehanging to allow slider to work. Ordered posthole auger to try and dig a borehole to supply
the scrape with water.
Bought 74 Yorkshire flagstones at Naked Cross, carried them to field #2 in 4 trips with Landrover. Later, dug and smoothed muddy gate entrance to field #4, dumped 14 tubs of grit and started laying flagstones on top. This gate is the only entrance to the Plantation which can take large vehicles in winter when normally very muddy. Posted microphone head back to BBC Radio Solent interviewer which she left under carseat on 26 Sep.
Hoed another 128 oaklets, good weather after heavy rain.
We hoed 128 oaklets, in high wind. They all look healthy, but need a good prune. Decoy duck has dragged his anchor. Autumn is here.
Finished filling in 80 metres of trench with topsoil. Decided to use hawthorn and blackthorn whips, ordered 100 of each from Naked Cross.
Filled 65 metres of trench with topsoil, ready for wild rose plants and climbers. Hard work carrying much soil in buckets.
Finished digging 80 metres of trench for a new hedge along the West deer fence. Evidence of an old flint track along the South edge of field.
Rebecca Parker from BBC Solent's "Topsoil" program visited the Plantation to do an interview with us for a 10 minute slot on the program hosted by Pippa Greenwood. Finished digging 70 metres of trench for new hedge. Picked more hop seeds from near bottom gate.
10 more metres of ditch dug, another 15 to go. The earth is very dry and hard.
Erected notice at cow-squeeze gate, reading "Bear Mead Reserve". 10 more metres of ditch, now 40 metres done. Moved earth to ditch area ready to be used to plant climbers, wild rose (from home), and hawthorn and blackthorn whips.
Picked large number of hawthorn and blackthorn berries from field #4 for new hedge. Ditch now 30 meters long for this hedge.
Ditch now 20 meters long, 50 meters to go. Berry collection mixed with earth ready to go in trench when finished.
Started trench along West deer fence to take new hedge and climbers. Set up notice at cow-squeeze gate, will say "Bearmead Reserve"
Finished hoeing 307 trees. Found 3 oaklets infested with close formations of caterpillars of the Buff tip moth (Phalera Bucephala), merrily chewing away on tannin-laden oak leaves. Brought 2 home to identify in Rosie's butterfly and Moth book (see page 161). They have black rectangles on yellow background and inverted yellow V on black face. The hedges are laden with berries, collected a bucket full of hawthorn, sloes, hips, hops, blackberries, and something like elderberry which wasn't. Cleared the scrape of blanket weed and uncovered dozens of water-boatmen and a couple of dragonfly nymphs. Got new bat detector and earphones working and discovered a loud singing at 26kHz located in well spoilheap grass which must have been grasshoppers.
Collected and dried wild hop seeds from plant near bottom gate. Transplanted creeping buttercups to bath platform.
Returned from week's holiday. Thistles and grass growing around saplings, hoeing needed. Scrape full due to thundery rain on 9th Sep (29 mm in last 7 days). Caterpillars (Buff tip moth) eaten half the leaves on one of oaks, removed them all.
Finished hoeing 307 oaklings. Topped up scrape and bath.
Deepened well slightly with shovel and wheelbarrow.
Hoed 130 dogrose patches. Gazebo destroyed by gale yesterday. Scrapped remnants, will use large umbrella in future and take down on leaving. Flapping canopy hit 4 potted oaks, causing some damage.
Finished hoeing 307 trees.
Showed Carla and Wesley from Edinburgh round riverside and plantation.
Altered barbed wire on field #1 gate, looks more friendly now.
Erected sign in field #1 reading Bear Mead Reserve with
website URL and phone numbers. Rosie pulled up orache round scrape.
Hoed 130 dogrose patches. Worries about travellers camping in area re Great Dorset Steam Fair next week. Erected more nylon mesh on fence against deer. Rosie thistled. Noticed oakling K3 looking more healthy recently, leaves are much larger.
Finished hoeing 307 trees. Cut 4th log from downed big willow on access track. Counted 50 oaklets now large enough to be used for dedications.
Attached plaque to half-post next to memorial oaklet F8
Showed Kate and James round riverside and plantation. They've just got engaged in Cornwall.
