(27) Blog Posts Made in December 2015

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Happy New Year

Thursday, December 31st 2015

It’s been a busy year at Foxglove and a lot has been achieved. We have undertaken some large scale improvements like the creation of our wildfowl feeding area.

The willow spiling on Risedale Beck has been really successful at reducing the erosion to the bank in high levels of flow.

We completed the coppicing of a large area of our willow carr earlier in the year.

It has been another busy year of educational visits with over 1300 people attending one of our activities.

We ran a really successful Festival of Nature in the summer with over 300 people visiting the reserve, being treated to excellent guided walks and nature related activities.

We have also completed all the usual practical management activities such as invasive clearance that help to keep the habitats here at Foxglove in excellent condition for the flora and fauna that make the reserve their home.

We really couldn’t manage to complete so much work without the help of everyone who contributes to Foxglove. Whether it’s turning out in all weathers to work on the reserve, helping with school visits, or any of the other varied work that takes place we really appreciate everyone’s contribution. We really couldn’t do it without you and would like to thank you for all that you have done in 2015.

Looking ahead to 2016 we will be holding our first worky day of the New Year on the 9th of January where we will be out on the reserve completing some practical work. We will of course provide the usual curry lunch and hope as many of you can make it as possible. If you would like to come could you please let us know so we can make suitable arrangements for food.

We hope that everyone has a happy, healthy and prosperous year in 2016 and we look forward to welcoming you to the reserve.
 

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In the Bleak Midwinter

Wednesday, December 30th 2015

In stark contrast to yesterday the weather has set in at Foxglove today. Looking out over the moorland towards the training area gives you a real time, accurate weather forecast of what is heading our way.

Half an hour after the picture above was taken the weather front arrived at the visitors centre bringing with it high winds and a real downpour.

So far we have been lucky (fingers crossed) with minimal weather damage to the reserve, just losing a few small trees, however we are acutely aware of the catastrophic damage the weather over the Christmas period has caused to many and we would like to send you all our best wishes.
 

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A Break in the Weather

Tuesday, December 29th 2015

Today some of our regular volunteers took advantage of some clear skies and sunshine, joining us to work off a bit of the Christmas excess. We started the day by clearing up some windblown Hawthorn trees in last year’s coppice block.

The volunteers got stuck into the task with their usual gusto and made short work of the job.

The brash was transported to a fire site and burnt along with the Silver Birch we removed on the Tree Popper demonstration day before Christmas.

After lunch Brian took us on walk around the green route pointing out some of the many varieties of fungus found at Foxglove.

It was a really nice day catching up on what everyone got up to over Christmas and doing some valuable work. Thank you to all of you who came along to help.
 

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Keep Your Eyes Open

Monday, December 28th 2015

When going for a walk in the winter it is often best to go with two or three people with different nature interests.  Birders look up and spot the Buzzard on the moor, a Kestrel flying over the wetland and a Kingfisher feeding at the head of the lake.  The flower-watchers pick out a daisy type flower in the Scrapes, Betony in the plantation and Gorse near the Voley Ponds.  Rooters look for everything!  Whilst Leanne and Brian were rooting yesterday they found some fungi, which Leanne photographed.

Fungi

Fungi

Flower-watchers saw a large rosette of Foxglove leaves

Foxglove leaves

and recorded Hazel trees covered in catkins.

Hazel catkins

Keep your eyes open to see what else is lurking in the undergrowth.  You are more than welcome to record your sightings on the Observation Board, which can be found, at the minute in the Activity Room.

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Scents

Sunday, December 27th 2015

Children visiting with school groups, Eco Club, walks and summer activities are always encouraged to look after the plants and animals they see and find.  It is also important that they smell and touch the plants.  During the early part of the year they can feel the difference between the new growth of the needles on conifer trees, which is soft and bright green and last year's needles, which are not!  Gorse is examined for ladybirds and spiders but a touch of the prickles is also needed, cautiously of course!

A mint leaf always causes amazement when the children realise that it is actually mint!

Mint

On the other hand a leaf from Hedge Woundwort gives a totally different reaction - it smells terrible!

Hedge Woundwort

Whilst Garlic leaves take a little more thought, but some children do recognise the smell.

