Blog - Woodland Activities
From meadow to woodland.
Anyone who has worked with us at Hive Cleaning, knows that sustainability is one of our most important guiding principles, along with being an ethical employer and exceptional cleaning standards. We take sustainability ambitions seriously and have reduced our direct emissions to zero and are on track to reach Net Zero in 2025. However, we didn’t want to just focus on our day to day operations (being technically ‘green’) but wanted a direct involvement with nature and natural ecosystems; that’s how our idea of a reforestation project was born. We fell in love with a meadow (near Clovelly, in North Devon), a beautiful part of the world. The meadow has stunning views and we could immediately imagine how tree planting in the meadow could further enhance the biodiversity and beauty of the area. [caption id="attachment_40611" align="aligncenter" width="675"] Hive Wood Sign[/caption] We have renamed Rosedawn Meadow to Hive Wood, and we are planning to plant over eight thousand trees over the next 15 years. As a part of our wider ESG strategy (this documents the company's impact on the environment) , we are committed to : ● Recreate historic hedgerows around the boundary ● Only planting local native broadleaf tree species ● Measuring the sequestered carbon via Carbon Trust ● Never selling the carbon credits ● Never felling the trees (except where necessary in terms of managing the wood) ● Improving biodiversity and creating a haven for flora & fauna ● Using Hive Wood to promote biodiversity and carbon reduction / sequestration. We started the planting the trees and the hedgerow in March, this year. So far, we have planted eight native species: sycamore, rowan, white poplar, sessile oak, buckthorn, black alder, blackthorn and hornbeam.
Sweet chestnut finger-jointing at InWood in Whitesmith,East Sussex.
Chestnut coppice grows in abundance in the South East of England, especially in Kent and East Sussex. However it is quite small diameter, being harvested about every 15-25 years. The timber is very strong and resistant to rot. For some uses it is better than oak and unlike softwoods it does not need treating with chemicals. The problem is how to turn these relatively thin stems into useable pieces of timber and a small company, InWood, has found an answer. I was visiting The Woodland Centre to collect a batch of six-inch decking that the factory team had made for me, and they offered me a tour round the factory. Their answer is to glue it together using finger-joints which are actually stronger than the wood itself and you can use it for decking, cladding and even structural beams. My decking boards had machined-in grooves to stop it being slippery and there were other options for width such as their three-inch or four-inch boards. Peter Black, the factory manager, explained how they buy sweet chestnut planks and process them by sawing them to width, taking out the knots and any wood that is rotten or infested with woodworm. He says that there are also occasional shotgun pellets which need removing - many of the chestnut coppice woodlands in East Sussex are used for pheasant shoots. The sawing produces short pieces of the same width and thickness but the highlight for the visitor is seeing their German machine which automatically cuts a tooth-like pattern in each end and puts polyurethane glue on it. These sections are then pushed together to make long, virtually defect-free planks. The factory generates plenty of waste wood which burns well and burns hot - it is either used for heating the workshop or sold for firewood. Enviously I looked at the part of the workshop where they use a huge hydraulic press to make “Gluelam”, being laminated beams from planks. These bigger timber beams have lots of advantages over the alternative of using large sections of tree trunk: the wood is much more stable, is less likely to twist & warp, longer sections can be made and there is often less wastage. InWood’s front man is Alan Ellis whose phone number is 01825 872550, and he is happy to supply trade or retail. On their website (www.in-wood.co.uk) you can find some spectacular garden rooms which they make from laminated chestnut. We got our Sweet Chestnut decking from InWood because of the quality, and their sensible prices. This method of producing timber supports sustainable British Forestry as well as the coppicers. Successive generations of coppice workers have used their skills since at least Roman times, when sweet chestnut was first introduced to southern England.
The ‘key’ to my woodland
I remember my finger hovering over the send button to contact Dan Watson from woodlands.co.uk after seeing two woodlands for sale. One had a majestic old tree, the other a beautiful stream running through it. Dan contacted me to give me directions so I could initially view the woods alone. The directions were clear and despite a little ‘off roading’, my two spaniels and I found the woods and spent a couple of hours wandering around them. It was January 2023 and despite the woodlands being very dormant, the quiet, still beauty of the woods opened my lungs and for the first time in a long time I felt I was breathing with ease. A calm swept over me. My orientating skills failed me and I never found the tree in the photo. I arranged a second viewing with Dan a week later. This was beneficial as Dan was full of information on the trees, plants and wildlife, and a little history on the area. The tree was more stunning than the photo. My dilemma now was which wood to buy as together they would make 9 acres of stunning woodland. Taking the plunge to buy both was both scary and exhilarating. I may finally get to preserve a little bit of this beautiful world we seem so driven to destroy. The woodlands website was brilliant and pointed me in the direction of a local conveyancing solicitor. The process was unbelievably swift and smooth. A couple of telephone conversations and relevant paperwork sent, signed and returned through the post - five weeks later I owned what is now Lackenby Dell. Dan phoned to congratulate me and said the key to the gates would be posted. Within days that ‘nugget of gold’ arrived and so my woodland adventures begin.