Showed Robert, Sue and Morgan round riverside and plantation. Sue chose sapling F8 as dedication to Morgan. Ate picnic on table under gazebo.
Erected 2nd seat under gazebo, moved gazebo slightly.
Erected 2nd table of planks and saw-horses near well. Fitted 4 sections of nylon mesh where deer had stuck muzzles through stock fencing and nibbled ash and oak saplings. Pulled big thistles from round perimeter saplings.
Hoed 130 wild rose spaces. Showed a visitor Philippa and her dog Gwen round plantation and river. Bonfires in MS field now out, no damage done to big trees in hedge. Found a common shrew, dead, I may have run over it.
Finished hoeing 307 trees. 3 large piles of offcuts in MS field burnt. More shooting in his field. Walked along river
listing wildflowers along bank. Weeded gravel pile.
Man in next field had a shotgun, they stopped before we arrived and left at 4pm.
Erected Gazebo over bench and table by scrape.
Visited Highgrove, offered the Prince of Wales our best oak sapling still potted, to replace a stag-headed oak in Highgrove Gardens.
Ordered a bat detector as the scrape, pond, river, fields and
plantation are swarming with insects.
Moved table and ordered a gazebo.
Hoed 130 spaces for wild rose around deer fence posts. Rearranged chain on bucket and pulley system. Rosie pruned brambles along West hedge.
OM has chopped down a very large willow on the access track, at my request. It was split and dangerous in a high wind. I took 3 large logs for use by the scrape, and to count the rings. Photoed some of our oaks, willow, ash and chestnut, and the long grass
Finished hoeing all our 307 trees. Thistles are the worst thing, but catch them small and its fairly easy.
We hoed 150 trees in fine weather. MS and 3 men in next field used shotguns against pigeons for 5 hours. Sounded like Beirut on a bad day. Complained to police, was told I had to prove shot had fallen outside their field.
Finished potting up 200 wild rose to 5" pots, to be planted next March.
Potted up another 77 wild rose.
Potted up 55 wild rose from 3" to 5" pots. These will be planted along the deer fence around the plantation. They were picked as hips 10 months ago from local hedges, and the seeds extracted.
Finished hoeing 300 trees. 15 of 26 willows on East fence are over 2 metres high. Oak K3 still looks sick, may replace in November.
Terribly hot. Topped up scrape and bath. Used cultivator hoe to get rid of a lot of hornwort in the pond. Watched dragonflies patrolling and laying in the sunshine.
Rosie hoed 50 trees (my back is hurting). The 5 ft Molinaria grass is seeding and turning straw coloured. Fitted a tarpaulin over table, but got rid of it as a golf brolly looks much better.
Hoed 90 trees. Glyphosate mixed 2 months ago now smells of hydrogen sulphide, emptied it all onto the area under swing of gates.
Hoed 130 trees, all growing well, willows on East fence especially.
Fixed golf brolly over new table to give shade from boiling sun. Now can sit in shade with a drink and watch the dragonflies patrolling and laying eggs.
Finished building fixed seat and moveable table at W end of scrape.
Numbers on fence posts repainted. Changed over to new pond measurer, had to wade up to groin.
Scrape needs 250 litres of water per day, most of this is lost by evaporation during heat of the day.
Cleared 129 areas of grass next to each deer fence post, ready to take 200 wild rose plants we have raised from seed at home.
Continued hoeing oaks, bare earth is super-hard in this hot weather, best is a hoe with a sharp blade and long handle to save my back.
Dragonflies and damselflies patrolling and laying in the scrape, most delightful sight.
Finished weeding 300 trees, huge job because of growth during holiday.
Placed 35 baskets with earth and water plants around edge of scrape.
Fished river for small crustacia, placed in scrape. Hot weather, scrape water temperature reaches 30.
Began weeding area round each oak, on knees because of growth of thistles, grass and fat hen.
Above ground syphon for scrape installed, previous underground syphon got blocked.
Scarecrow erected using my old holiday clothes, white sun-hat and 50 mm plastic piping as skeleton, bubblewrap to fill out. Christened "Gort"
Jason Fathers visited to check bird boxes. No Kestrels or Owls this year, but signs of their presence.
Returned from 4 weeks holiday. Brought Lewissian gneiss boulders and 156 meters of 22 mm rope we found in Lewis. Grass 3 ft long, oaks all OK except P2, top half of which is dead. Scrape half empty, little rain here in last 4 weeks.