Wild Garlic or Ramsons

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Insects and News from the South

Saturday, December 26th 2015

No, no insects today!  During the summer our flowers are essential for insects, including bees and hoverflies.  Hardheads flower in the mid to late summer providing bees with plenty of food.

Bee on Hardheads

Volunteers and thistles go together well!  The flowers are rich in nectar and pollen so many insects feed from them and of course pollinate the flowers, which will set seed by the end of the summer.   Volunteers aim to pull them up just before the seeds are released.

bee on thistle

There are several different species of Dandelion on the Species List, but it does take specialists to separate them so when seen they are recorded as Dandelions.  This bee is covered in pollen.

Dandelion with insect

Ragwort is poisonous to some animals but not to the Cinnabar moth caterpillar which feeds on the leaves, transferring the toxins to themselves, which helps to protect them from predators.  Many insects including bees enjoy the rich food source.

Insect on Ragwort Flower

Meadowsweet has a delicate scent and our hive bees are attracted to it, even as far away as the wetland.

Meadowsweet with hive bee

Grass of Parnassus is one of the later flowers to appear.  We often wonder if it is going to flower as there is nothing to see, then a tiny white bud appears and shortly after the flower opens.  Hoverflies live up to their name and hover around them before landing to feed.

Grass of Parnassus

A few days ago the Winter Solstice was mentioned, days are now getting longer! 

We received an email from Stacey  'Yes, it's Midsummer over here already! Time for the nights to start drawing back in again. The penguins are behaving and the Adelie chicks getting notably bigger every time I visit them. I cannot believe how fast they grow.

She also sent her Christmas Greetings.

Christmas greetings from Stacey

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No White Christmas

Friday, December 25th 2015

To some winter is not winter unless there is snow.  Snow turns Foxglove into a special winter wonderland, as happened in February 2013.  Our old Ash tree grows at an angle just ready to catch any snow that falls.

Snow on the Ash

So far this winter it has been wet and is raining yet again on Christmas Day.  The lake is full and the weir overflows.

The weir

Risedale Beck rises quickly and with all the rain coming down the beck, the dams looks in need of repair once the water level has fallen.

One of the dams along Risedale Beck

The flower walk took place early this month, on the 23rd, and managed to dodge all the rain.  Only four species of flower were recorded in flower, Ivy, Daisy, Gorse and Germander Speedwell.  Binoculars along Risedale Beck found no Primroses, although some pale yellow leaves were carefully examined.

However there was a surprise hanging on tightly to a vertical post of a bridge, a Grey Shoulder-knot moth. (Hope we have ID'd this correctly as it is so long since we have had any moths to ID!)

Grey Shoulder-knot moth

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HO, HO, Roe

Thursday, December 24th 2015

The reserve was very peaceful today, with lovely weather for December. The reserve looked wonderful in the sunlight as we walked through it in order to fill the many bird feeders we have on the reserve. These feeders are clearly appreciated by the birds as they were immediately feeding from them once we moved away.

Unfortunately we didn’t spot the Roe Deer today, although our December observation board suggests they’re being seen as often as usual. We did however spot a very festive deer in the field centre.
 

From us all at Foxglove, we hope all of our friends and supporters have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

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Tree Popping

Tuesday, December 22nd 2015

It was a bit wet and wild this morning, but that didn’t deter our volunteers setting out to the conifer block on the way to the wetlands for a spot of birch pulling. Mid morning we had a visitor, Alan from Nature Conservation Services, who came to demonstrate a new tool to us, the ‘treepopper’ which is a levering device for pulling saplings and small trees up by the roots.

After almost effortlessly uprooting several large trees he then gave us a dozen to try out between the volunteers. The consensus was, we were all impressed with the product and have therefore purchased several of them for use on the reserve.


We arrived back to the field centre, somewhat damp, but were greeted with a fine spread, a hot and cold buffet provided and prepared by the volunteers.
 

An enormous thank you to everyone who came out today in truly awful weather and/or who helped with our wonderful lunch.

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Sunrise

Monday, December 21st 2015

Two of our regular Monday morning visitors have been out and about on the reserve taking photographs in the early morning light. They captured the sunrise today through the reeds whilst walking down the scrapes.

