Blog - Woodland Activities

Creating a 'Bender Chair'

Creating a ‘Bender Chair’

by Angus, 7 June, 2024, 1 comments

Lisa Bradford and her husband Paul run Willow Bushcraft a non-for-profit enterprise. They borrow a woodland in Kent owned by Woodlands.co.uk, and here Lisa writes about making a “Bender Chair”. Crafting a Masterpiece: This is how two students built a unique “Bender Chair” from hazel wood.    Creativity and craftsmanship came together in an extraordinary project undertaken by two dedicated students from a local school. These two students find it difficult in a mainstream school setting so attend a unit attached to the school. Over the course of a term, the two students transformed raw hazel rods into a stunning bender chair, showcasing both their hard work and newfound woodworking skills. The Inspiration for this journey began with a simple yet ambitious idea: to create a piece of furniture using traditional woodworking techniques. Inspired by Ben Law’s Woodland Craft book the natural beauty and flexibility of hazel wood, the students decided to build a bender chair. This type of chair, known for its distinctive curved lines and rustic charm, became the perfect canvas for their creative efforts.  The process involved coppicing hazel rods which had to be gathered from the woods. Both students learned the ancient technique of coppicing, a sustainable method of harvesting wood that encourages new growth. They explored March Wood, in Kent, to select and cut the perfect hazel rods, each one carefully chosen for its flexibility and strength.Next they assembled the chair by spending a couple of hours every week to their project, working with patience and precision. They crafted the frame first, measuring and cutting the hazel to size and ensuring the frame was sturdy and well-balanced. Week by week, the chair started to take shape. With their hazel rods in hand, the chair-makers began the meticulous process of shaping the chair. This involved bending the freshly cut rods into the desired forms for the seat, back, and armrests and tacking them into place. After weeks of diligent work, the students finally completed their bender chair. The result was nothing short of remarkable. The chair, with its gracefully curved lines and natural finish, was a testament to their hard work and creativity.  But the project provided the students with more than just a beautiful piece of furniture: it was a learning experience that taught them valuable skills in woodworking. More importantly, it gave them a profound sense of achievement and pride. They had started with a vision and, through perseverance and teamwork, brought that vision to life. Looking back on their journey, the students expressed immense satisfaction. They had not only learned about woodworking but also about the importance of patience, attention to detail, and sustainable practices. Their success with the bender chair has inspired them to take on more projects, and they hope to continue exploring the world of traditional craftsmanship. Forest Schools such as Willow Bushcraft are brilliant for hard-to-reach students who struggle in traditional classroom settings, and participating in forest school offers a transformative experience. Immersed in the natural environment, these students engage in hands-on, practical projects that ignite their curiosity and foster a sense of achievement. The forest school setting allows them to learn through doing, tapping into their innate creativity and problem-solving skills. This alternative educational approach not only enhances their self-esteem and confidence but also helps them develop essential life skills such as teamwork, perseverance, and adaptability. The “bender chair” demonstrates how outdoor learning can inspire a love for learning in even the most disengaged students.
Do you give nicknames to your forestry tools?

Do you give nicknames to your forestry tools?

by Angus, 30 May, 2024, 1 comments

Big Bertha, Darth Vader, and Inchy are just some of the names people use for their chainsaws, mauls, and winches. Others, of course, only ever use the correct name for their forestry equipment, but they are missing out on the advantages of nicknaming. Apart from entertainment and exercising a dry sense of humor, there are some good reasons for naming your forestry kit. By using personalized names, you can agree on the right tool for the job. In the case of one forester with two hydraulic jacks, he called the larger one Jack and the smaller one Jill. It’s useful to distinguish like this if you are asking someone to bring a particular tool from the car or van. Another benefit of naming is to remind yourself of the dangers of certain tools. Hammers are sometimes called finger finders, and those heavy post knockers are sometimes called “Clonkers” because of their tendency to clonk the user on the head. Some tool nicknames are just more intuitive than the more formal names, with some woodworkers calling a spirit level a “bubble stick.” One forester calls the wedge used in felling her “Cheesey.” Others are just short names and therefore easier to say, such as “Thor” rather than sledgehammer, smashing three syllables into one. Most foresters enjoy a bit of quirkiness, and names sometimes refer to where the tool was acquired (“my auction saw”) or something about its history. One bandsaw user had a blue safety switch on his saw, but when he replaced it, the same button was green, so he forever referred to it as the “green blue button.” Perhaps we name our forestry tools because they become our trusted friends, and we want to show affection and respect, or maybe it's for practical reasons. Do you name yours?
Golden Hill Wood

Golden Hill Wood

by Peter, 2 April, 2024, 1 comments

We had been looking for a wood preferably with a open area for sometime.   We had a look at a few that were not right for us, thinking it was never going to happen.   One day I opened an email and there it was - in September 2022.  Golden Hill Wood, I immediately called Stuart, the area manager, and we arranged to view it.   Well,  it was just perfect and literally five minutes away from our home, so the ball started to roll. It was time for some research on equipment, we got some good advice locally, so a chainsaw, brushcutter, and other equipment was purchased.  Having a walk around with Stuart, taking on some good advice, we then started to work on our new heaven. Golden Hill Wood has some old broadleaf trees but mainly spruce, fur and a few Douglas Firs amongst others.  The wood not been cared for in many years, so I set to taking lower branches off to head height, a few had to be removed including a couple of tactical removals with trees broken half way up, removing the many brambles that had stored from the ground to the canopy in a web like manner.  I found myself pulling brambles from one tree only to see I'm pulling a tree further away as there was so much of it.   Patience is a virtue and I got there.   It is not the end, but everything is now manageable so I have a few hours work and then a chill out. I have a couple of tarpaulin areas which the granddaughters just love and embrace and lend their little hands.   When Roe or Red Deer are about, we have two sets of Buzzards along with Red Kite and. of course, Bunnies.  We spent New Years Eve 2022-23 there and I've made a wild camp under a basher. I'd recommend anyone taking a wood on.  It is so peaceful and calming.
Knox Wood - first impressions