Threat of flood. Grass now very long and dense. Wrote "Haste ye back!" on entrance sign. Saw 20 swans and 2 partridges on nearby field.
Saw first swifts of the year. Fitted a new scrape depth measurer. Oak sapling X2 may be alive after all, but very late, has tiny green buds.
Hoed 300 saplings. 257 oaks in leaf, 1 appears dead (X2). Erected signs, at entrance gate "Bear Mead Plantation", at nursery gate "Welcome to Bear Mead Nursery". Scrape level now constant at 24 cms, nominal volume is 6,732 litres.
255 oak saplings now in leaf, only 3 not in leaf. Scrape now full, and heavy rain expected today.
Pumped 800 litres of water into scrape, which is now nearly full. Lifted 2 low points of scrape perimeter by pushing soil under the liner.
Pumped 1,000 litres of water into scrape. 251 oak saplings now in leaf. OM brought me 10 litres of Depitox to control thistles.
Pumped 1,000 litres of water into scrape. Hoed 300 saplings. Planted 4 ashes.
Another 1,000 litres of groundwater pumped. 240 oaks now in leaf. Planted 10 conkers.
Another 1,000 litres of groundwater pumped into scrape by hand.
217 oaks now in leaf. Fitted two liners to scrape, each 4.5m x 10m. Liners so hot that grass was burned. 131 sods moved to hold down liners. 1,000 litres of water drawn from well and syphoned into scrape. Fields 1-4 sprayed with Depitox against thistles by OM (neighbouring farmer).
Hoed all 300 trees. Liner for scrape 12m x 9m arrived. 2 conkers are very sad, too much foliage, not enough roots to supply them, gave them 25 litres of water each.
139 oaks now in leaf.Heavy rain (24mm) last night.
Hoed 260 oaks again, 60 oaks now in leaf.
Planted 3 spindle saplings in bank round pond. Mayfly in air. Heard first cuckoo of the year.
Hoed 260 oaks. 30 have come in leaf, in the last 2 days of very warm weather. Saw 3 newts in pond.
Cut and stacked 131 large grass sods from the edge of the scrape, ready to hold the liner in place when fitted. Shoulders of scrape raised with soil from store. Re-hoed 300 trees. Syphoned scrape again, now practically dry. All saplings in leaf, but no oak yet.
Herbicided 155 grass patches next to deer and nursery fence posts with glyphosate. We want to plant climbers at these points supported by the stock fencing, when the grass has died. At home we have 300 3" pots containing wild rose and wild hop, growing well.
Finished hoeing 300 trees, with new angled hoe took 2 hours. Removed island in scrape ready for fitting liner when it is nearly dry, hoping leakage will reduce from 500 to 10 litres/day.
Herbicided 300 trees by hand. 400 litres of water drawn from well by bucket and pulley. Perfect weather and growing conditions. Glyphosate used to treat grass round each earth patch. Saw pair of Mandarin ducks and Peacock butterfly.
A large willow is cracked and about to fall across the access track to our field. Will contact the County Council, who own the land around the roots. Signed forms for Environmental Stewardship Scheme (ESS), Entry Level (ELS), administered by DEFRA. Our 7 acre field should get a grant of £85, my brothers £230 per year.
Saw two newts courting in pond. Male very dark, female very light.
Walked round Eye Mead and field with Mike and Sue Parkin, and Val, Dominic and Oriel. Sue thinks CMPC will be interested and may help.
Mentioned New Sherwood and Eye Mead Projects at Meeting of Corfe Mullen Parish Council. A lot of interest.
Recorded height and diameter of all oaks. See Size of oaks.
Re-count made it 90 molehills. Using draw-hoe, hoed 240 saplings, essential to keep thistles away.
Counted 70 molehills, marking them using bamboos with fluorescent tips, in an area about 8m x 10m. Is this a problem?
Counted over 30 molehills in a small area in the SW of the field. Barn owl seen flying along our South hedge as dusk approached.
Rosie still building a "munro" of topsoil dug off the vegetable patches.
Water still being lost from the scrape by leakage, about 500 litres per day.
A design fault in the syphon system to the scrape was noticed by Rosie and quickly corrected by me.