A few weeks ago they took this fantastically atmospheric shot on the path from the moor gate to the lake.

We would like to thank Mike and Ian for sharing their pictures with us. If you have taken any amazing pictures whilst visiting Foxglove and would like to send them to us via e-mail we are always pleased to see them.
 

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Another New Species!

Sunday, December 20th 2015

Last week as John and Alicia were leaving Foxglove, they saw a Barn Owl flying over the heath.  For several minutes it quartered the ground before flying off in the direction of the Scrapes.  Unfortunately it was too dark to get a photograph.  The photograph below was taken by John elsewhere.

Barn Owl

In the ancient hedgelines across the moor, there are two owl boxes.  They have been used by Jackdaws, who make quite large nests of twigs.  The twigs have now been removed and are ready for the owls - a Barn Owl would be fantastic!

When the species list was checked Barn Owl was found to be a new species.  It is quite rare to add any vertebrates to the list.  An excellent sighting!

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Did You Know?

Saturday, December 19th 2015

Cowslips can only be found in one small area of the reserve.  Unfortunately they they do not grow near any Primroses so we have no False Oxlips, the hybrid between Primroses and Cowslips.

Cowslip

Although very mild for the time of year, we have not yet found any Primroses in flower.  Last year one was recorded in December.  Binoculars are needed to walk along Risedale Beck to spot anything pale yellow hiding in the undergrowth!  The seeds are sticky and ants are attracted to the food store of the seeds and carry them off, so dispersing them.

Primrose

Cottongrass is a very good plant to illustrate to children wind dispersal.  Children tend to assume wind dispersal actually means a strong wind, whereas in actual fact it requires only a very gentle breeze to move the light seeds.

Cottongrass

In the past Cottongrass heads were used for making candle wicks.  More disturbingly they were excellent for stuffing pillows and mattresses, a quick way, surely, to help the plant to extinction!  Can you imagine how many heads would be needed?

Cottongrass

Although a joy to see the light blue nodding heads of Harebells on the moor, it is a reminder that they are one of the last flowers of summer to open and be recorded on our flower walks.  They are linked with magic and folklore and given names like witches thimbles and fairy bells.  As the fruit develops the flower stalks become upright and small holes develop at the base of the fruit capsule, just large enough for the seeds to escape a few at a time, when the wind gently moves the stalk.  Something to look for next year.

Harebell

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Christmas Dinner

Thursday, December 17th 2015

Last night 53 ‘friends’ and volunteers convened at Wathgill for Foxglove’s annual Christmas dinner, a traditional 5 course extravaganza. 


We were serenaded with some festive tunes during our meal by two members of the Royal Armoured Corps Band, Pete on Sax and Ed on keyboard and they weren’t the only talented musicians in the room.

Later on we had twins, Martin and Connor playing some modern hits on guitar and flute, they also provided accompaniment for their mum Lesley who sang ‘Silent Night’ in two languages for us! A bit later on we had young Alicia who borrowed Ed’s keyboard, to play us some beautiful modern classical music. 

After the meal, the raffle was held, with Matt announcing the winners, unbelievably his name was the first to be drawn!! …..and finally everyone was put out of their misery ……Glennis gave us the answers to the quiz.

A big thank you to all the catering staff at Wathgill and also to everyone who helped out in any way small or large to make this such an enjoyable evening.

 

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A Whiter Shade of Pale

Tuesday, December 15th 2015

Another misty day greeted us, deepening as the day continued. The volunteers were working out on the moor, cutting and burning the gorse that is encroaching upon the path, continuing the work we started last week. The smoke from the fire melted seamlessly into the murk, the volunteers, gorse bushes and trees were silhouetted against the horizon.

In the early afternoon, we were joined by the Dales School, who assisted us with the task.


We rescued a Gorse Shield Bug from the flames, which was relocated safely, further out on the moor. 

These eggs were also found at the base of some Gorse, we wondered if they belonged to a species of Spider, any ideas anyone?

A big thank you to all who came out on such a dismal day, we cleared another sizeable section, well done everyone.