A foraging day with Gourmet Gatherings.
What a fabulous day spent with Chloe, a professional forager, educator, wild food consultant and chef, along with her truffle hunting spaniel, Samphire. We enjoyed a fully immersive foraging experience near the banks of the River Severn in Chepstow, Monmouthshire. Wales, she explained is bountiful at any given time of the year, you just have to know when, where and how to find it! We weren’t disappointed, encountering an incredible array of edible flora and fauna amongst meadows, hedgerows, salt marsh coastal flats and ancient woodland, locating over 30 herbs, roots, flowers, vegetables, field mushrooms, nuts, seeds and estuary herbs. Chloe’s enthusiasm and passion shone through as she described how to identify, sustainably harvest and utilise all of the incredibly nutritionally superior and flavour-packed wild ingredients. Who knew such a treasure trove of nature’s bounty lay tantalisingly within our reach. A foraged feast in the wild was a perfect end to the session, enjoying a myriad of pre-prepared dishes and accompanied by the freshly picked produce of the day. Her incredible menu included Creamy oyster & field mushroom soup with miso and brandy, Orange birch bolete mushroom puff pastries, Mugwort focaccia, Venison, cider and wholegrain mustard broth, Elfcup mushrooms stuffed with 3-cornered garlic and wild walnut pesto with fresh garlic leaves, Jack by the hedge and cleaver hummus with Primrose blooms, Fennel and chickpea salad, Roast brace of pheasant stuffed with Scott’s Pine with allspice, cranberry and honey, Roast Muntjac venison shoulder with garlic, thyme and juniper, served with rose and red clover jelly, and bacon cured chicken of the woods mushroom nuggets with wild plum barbecue sauce. Chloe had a treasure trove of knowledge too as she detailed the folklore, medicinal and nutritional benefits. Of particular interest were the use of medicinal mushrooms which are thought to strengthen the immune system : Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Chaga, Cordyceps, and particularly Turkey Tail, where a preparation known as Krestin has been used as a supportive therapy against Cancer in Japan for decades. She explained the origins of the word ‘wort’. most likely derived from the Anglo Saxon word for wound or hurt, implying curative properties such as Navelwort, St John’s Wort and Mugwort, but occasionally implying a strong physiological effect of a negative nature such as poisonous Ragwort too. Folklore is related to the Yarrow plant, Achillea millefolium, the latter meaning thousands of leaves due to its fluffy, feather like appearance. Achillea is related to the legend of Achilles who always carried Yarrow on the battlefield to stem bleeding - it’s a wonderful styptic. To protect him before the Trojan war his family collected Yarrow, considered to be a cure all miracle herb and immersed it in water. They dipped his entire body but held him by one foot which didn’t get drenched in the magic water, hence the expression “Achilles' heel” The muddy banks of the Seven Estuary harboured some hidden gems. Scurvy grass or spoonworm, a species of flowering plant in the family Brassicaceae were taken aboard ships in dried bundles to combat scurvy. Wild spinach, Plantains, Radishes and Cabbages line the estuary coast. Wales has a seaweed tasting like truffles with a hint of garlic called Pepper Dulse. Woodruff is a beautiful woodland plant growing in whorls, which when dried tastes like Amaretto. The enchanting Elfcup - a dainty red mushroom adoring the forest floor appears to emit a puff of ‘fairy dust’ when picked. Nature, as always, a treasure trove of beauty and magic. The cautionary mantras “Never munch on a hunch” and ‘If in doubt, leave it out” are wise words indeed. The poisonous Ragwort with its yellow flattened flower heads appears similar to Wild Cabbage, and the Hemlock Water Dropwort can be deadly, all parts of the plant are highly toxic and ingestion can be fatal. A member of the carrot family it has many edible lookalikes such as celery and parsley which can be confusing and dangerous for a novice. It grows in damp areas - wet grassland and woodland, river and stream banks, canals and in the vicinity of ponds and lakes Foraging is fun! But there are a few rules to observe. Please contact the landowner for permission to forage on private land, and do not forage on public land for commercial gain. Avoid areas which could have been sprayed with chemicals such as land bordering farmland. It is illegal to dig up a wild plant by the root or bulb unless you are the landowner or have the landowner’s permission. Always forage sustainably and with care, observe how prolific the plant is and never take too much. For more information, please contact Chloe Newcomb Hodgetts : Foraging Course and Guided Walks Purveyor at Gourmet Gatherings: www.gourmetgatherings.co.uk .