Scrape finally full of water, after a great deal of pumping and puddling. When 25 cms deep it holds 7,000 litres of water. It has an island in the middle, on which bog-loving wildflower seeds were scattered.
Found 14 molehills in SW corner of field. Never expected moles on a floodplain!
Willows and 2 of the 4 conker trees are just coming into leaf.
The scrape completed, after 19 days of hard digging. About 8.5 x 3.3 metres and 30 cms deep. 800 sods removed, most placed on Munro with grass facing outwards, 8 layers and 2 metres high, each layer held together by wire cable until grass grows and binds sods together.
Placed time capsule in centre of Munro near scrape. Used clear empty wine bottle, cork reinserted, containing typed sheet which can be read without opening the bottle.
Planted an Aspen as a memorial tree to a man's Aunt.
This is organized via the ITF.
Old Bath painted bottle green to blend with pasture in field. Started building a "Munroe", or pyramid of sods from scrape.
Used sods from scrape to build earth platform, on which old bath placed to give height to enable syphon action to fill scrape.
Started digging the "scrape", a shallow pond sealed by existing grey clay and filled by syphon action from old bath, filled by pulley and bucket from watertable pond nearby.
Saw a barn owl at dusk over South hedge.
Finished erecting 3 fixed seats in field, two around pond and one by fence under oak tree (for shade in high summer).
Placed 3 straw bales on spoil heap, covered with earth and christened "Stac Pollaidh" (which we once climbed in Scotland), whose shape it resembles.
Planted 4 silver birch trees on spoil heap around watertable pond, named them "John, Paul, George and Ringo". About 3 metres high, purchased from Woodlands Nurseries. Birch has to be above any flooding.
Cut two high tree branches overhanging our deer fence. Used 3 metre plastic pipe with garden saw strapped to end. When heavy branch falls, fence must be protected with chain fixed between fence posts.
Jason Fathers from Chalk and Hawks fixed a Barn Owl box in tree in neighbouring field, also cleaned out squirrel drey in our second kestrel box.
Planted 2 more "conker" trees, supplied by ITF nursery.
Collected and planted 2 fine ashes from local nurseriy. Our Landrover broke down, it needed serious surgery.
Continued hoeing bare earth patches around saplings. We have to hoe all 300 trees at least once per month to keep grass, weeds and voles away from sapling.
Strengthened East deer fence gate and built a new frog nursery.
The flood on 3 Dec brought down a plastic council rubbish bin. We erected this in the North hedge as a wild life shelter in the hope that it will get used in the spring by some nesting creature.
A tree count revealed 300 trees within the deer fence: 262 oaks, 29 willows, 7 ashes, 2 horse chestnut. All the oaks are children of the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest
West gate in deer fence modified to deal with water flow when flooded, which distorts the gate and could break its frame.
Built a second compost bin.
The Flood has gone, leaving a very damp field and floatable objects not tied down spread in a SE direction towards the hedge. There seems to be no obvious damage, and I expect the oak saplings will survive.
FLOOD!. Yesterday the air pressure dropped to 958 mB, it rained very heavily over the 60 mile Stour catchment area, and the flood plain (500 metres wide) was flooded to a depth of 40 cms. I donned waders and managed to get down the access track and onto the field to take photos and measurements. See FLOOD-1 for pictures, graphs and detailed description of what happened. The last flood was 3 years ago.
Robins follow us round as we hoe the bare earth patches around the saplings.
Watched a man catch a 16 lb pike, saw a barn owl and a flock of long-tailed tits.
Went for 3 mile walk along river and surrounding fields and saw: wood pigeons, grey herons, seagulls, swans, kingfishers, crows, little egret, mallards, blackbirds, a wren, pheasants and a squirrel.
We build a compost heap, surrounded by posts and chicken wire, so the compost is not carried away by a flood.
One kestrel box is blocked by leaves and twigs (later discover this is a squirrel drey.
We collect hop seeds growing in the West hedge, hope to raise them in pots back home and return to the field.
We have 2 bees nests, one in a gap in the trunk of an ash tree, one in a hole in the ground near the pond.
Rosie saw a barn owl fly out of the North hedge line. Scattered some "stinking iris" berries from plants back home, also collected rosehips from dog roses growing in the hedge line, also some sloes. We plan to grow them on back home, and replant in the field next year.