 

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Winter arrives at Foxglove

Monday, December 14th 2015

After such a mild autumn, the arrival of true wintry weather came as a bit of a shock at the weekend.
Foxglove was turned into a bit of a Winter Wonderland, paths and foliage cloaked in snow. For those who visited it was an excellent day to practice their tracking skills.


For others, with the snow still hanging around, it was a chance to wear a silly hat and get shovelling!

 

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Bird Ringing at Last!

Sunday, December 13th 2015

Several weeks have past since the bird ringers were able to raise the mist nets.  Wind, gales and rain have all appeared over the  weekends.  Blue skies, cold and snow met the ringers this morning, but no wind and no rain!

Snow

The garden net caught the usual array of birds.  Coal Tits are back in the reserve for the winter.  Other visitors to the feeders include Robin, Nuthatch, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch and Bullfinch.  Sparrowhawk also knows where the feeders are, but this does not deter the smaller birds from returning.

Back Garden

Over the last few weeks Blackbirds have been seen feeding in the Hawthorn trees along the access road.  Speculation is that they may be migrants from Europe.

Blackbird

Fieldfares were in the Holly tree in the Ancient Hedgeline on the moor, during the week.  This is unusual as often the berries are still on that tree by spring.  A Song Thrush was heard singing loudly from the dead tree above the ponds by the lake and a Kestrel was sitting in a tree by the access road.  Mallards and Moorhens are on the lake and are using the duck raft.  Mallards appear to have the upperhand and chase the Moorhens off!  The Kingfisher has also been recorded on the lake and was photographed today.

Over 100 birds were processed including Woodpeckers and Redpolls, taking the total of new birds ringed on the reserve to over 55k.. Thank you to everyone who helped.

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Species

Saturday, December 12th 2015

Last weekend it was sitting watching the rain come down, this weekend it is looking at the snow falling. It is at this time, during the winter nights, that we check all our records, new species, surveys and  bird ringing data.

Throughout the year the monthly flower walks take place and flowers in bloom are recorded.  Several months required added layers as it was so cold.

Flower Walkers

Linda Robinson, the recorder for VC65 has carried out surveys and has noted several new species.  But it was also good that our regular flowers were also recorded.  Red Campion is slowly spreading its range.

Red Campion

There were more Early Marsh Orchids and in a slightly different place!

Early Marsh Orchid

Butterfly surveys have been carried out throughout the summer and these records have been added to our data base.  The final results have been sent to the recorder for VC65.

Green Veined White on a Bluebell

Moth trapping does depend on the weather and the cold nights during the spring and early summer resulted in few moths being caught, but our moth night gave us several new species for the Vice County as well as for Foxglove.  This Blood Vein was beautifully coloured showing that it had recently hatched.  It immediately started to 'shiver' to warm up before taking flight.

Blood Vein

Spring saw the bird ringers out in Foxglove and on the training area checking bird boxes and ringing chicks.  

Ringing chicks out on the training area

During CES we have seen some of the chicks ringed in the boxes come through the ringing room which is very good.

A Tawny Owl was found in one of the Army garages last week. It was cared for and fed before being released back at Foxglove, where it had been ringed in the spring.

All the data collected from bird ringing is entered into IPMR and sent to the BTO.

Our species list of fungi is also increasing.  Fly Agaric, a common species on the reserve, gave us a surprise as it kept appearing in different places.

Fly Agaric

Over 2500 species have now been recorded at Foxglove.  (Just received an email with details of two more fungi to be added.)

A tremendous amount of time and energy go into recording our species.  A huge thank you to everyone involved. 

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Christmas is Coming

Friday, December 11th 2015

An icy start to the day came as a bit of shock, after all the mild weather of late, but it is December after all and today we had our Christmas Wreath making workshop. Yesterday we had gathered the materials needed, using natural resources from the reserve, Willow, Holly, Ivy and Pine cones.  


Embellishments came in the form of ribbons and glitter spray. After a brief demonstration everyone got stuck in, altogether we had 11 people making wreaths, some who had made one previously and others for whom it was their first go discovering talents they didn’t know they had!  I think it safe to say that an enjoyable morning was had by all.


Next week is our Foxglove Christmas Dinner, on Wednesday 16th, to be held up at Wathgill. If you haven’t booked yet and would like to come please get in touch with us asap, as we will be finalising numbers for the catering early next week.
 