Fire in the woods
Last weekend, we visited our woodland for the first time since officially completing. Although it’s May and the forecast had promised sunshine, the day dawned cold and gloomy. Undaunted, we packed up the car for the 45-minute journey and rolled into Lamberhurst around half nine in the morning. Our biggest fear was that we would have missed the bluebell peak entirely during all the wrangling over conveyancing across two counties (the boundaries between Kent and Sussex neatly bisect our wood). But we needn’t have worried – as we drove down the shared track to our new purchase, the entire woodland was a sea of blue punctuated with hard fern and last year’s brambles. It was almost painful crushing them under our boots as we made our way from the car to the central clearing, but it couldn’t be helped. Although some animals had left faint traces here and there, it only took one or two passes back and forth for us to create a blatantly visible path – I felt like a big, brutish human, moulding the land irrevocably. I hoped that our footprint would not ever be heavier than that. The seasonal creeks were full and rushing after so much recent rain. For us, having running water was one of the non-negotiable criteria for our purchase. Owning a woodland has long been our dream, but it was only recently made possible due to the inheritance of my late father, the man who taught me how to love camping and being outdoors. But these ancient English woodlands were nothing like what I grew up with in America; there is something magical about the stillness in that sea of unearthly blue. I am certain that my father would approve – though as a keen fly fisherman, he would be disappointed to learn that the creeks dry up in the heat of summer and no trout could survive there. The first thing we did was to dig out a large firepit and ring it with stones we’d brought from home. Everything was quite damp, but our son, aged nine and an enthusiastic Cub Scout, helped us to coax a blaze from his ferro rod, and sawed his first logs. The warmth was welcome, and we used our Storm Kettle (a kind gift from Ruth at woodlands.co.uk) to make hot chocolate. A pair of fallow deer – clearly surprised to see us – bolted past, and the canopy was full of birdsong. I didn’t want to leave when other chores and obligations eventually called us away – the sun had come out, making the bluebells glow, and there was no place I’d rather be. Our next step is to build a compostable toilet so that we can camp overnight. We’ll let you know how that goes!
Rhododendron ponticum revisited
In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, many explorers / adventurers brought ‘exotic’ plants back to the United Kingdom. These ‘exotics’ were planted in arboreta, botanic gardens, and some in gardens. One bush that was introduced was Rhododendron ponticum. The plant is native to the eastern and western Mediterranean, and the Pontic Mountains, hence its name). It was introduced into Britain in the late eighteenth century, by Conrad Loddiges. It was planted in Victorian hunting estates, also on heathland areas to provide shelter for game species. Its rootstock has been used for grafting of less hardy, more colourful types. Many Rhododendron species are a delight and an adornment to our parks and gardens, indeed many hundreds of species of Rhododendron are known (many in China and the Himalayas)*. Rhododendron ponticum has proved to be invasive. It is a threat to key parts of our woodland ecosystems, such as Atlantic Oak Woodland. Atlantic oak woodland is sometimes referred to as Celtic Rainforest. It is characterised by lichen covered trees, growing amongst a rich moss and liverwort flora. This woodland environment is damp and humid, to which streams and waterfalls contribute. These woodlands have evolved under the influence of the Gulf Stream, which helps keeps warm and wet the area. In some parts of the country, the woodlands have remained in their 'ancient state', since the last ice age. However, these woodlands were more extensive but now exist as much smaller ‘pockets’ - damaged by grazing, pollution, and ‘exotics or aliens’ like R. ponticum. When this shrub ‘invades’, it 'takes over' and the woodland floor becomes a dark and barren place. A deep shade results from the thickets of the Rhododendron. This results in the loss of much of the ground flora so that only some shade tolerant mosses and liverworts remain. They form a ‘mat’ of dense vegetation that is a barrier to seed germination. Even when the Rhododendron thicket is removed, the re-establishment of the original flora is compromised. There is also evidence that as it grows this shrub produces chemicals which inhibit the growth of other species; this is known as allelopathy. R.ponticum has spread in many areas, mainly to the West of the country. Each flower can produce several thousand seeds, so that a large bush can produce several million seeds in year. These seeds are tiny and wind dispersed; and though not all the seeds will germinate and grow, many will and colonise an area. Even when bushes have been removed from an area and the litter layer cleared, the seeds may persist in the seed bank of the soil - allowing the species to recolonise. In consequence, follow up over a five year period is really important. Recent figures suggests that some 37,000 hectares are affected in the UK. Though the government does make a grant available for the removal of Rhododendron, progress with its removal has been slow. In Wales, there is a project called the Celtic Rainforests Project (YouTube video link here) that focuses on invasive species and their attempted eradication in Atlantic Oak Woodlands in Wales. With the agreement of the landowner, the project will organise surveys to identify the scale of the problem, and then contractors to carry out the work over the period of a management agreement, at no cost to the landowner [woodlands.co.uk has groups of buyers who have agreed for their various woods to be covered by such management agreements]. Clearing an area of this plant is difficult and expensive. An effective first treatment to eliminate R. ponticum is to drill the stems, and inject herbicide directly into the plant. This uses a lot less herbicide than spraying, and is a selective approach. Mabberley’s Plant-book notes that the cost of eradicating the plant from Snowdonia was £30 M and that was in 1988. Further information about the work in the welsh oak woodlands here. The plant is also a problem in Ireland. Indeed, referring to the Killarney National Park a politician has said “nothing short of calling in the army is going to put it right.” [caption id="attachment_39688" align="aligncenter" width="675"] Rhododendron ponticum growing near to the River Tay.[/caption] Forest Research has a number of publications about the management and control of R. ponticum. * Details of the genus may be found in Mabberley's Plant-Book. With thanks to Chris Colley
Honey from the woodlands of Scotland.