Finished planting 32 oaks along the North deer fence. These are our spare saplings, kept in 10 litre pots but we decided to plant them out because next summer we shall be away for 4 weeks and unable to water them.
Friend and his wife came to look round our field. They were lucky to see an impressive sight - a fly-past of 12 young swans, brought up by parents this year on the River Stour 200 metres from our field.
Found "fox diggings" and "pheasant indentations" in earth around some saplings. Planted 4 ashes at East end of field.
Saw a barn owl sitting in our empty kestrel box. Finished planting 26 willows (from 10 ltre pots) along the East deer fence. They are in honour of England defeating Australia in the Ashes cricket series, probably the most exciting ever. Each willow is named after a player in one of the teams, and bears a label with his details.
Found the following berries in the hedgerows: rosehips, blackberries, sloes, elderberries.
8 oak saplings need replacing and 6 are very small. We have plenty of spares in 10 litre pots to meet this demand.
Continued weeding a 1 metre square of soil round each oak sapling. We have decided that this bare patch keeps the voles in the long grass away from the sapling.
The watertable pond showed: water boatmen, dragonfly nymphs, water snails and a small newt. Partly cleared the pond of hornwort.
Found a female Wasp spider plus web in the field.
Evidence of disturbance of vole nests by kestrels.
Trimmed the hedges by hand, an occasional job.
A great deal of work at this time spent pulling thistles all over the field, but they grow faster than we can pull.
Saw 4 kestrels flying round our field and perching on the bamboo markers, probably our chicks which have fledged.
Planted 3 willows (from 10 litre pots) at side of pond, christened them "Faith, Hope and Charity".
A census finds 10 saplings less healthy then they should be, sparse leaves, chewed roots. Mostly due to vole attack not spotted last year, some short of water.
Clear some hornwort from the watertable pond, find some newts. Blue damselflies mating and dragonfly laying eggs in the pond. Saw a small frog, also many waterboatmen.
Our tallest oak sapling now 2 metres high, after its midsummer growth spurt.
Swallows and house martins flying over our field.
Jason Fathers calls to ring 5 kestrel chicks in the box. Covered in creamy down, they are 10-12 days old, and should fledge in 2-3 weeks.
Attacked many more thistles by hand and with glyphosate.
Started weeding around the oak saplings. Many oaks have immature leaves because original leaves were killed off by frost around 2 months ago. Several oaks partly chewed by voles have recovered and have leaves.
Removed all remaining vole guards. Most of the saplings have leaves.
Jason Fathers came from Chalk and Hawks to check out our kestrel box. He found 5 kestrel eggs. In the other kestrel box and tawny owl box he found barn owl pellets. The eggs will hatch in 1 week.
Flag Irises in flower on side of pond.
More work applying glyphosate around oaks and pulling thistles by hand. There are "creeping thistles", and "cotton thistles"
A newt is seen in the pond, maybe two of them.
Pulling up thistles and docks by hand and with glyphosate.
Fat tadpoles spotted in the pond in the middle of the field.
Treated more areas around oak saplings with glyphosate.
Marvellous sight of a kestrel perching on top of bamboo sapling marker, surveying long grass below, diving, flying to next bamboo and so on across field and back. He's getting rid of the voles for me! How does such a large bird perch on top of a bamboo? Saw 2 kestrels mating on tree carrying one of the kestrel boxes.
Applying glyphosate to thistles and grass growing close to oak saplings.
Frost last night which killed off many tender new leaves starting to sprout on willows and oaks
Spent 4 days on hands and knees removing bits of glass where someone had dumped broken glass from a greenhouse against one of our gates. Took shards of glass to public dump, there seemed to be bits of asbestos, so I reported it all to the police. If I catch the man I'll be on a charge of homicide!
Noticed that ants are nesting inside some vole guards. This may cause damage to bark of oak saplings. Another problem. Removing vole guards revealed soil and ants and eggs.
Treated re-growing grass around all oak saplings with glyphosate. This should produce a bare patch to frighten off voles.
Planted some peas and runner beans under bamboo framework already built.
Planted potatoes and sprinkled wildflower seeds in two of the four vegetable patches.