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The Holly and the Ivy

Thursday, December 10th 2015

A crisp, bright day awaited our small group of volunteers and a pleasant first task, this was to go out onto the reserve and collect some Willow, Holly, Ivy and Pine cones, in readiness for our Christmas wreath making workshop tomorrow.


In the afternoon,we set out to fill the potholes in the drive, starting right outside the field centre, working like a mini-chain gang we sang our way to the end of the drive, sweeping the water out, filling them in and then tamping down the gravel.  Needless to say the ride back with the trailer was much smoother!

Thank you all who came out today, as always your hard work and company are much appreciated. 

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Look One Way then the Other

Wednesday, December 9th 2015

At the moment the weather is, to say the least, changeable!  Walking through the Scrapes, looking one way saw blue sky and sunshine.

Blue sky and sunshine

Looking the other way, black clouds, making the cream reeds stand out.

Reeds against the black clouds

Although the reserve is well and truly dressed in her winter coat, there is a little bit of colour, if you look hard!  Along the pond edges and beyond there are rows of colour, from the grasses, seed heads, Hawthorns and Willow stems.

Colours across the pond

Not brightly coloured, but the muted tones of old sedge stems and leaves showing their reflections in the slightly rippling water can be seen.

Refelctions

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GoGo Gorse

Tuesday, December 8th 2015

Today started fair and bright, as our eager bunch of volunteers headed out onto the moor, the task in hand was to cut back numerous Gorse thickets that are beginning to encroach onto the path.


The ground was very wet underfoot and it was a little breezy which meant getting a fire going was a bit tricky to begin with, but perseverance pays off and it eventually took hold. A brief shower just before lunch came out of the blue but we were rewarded with a fantastic double rainbow.


We managed to clear a good section of the moor today, unfortunately the heavens decided to open up again in earnest, just as we were finishing off, which meant it was a soggy end to the day. Damp but not disheartened.

Thank you to everyone who came out today, you all worked really hard and it has made a really big impact.
 

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Quiz Results

Monday, December 7th 2015

Today has been mainly spent checking the reserve for Storm Desmond damage.   About 8 large trees had come to grief over the weekend, including this Scots Pine that had fallen over the path near the small hide in the conifer woodland.  This plantation of conifers acts as a shelter belt as it bears the brunt of the high winds that come in over the moor and helps to protect the rest of the reserve.

We have a message from Glennis Walton who sent in the results of our quiz,”Many thanks once again to all those who supported us by buying the most recent quiz, and sent in their results. We gather from the feedback that many people found it harder than usual as they were less familiar with the ‘Natural Features’ vocabulary, but hope you enjoyed the challenge anyway”.

The winner was Mike Fenwick with 35. Ann Brack was second with 31, and The Coopers third with 30. Others who were very close runners up were Anne and Mike Bacon with 29, Frank and Carole Broughton with 28 and Trish and John Illingworth with 22. We have posted the results of all those who sent in their answers as they had put so much effort into trying to solve the clues. Again, thank you.

The answers were:

1.Moraine
2.Sea
3.Geyser
4.Jungle
5.Stalagmite
6.Gorge
7.Desert
8.Sky
9.Cave
10.Basalt
11.Mesa
12.Pumice
13.Sky
14.Ocean
15. Monolith
16. Crater
17. Delta
18.Fjord
19.Granite
20.Magma
21.Ice Shelf
22.Erg
23.Polder
24.Dyke
25.Loess
26.Oasis
27.Shale
28.Marble
29.Ness
30.The Needles
31.Springs
32.Swamp
33.Spurn Point
34.Strata
35.Erratic
36.Sierra

Many thanks to Pat who compiles the quizzes for us. She has already prepared the next one for in time for our Christmas festivities, and it will be available shortly at Foxglove Covert.

 

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Different Things

Sunday, December 6th 2015

After the wet and wind of yesterday it was a delight to see some blue sky.

Blue sky across the moor

Not surprisingly there is a great amount of water everywhere on the reserve, including Risedale Beck.

Risedale Beck

Unfortunately there are some conifer trees that have fallen during the severe weather yesterday.  For such tall trees they have a very small rootball.

