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Cooking Under the Sun: The Solar Oven

Cooking Under the Sun: The Solar Oven

by Jasper ~ 12 August, 2018 ~ comments welcome

The long hot summer months have provided plenty of scope for al fresco cooking and eating this year. For most, this means channelling our inner caveman, poking at unevenly cooked slabs of meat over a bed of smoking charcoal. The record-breaking levels of sunshine we have enjoyed recently, however, suggest other opportunities for off-the-grid culinary experimentation. The expanding range of solar ovens on the market may never replace the traditional barbecue experience, but cooking using just the free power provided by the sun’s rays can be a lot less faff than hours of fiddling with newspaper, firelighters and dusty briquettes.

Aside from providing the smug satisfaction of keeping carbon emissions down to a minimum, these campsite counterparts to Le Creuset offer up far more possibilities for the more adventurous outdoors cook than the usual backstop options of the charred sausage or the billy can of beans, opening up a brave new world of stews, curries, baked vegetables, even risottos… Read more...

The Magic of Foraging - a river-bank exploration in St Albans

The Magic of Foraging – a river-bank exploration in St Albans

by Angus ~ 5 July, 2018 ~ comments welcome

"At the moment I'm trying to work out why we use salt and pepper as standard at table.  I mean, why not salt and ... fennel or hogweed seeds or nutmeg or cloves or cinnamon?"  This sort of research is typical of Richard Osmond "Chief Forager" who runs the best wild food pub in the country with George Fredenham, another experienced forager.  They both have an infectious curiosity about everything, especially if it's around their taste buds and finding out what's growing out there.  Recently, I went on a foraging walk with them along the river Ver which runs through St Albans and as it was mid June the river bank was exploding with edible stuff - and a few things which you certainly shouldn't get anywhere near your mouth. Read more...

Owls and Boxes - Part 1.

Owls and Boxes – Part 1.

by Chris Saunders ~ 2 July, 2018 ~ comments welcome

What is it about the owl that is so endearing and compelling – its eyes, its face, its silent mastery of flight, or the web of myths and stories that surrounds its nocturnal life? For sure, nothing can beat staying over in a wood and hearing tawny owls, and even better knowing they count your wood as part of their territory.

When we were getting to know our wood 18 months ago we heard tawny owls, usually some distance away, and the thought struck that a nest box might bring them nearer, and give us the chance of a view. There was the choice of making one from several designs from the internet, or buying a ready made one. We decided on buying from the Barn Owl Trust. Read more...

Woodland bird monitoring

Woodland bird monitoring

by Chris Colley ~ 27 June, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Each of our team members looks after a number of woodland sites across the UK, and recently we were contacted regarding one of our latest additions to the Woodlands.co.uk portfolio, Coed Craig-y-Pandy, aka Pandy Wood, near Llangollen in North Wales, by someone known locally as Nicky ‘the bird lady’.  Apparently this site has been part of a long term scheme of monitoring nesting birds and nest boxes, and we were being asked permission for this to continue.

Myself (Chris) and local area manager Jon went to meet Nicky one afternoon to find out more of what she does and how it benefits our local birdlife.  We were given a tour of the nest boxes in the woodland – most of which were empty as the young birds had already fledged -  but we were treated to a look inside a couple of boxes where the chicks were still being fed.  Nicky explained that the birds we were looking at were close to fledging themselves, and that she would be back to check the boxes again to see what happened. Below are some photos of the baby birds we saw.

Nicky also showed us that she had ringed the birds in the nests, Read more...

A band of ten wild women in the wood

A band of ten wild women in the wood

by Melissa and Angus ~ 8 June, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Despite suffering insect bites, scratched legs, and a general lack of washing, this was an expedition which brought together ten women who shared their concerns - Jo had recently lost a baby, Charlene's mother had died of lung cancer, one was anxious about getting pregnant, another was a full-time carer and one woman had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.  Despite personal issues, or perhaps because of them, the whole experience of this survival challenge and sleeping under the stars left the group "mentally and emotionally on a real high". Read more...

How to make an adjustable pot hanger system.

How to make an adjustable pot hanger system.

by Craig Fordham ~ 1 June, 2018 ~ one comment

Finally, it seems like spring has sprung and more people are getting out into the woods. What better way is there to enjoy your time then to be able to make yourself a hot drink on an open fire? Today I’ll show you the way I make an adjustable pot hanger set for cooking and boiling water over a small open fire.


Tools needed for this are pretty simple really, a saw and a knife. A Bahco Laplander folding saw works well and a fixed blade knife is preferable for jobs like this. I’m using a custom made tang knife by a company called Stoney Paths.


I am using green wood as it’s easier to carve and won’t burn as easily and have gone with Hazel. You will need: One long straight pole thumb thick and two/three feet long, one Y-shaped piece around 'thumb thick', and 2 “7” sticks (a piece off a branch that looks a little like a number 7 shape).


The Great British Bee Count (and App) - 2018.

The Great British Bee Count (and App) – 2018.

by Chris ~ 19 May, 2018 ~ one comment

This week saw the start of the 2018 Great British Bee Count.  The aim of the count is to estimate the number of bumblebees and solitary bees that are buzzing around this year.  As the woodlands blog has reported on many occasions, bees and bumblebees are threatened by viruses, mites, pesticides*, inclement weather, habitat loss etc - so a count across the country (from John O'Groats to Land's End) is a 'good thing' informing, for example, the Pollinator Monitoring Scheme how bees and bumblebees are faring across the country.  The information also contributes to the  National Biodiversity Network Atlas  (NBN), which records the current status of all species in the U.K.

To help with this, there is a smart phone App - available for either iPhones or Android Phones.  The App enables you to submit sightings of bumblebees and bees (with photos where possible) Read more...

The Monthly Mushroom: Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus)

The Monthly Mushroom: Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus)

by Jasper ~ 4 May, 2018 ~ one comment

Bracket fungi encompass a host of species that typically grow in tough semicircular shelves on tree trunks, logs and branches, their mycelium consuming both the living and the dead wood within (although there are some soil-dwelling types that form mycorrhizal relationships with their hosts). For more on mycorrhizal fungi, see this previous posting on Fly Agarics.  The term has been applied in a general fashion to various examples on the basis of the physical form of the fruiting bodies rather than any genetic kinship. As such it includes such notable edibles as the Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) also known as the Sulphur Shelf, and the grisly looking Beefsteak fungus (Fistulina hepatica), which oozes a blood-red liquid when cut (featured image)


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