Finished building a third scale model of Stonehenge out of bamboo near centre of field. It points towards mid-winter sunrise too.
Planted 14 willows from 5" pots inside deer fence at East end.
Finished moving 12 tonnes of topsoil to form vegetable patches near centre of field. Hope to grow potatoes.
Collected frogspawn from nearby ponds and placed them on our raft.
Discovered possible old cart-track following two hedge lines, needs archeological investigation.
Built a small raft for frogspawn, which will rise and fall with the watertable in our pond and provide shallow water for the frogspawn we hope to collect early next year.
Dry days spent pruning hedges of bramble regrowth.
Evidence of foxes digging voles from their holes.
We remove all mulch mats (bought at great expense) because they are harbouring the sapling-eating voles. So far we have lost 15 saplings to vole attack, they prefer our best trees damn them. Pheasant shooting across the river.
ITF volunteers turn up to help plant the remaining 56 saplings from 10 litre pots. We decide not to fit mulch mats because the voles are living under the mats and attacking our trees.
15 of our saplings have been severed or loosened by vole attack. Houston, we have a problem!
Buy 6 mousetraps, hoping to catch voles that are attacking our saplings. Bait them with cheddar cheese, but no luck.
Interviewer (Wendy Nelson) and cameraman arrived from TV company, making a series called "Heart of the Country". They interviewed and filmed us for two hours. The result was finally shown on 30 Jun 2005, they also sent us a video of the program, my transcription is shown on my Major Oak website.
Work continues cutting away 1 metre squares of pasture grass where our remaining 82 potted oak saplings will be planted.
Man arrives to fit 2 Kestrel and 1 Tawny owl nesting boxes to trees in hedge around field. Idea is to attract predators who will attack voles who are attacking our saplings. We find several more saplings eaten through and horizontal.
All saplings fitted with vole guards, but we find 4 saplings with roots attacked by voles.
Oak sapling found horizontal, base bitten through by "miniature beaver".
11 tonnes of topsoil delivered.
Pigeon fell in our field near me, shot by men in next field. Big argument, I reported them to our police station.
Removed blanket weed from the Pond.
Planted St John's Wort in the hump round the Pond.
Planted Bog Beans on the edge of the Pond.
Pulling thistles is still a big job when nothing else to do.
Cutting grass round 142 mulch mats completed. Good hedge shears found to be the best tool for the job.
11.5 tonnes of topsoil delivered to vegetable patch.
Man shooting pigeons with shotgun in neighbouring field, very dangerous as he does not know we are working next door.
25 bullocks removed from neighbouring field, and electric fence switched off.
We discover several vole holes with nests under mulch mats. These have been attacked by foxes and the pups taken.
Wildflowers everywhere on pond spoil heap, especially poppies. Rosie's yellow shirt attacked by hundreds of little beetles.
Hordes of enormous thistles have grown in the ditch spoil heaps by the North hedge, days are spent cutting them down with a sickle and very thick gloves.
11 tonnes of 10 mm shingle delivered to fill vegetable patch drainage ditches. Heavy lorry no problem after 35 days of drought.
About 12 oaks have leaf tips gone brown, think its some disease not lack of water.
Grass is growing so high it flops over mulch mats and oaks. Best solution is to tread the grass down pointing away from the little trees. Later the car is used to drive past each oak 4 times to flatten the grass.
Ditches and gateways sprayed with glyphosate.
Pond scale replaced.
North, East and South hedges photographed for the record. White hawthorn flowers like snow. All 242 oaks in leaf now.
Leafing of oaks checked, 136 in leaf, 5 budding, 1 doubtful. All 86 of next year's planting in leaf.
25 cattle arrive in neighbouring fields after electric fence erected to protect deer fence.
Weeds including groundsel and thistle removed from pond spoilheap.
Vegetable patch dug and turf walls built.
Power harrow used on vegetable patch.
Ploughed vegetable patch to S of Nursery.
Recorded width of all oaks planted.
Both deer fence gates rehung.
Built and erected two benches on N and S side of the pond.
Planted 1 oak (S3) Total planted this year now 142.
Recorded height of all oaks planted.
Finished painting ID numbers on mulch mats.
see map of oaks.