Root ball of a conifer

A reminder that the Christmas Dinner will be held at Wathgill on the 16th December.  Book your place with Matt or Lisa for a really lovely fun evening and a great meal amongst friends and volunteers.  Our Christmas Raffle will be drawn on that evening.  If you would like to donate a prize for our raffle, then please take it to the Field Centre and add it to those already there.  Thank you.

Raffle prizes

Another celebration will be held on Tuesday 22nd December at Foxglove, this time it is  the volunteers shared lunch.  Food can be brought to the kitchen during the morning and then lunch will be served about one ish!  Everyone will be welcome.

Burns Night will also be held at Wathgill, on the 29th January 2016.  And talking of 2016, the Foxglove Calendar is now on sale, at £6.

2016 Calendar

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Curled up in Front of the Fire

Saturday, December 5th 2015

No not curled up in front of one of Foxglove's fires but at home looking out onto bending trees, and rain running down the windows.  It is an opportunity to browse through photographs, and be indulgent in sharing some favourites.

Last year when Primrose was reported as being 'out' so passing the flower test, it was not exactly believed, a yellow leaf surely?  Out came binoculars and sure enough there on the bank along Risedale Beck were yellow Primroses.  They remained in bloom right through to spring.  So far this year not even a hint of yellow. 

Primrose

One flower that can be found all year is the Daisy.  It grows on the lawns in front of the Field Centre and on the path along Risedale Beck. 

Daisy

Greater Spearwort puts on a beautiful show during the summer in the ponds in the Scrapes.  Sometimes the butter coloured flowers can be seen late in the year.  This year there may be just a hint of a petal to be seen, but in the small pond next to the Voley pond several are still nodding their heads, well they were yesterday!

Greater Spearwort

Ragged Robin has been seen more often during this summer and surprisingly was seen into early autumn.

Ragged Robin

We will have to wait several months for most of these flowers to show their colours.  Possibly Holly berries in snow may have to come first!

Holly Berries in Snow

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Winter Worky Day

Friday, December 4th 2015

Sadly, due to very high winds forecast for tomorrow, we have made the decision to cancel our second Winter Worky Day of the season on Saturday 5th December.

Thank you to everyone who had planned to come, we hope to see you at the next Worky Day on the 9th January 2016.

 

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Relight my Fire

Thursday, December 3rd 2015

Our small group of Thursday volunteers braved the damp and dismal conditions today to continue coppicing a section of Hazel which we started doing on Tuesday.

This is a good example of a neatly coppiced stool, the older, thicker stems have been removed from the centre, leaving new growth to flourish.

The cuts have been made at an angle, which is to encourage the water to drain away from the stool, helping to avoid it succumbing to fungal infection and decay.


Coppicing is done on a rotation basis, this ensures a range of different ages trees and stools, which helps to increase biodiversity. Hazel stems traditionally were coppiced between 7 and 15 years and were put to use in thatching or making hurdles or as hedge laying spars.

Thank you to everyone who came out today, your hard work and good spirits were much appreciated.
  

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Cutting It Fine

Tuesday, December 1st 2015

Today staff and volunteers have been engaged in coppicing a section of Hazel trees, situated on a slope above Risedale Beck. After a brief discussion and demonstration of what coppicing is our volunteers got stuck in, removing the older thicker stems, allowing for new generation and growth.

Coppicing is a traditional method of managing woodland, the word comes from the French word coupe, meaning simply, to cut. The base of the tree, is known as a stool and the branches are cut and removed as near to the base as possible, in contrast to pollarding, where trees are cut at head height. Sometimes it is easier to start off pollarding the tree to take the weight of the top, as in the photograph below, then cut lower. 

Coppiced areas are higher in biodiversity, with many open-woodland species present, the increased light to the ground will allow stronger growth of the wildflowers found in this area such as primrose, of which there were already signs!, bluebell and wood anenome. Brambles are often found growing at the base of recently coppiced stools, these can provide protection for the stool from deer grazing and encourage smaller mammals and insects into the area. Fritillary butterflies are also commonly associated with coppiced areas.

Thank you to everyone who came out and helped today, especially in our rather inclement weather.

 

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