Beekeeping has a long and rich history in Scotland, dating back to the early medieval period. The country's rugged terrain and abundant natural resources have made it an ideal location for beekeepers, who have been keeping bees in the woods for centuries. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in keeping bees in Scotland's woodland areas. This approach has many benefits, both for the bees and for the surrounding environment. In this post, we will explore the historical aspects of woodland apiaries in Scotland, as well as the advantages of this approach to beekeeping. Historical Aspects Historically, bees were kept in a variety of different locations, including meadows, hedgerows, and woodland areas. In Scotland, woodland apiaries were particularly popular, as they offered a number of advantages over other locations. For one thing, the trees provided shelter and protection from the elements, which was particularly important in Scotland's often harsh climate. Woodland areas also provided a rich source of food for the bees. In the spring, the trees would produce large amounts of nectar and pollen, which the bees could gather and use to build up their strength and numbers. This meant that the bees were able to produce more honey, which was an important source of food and income for the beekeepers. Over time, beekeeping became an important part of Scotland's rural economy. Beekeepers would sell their honey and beeswax to local markets, and the trade in bees and bee products became an important source of income for many families. Advantages of Keeping Bees in the Woods Today, there are many advantages to keeping bees in Scotland's woodland areas. For one thing, the trees provide a natural shelter for the bees, which helps to protect them from predators and harsh weather conditions. This means that the bees are more likely to survive and thrive, which is good news for both the bees and the beekeeper. Another advantage of woodland apiaries is that they provide a rich source of food for the bees. In addition to the nectar and pollen produced by the trees, there are often wildflowers and other plants growing in the surrounding area. This means that the bees have a diverse and varied diet, which can help to improve their overall health and wellbeing. Keeping bees in the woods can also be beneficial for the surrounding environment. Bees are important pollinators, and their presence can help to increase the productivity of local ecosystems. By keeping bees in woodland areas, beekeepers can help to support biodiversity and promote the health of local ecosystems. Conclusion Keeping bees in the woods has a long and rich history in Scotland. From early medieval times, beekeepers have recognised the many benefits of this approach to beekeeping. Today, this tradition continues, with many beekeepers in Scotland choosing to keep their bees in woodland apiaries. There are many advantages to this approach, both for the bees and for the surrounding environment. Woodland apiaries provide natural shelter and food for the bees, and can help to support local ecosystems. By choosing to keep bees in the woods, beekeepers can help to continue this important tradition, and ensure the ongoing health and wellbeing of their bees."
Proud owners of Coed Bwlch Coch
In 2022, we made a decision to buy Coed Bwlch Coch from woodlands.co.uk, just over four beautiful acres of woodland near our home in mid Wales. Although we knew nothing about woodland management or forestry my partner and I love the outdoors. Just how important this is became apparent when I had breast cancer some years ago - I even camped out near the hospital during my treatment regime. It took less than six weeks to gain ownership. Woodlands.co.uk had two superb representatives on the ground, Ash and Helen. They opened our eyes to the possibilities this gorgeous strip of woods held. They answered all of our novice questions and guided us with ease through the buying process. We have been so impressed with the sensitivity and care taken by woodlands.co.uk to prepare the whole forest for sale. We’ve only owned the woods for a few months but we have already enjoyed dozens of visits. Our first task to cut back loads of brambles in one area where a bit of old stonework was peeking out has revealed a treasure: the ruin of a stone longhouse that pre exists the 1840 Welsh Tithe Maps on land once owned by the Earl of Powis. We are taking baby steps to learn- we’ve invested in some training courses, some decent outdoor clothing, some second-hand tents and handbooks. This year we’ll do some coppicing, harvest firewood for home, build a store, make some charcoal, camp, bring all our friends and family ... but mostly we will feed our souls.