Planted 4 oaks (P4,Q4,R4,S4)
Planted 6 oaks (R1-7) 87 oaks selected for planting 2005, (see: Map of oaks). 75 spares in Nursery. Mulch matting completed.
Planted 1 oak (M4).
Planted 20 oaks (up to R8) with the help of Jack and Carol Pearson.
Planted 78 oaks (up to N8) with great help from 10 volunteers from International Tree Foundation, organised by Rachel Palmer. See The ITF gang gets planting.
Planted 4 oaks (D5-8).
Planted 4 oaks (D1-4) before snow stopped our work.
Planted 6 oaks (C3-8).
Planted 4 oaks (B1-2, C1-2)
Planted 6 oaks (B3-8)
Planted 2 oaks (A1-2). Bought and distributed 750 more litres JI#3, and moved 30 oaks out of nursery.
Planted 5 oaks (A3-7), using mulch mats with pegs, and Heath-Robinson equipment for digging holes and extracting trees from pots. Met Brian and Deborah Masterman, who gave us a hand.
Planted our first oak (A8). Bought and distributed 750 litres John Innes #3. See "How to plant oaks".
Filled biggest rut on bridleway with 250 Kg of 20 mm shingle
Collected 200 shoots from old white willows growing on a merged island, put into pots, hope they will root and we can transplant to East spoil bank along main ditch.
Chained the bathtub to a post to stop it falling into the well in a flood!
Received 230 treespats and 2070 plastic pegs. These will kill the grass around the planted trees.
Finished placing all 230 8ft bamboos in position on 10 metre grid.
Saw a pair of red-crested pochards on the river, think they are quite rare.
Finish building a footbridge over the North ditch.
Buy the tree-planter's Bible: "Tree Planting and Aftercare, a practical handbook" by BTCV organization, it has an answer to every problem.(by
Elizabeth Agate ISBN 0-946752-25-7)
Start inserting bamboos on 10 metre spacing. The ground is still very hard, and give up after 2 rows (56 canes).
We meet a tree expert (Jack Pearson) who advises: use glyphosate for grass control, reduce tree spacing from 10 to 7 metres, layout to include glades and wider avenues, prune spiralling roots in pots before planting, prune lower branches to 30 cms, use plastic spirals to avoid voles, roots go blue and suffocate after 2 weeks under water.
There is heavy rain, which turns out to be the end of 8 months of drought.
See Article about hot weather.
Our well fell to only 16 inches deep! See Latest River Levels.
Building perimeter deer fence begins, and is completed in 14 days.
Grass cutting and raking for silage begins.
This Oakwood Website goes on-line, mostly based on Rosie's diary of our activities.
Having received a good quote from a professional fencer, we give the go-ahead on 700 metres of 2 metre deer fencing around the perimeter of the 7 acre field.
We hear we have been awarded a £500 grant by the International Tree Foundation towards the cost of deer fencing.
I return from Sherwood Forest without any acorns, there's none to be found, must be the drought.
We move the logpile to the centre of the field, and surround it with wire mesh on posts so it won't float away in any winter floods.
The well is now so low after months of drought that I have to dig it a foot deeper.
A reporter and photographer arrive from Nottinghamshire to find out more about our "Sherwood forest in Dorset" project. See their Newspaper Report.
We start burning 50 piles of hedge offcuts, it takes 4 days this time.
I swim down 500 yards of the Stour, with goggles and snorkel, the bottom is very free from any rubbish.
A friend finds an illegal eeltrap in the Stour. I ring the Environmental Agency to check, it has no licence tag and is 23 foot long.
In the next couple of days, I transport 300 oak saplings from our home in the Landrover, put them in 10 litre pots with mixed topsoil and gravel, and place them in regular rows inside the deerproof enclosure. It takes 20 trips. In this hot weather they need watering every 2 days, which needs 300 litres of water drawn from the well and applied via watering cans.
Four tonnes of topsoil and 2 tonnes of 10mm gravel arrive to fill the 10 litre pots that will hold our oak saplings still in 5" pots.
Grass seed is sprinkled on the bridleway to bind the scarified track before the winter floods begin.
We have a 100 yard deerproof enclosure built, to protect the 300 oak saplings when they arrive from our backgarden at home in 10 litre pots.
I construct a device with poles, rope, pulleys, a bucket and an iron bath to lift water 7 feet out of the well and store it ready for watering the oak saplings. It takes several days to get it working properly.
Ditch digging begins, with Simon, Bob and their little digger. 400 yards of ditching finished in 2 days. We have a bridge built, plus a 10 yard pond with well in the centre, plus the access track is scarified at our end.
We start pruning the South hedge. Again marvellous weather lets us do 21 days work by mid August, to finish the big job. Another 210 hours work, often in very hot weather.
Tree surgeons remove overhanging branches from ash and oak trees in the hedgrows and bridleway. A large logpile is established along the South hedge.
We buy a Landrover Freelander, a combined family car and tractor. The field is hard and flat, we use the car as a tractor a great deal.
Grass cutting, bailing, bagging and removing for "haylage" begins, organised by OM (a neighbouring farmer). 157 bales are produced from 25 acres.
We return home after 8 weeks of holiday in the Outer Hebrides.
We start burning 65 bonfires of hedge offcuts. It takes us 6 days to finish.
The tyre of our wheelbarrow is flat, like a pincushion full of thorns from the hedges.
We see 7 roe deer crossing the field, they can play havoc with young trees. Its obvious we will need expensive deer-fencing.
A fisherman from SDAC catches a 7 lb chubb in the Stour.
Flower buds are starting to move on some of the blackthorn hedges, looks like snow.
We begin pruning the North and East hedge clear of the ditch to allow ditch deepening. Weeks of marvellous weather allow us to do 31 days hedging and 6 days burning the 65 bonfires of offcut by mid-April, around 370 hours work. Hawthorn, blackthorn, bramble, its a thorny world.
We fix a scaffold pole in the river to measure the height of the water.
We fit a plastic box on stilts inside the hedge to keep tools in.
We find and fit an old gate in the entrance to our land.
30 swans appear in one field, a marvellous sight.
After much rain, the Stour floods #4 yet again.
We buy 100 blackthorn "whips" to replant gaps in the hedges.
Stour floods #3 again, pictures on TV news.
Payment has gone through, lawyers did their work, we now own the land legally.
We are puzzled by the old loop of the Stour, seems to have been blocked artificially sometime, 40 yards in our land. At this moment the Eye Mead Project begins.
Shooting going on in field to South, I think it is pigeons. Beastly business.
BBC Nottingham get hold of the story so far and publish a feature about us on the BBC website.
Visit the County Record Office, look at old tithe maps 1813, find the old name of the land, also a disused arm of the Stour and a Mill on it, now vanished.
The Stour floods #2 again, 500 yards each side! Impossible to walk down the access track or across the field.
The Auction is held at Crown Hotel, Blandford. Ours is the first Lot, we bid first, nobody else bids, we get 25 acres of pasture on the banks of the Stour. Suddenly planting a new Sherwood Forest becomes a reality!
The Stour floods #1, access track looks like Grand Canal Venice. Most potential bidders are frightened off. This flood saves us a lot of money, the seller should have auctioned in summer.
I mention the land auction to my brother, he is interested and we go into partnership. The land floods regularly in winter, building is impossible and would not receive planning permission anyway in this lovely area, so it is cheap enough for us to afford.
Looking through a property newspaper, I find an advert for 25 acres of land for auction on the River Stour, 3 miles from our house. We go to see it and like it.
Visited Sherwood Forest again, collected another 200 acorns from under the Major Oak. We still plan to plant an oak wood here in Dorset somewhere.
Our oak seedlings are growing apace. We pot up the best ones into 10 litre pots. Our small back garden gets even more crowded.
We visit Sherwood Forest again, but find no acorns at all, not even under the Major Oak.
About 300 acorns have survived a very wet winter and grown. The best are potted up to 5" pots before we go away for our Summer holiday. A Neighbour is persuaded to water them in our absence.
The 500 acorns are planted in 3" pots and kept in the back garden, which is now a bit crowded.
We collect 500 millennium acorns at midnight from under the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest. We plan to give them all TLC and plant them out as a small wood "somewhere in Dorset".
Holidaying on the tiny island of Raasay, in Scotland, we walked through the only village of Inverarish and saw a man called David had collected around 50 acorns and tried to grow them in pots in his back yard. That's a good idea I thought, and remembered the incident. Thats how the oakwood idea began.