Knox Wood – first impressions

by Alan, 19 February, 2024, 0 comments

We purchased Knox Wood in August 2023, part of Boltonmuir Wood, an old woodland site on fairly boggy ground in East Lothian. Our five acres are split 50% almost pure birch (Silver and Downy) regenerating [about 20 years old] and 50% mature Scots Pine that is well thinned over mixed natural regeneration.  All of the site has previously been used for commercial forestry so there is plenty of natural regeneration from Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Silver Fir and Larch. Some oak, rowan, hawthorn and beech regeneration is also present. Roe deer use the site but are not having much impact on the trees, just ticks to be aware of.   Plenty of mosses, ferns and bracken that indicate acidic soil conditions. Our plan is to improve the site for biodiversity and use some birch for green wood working.  So far we have been taking out non-native conifer regen, leaving a few that are suitable for bird nesting and to provide a bit of evergreen shelter. A few Rhododendrons to eliminate as well, easy enough using the lever and mulch technique. We will create some standing deadwood and add to the fairly good level of deadwood from previous birch thinning that is now well rotten.  We will add a few native species, such as Aspen and maybe more Willows for weaving.   Also hoping to grow some edible fungi on site, there are wild mushrooms and I am sure plenty of people already roam around there collecting them.  As Alien Spoons, I teach green wood working so will thin out the birch for spoon carving, shrink pots, bowls and other treen.  Maybe make some besoms and other products with it as well.    [caption id="attachment_41045" align="aligncenter" width="675"] Birch regenerating[/caption]  
tree planting

Do I need stakes for planting in new woodlands? If so, what sort of stakes are best?

by Angus, 1 February, 2024, 1 comments

A recent article in the New Scientist suggests that staking newly planted trees may be pointless for trees that are planted in gardens and parks.  James Wong argues that stakes are often not needed because trees have a natural tendency to grow straight and vertical. Indeed, staking may cause damage because the tie that connects the post and the tree can cut into the tree.  Also the tie-up to the stake creates a weak point where a sapling can snap in high winds. Even if it doesn’t snap, it develops an unnaturally thick trunk at that point to stop it from breaking. Despite this, you might still want to use a stake in a garden or park for reasons unrelated to the growth of the tree - to avoid it being run over by a lawn mower or accidentally walked into. For forestry planting, using stakes is a very different matter. Stakes are easy to spot and help forestry contractors to find their new trees for weeding and for “beating up” - the odd phrase used by foresters to refer to replanting where trees have died. Using stakes can also help make the trees grow straight which is important for producing top-quality timber. However, the most important function of tree stakes in most new woodland planting is to keep tree guards vertical and securely in position. Most stakes for tree planting use treated softwood and are sawn, but there is a case for using longer-lasting sweet chestnut pales made by splitting. Such stakes are readily and cheaply available from suppliers in East Sussex and Kent. These stakes are strong and easier to bang into hard, stony ground. As well as being long-lasting, sweet chestnut does not need treating so for those using biodegradable tree guards and wanting to “leave no trace”, these may be the best stakes for new planting. Using untreated stakes like this avoids putting extra chemicals into the environment. Another option, often used for new planting of hedgerow trees, is using bamboo canes to hold the saplings and their guards, usually very light spiral guards. Canes as stakes have the added advantage that they are light and easy to transport: when you are planting any new trees there is lots of material to move around the site - guards, young trees, stakes and spades. getting ready for some serious planting  
sun in woodland

Wonderful solitude

by Shaun, 26 January, 2024, 0 comments

The end of lockdown, and the peace that came with it, was what made me want some natural solitude as the world got busy again. Having a share of a near 100-acre ancient wood should provide that given there are no public footpaths through it, a locked gate and farm land all around. It was late summer when I ‘got the keys’ and I was recovering from major surgery, so over the autumn into winter I’ve pottered and observed.  Each visit the place looks different as the leaves fall, different fungi come and go, and the wood is deluged by each storm. Storm Babet blew down the largest silver birch tree. The kids discovered it – wading through the thick brown bracken in a clearing I’d yet to explore. They had fun running along it. So far, no more have come down, and I’m glad I bought the Beech Tree wood owners insurance before the first storms hit. There is about one acre of older pine that stand majestic, almost as a guard for the younger trees beyond. We’ve re-planted our Christmas tree here. I hope it takes! Then it’s a grassy break, that allows machinery to manage a drainage dyke, across a wooden bridge and into the 4 acres of dense young birch coppice. This needs a lot of thinning out, if owt else is to grow there. The west boundary is a huge sheep field and the sun pours in. It wasn’t until my fifth visit that I managed to get through to a far corner of the plot and find another small clearing, where clearly deer had been laying on the dead bracken. I hesitate to say basking in the winter sun ….....  in Yorkshire! There’s evidence of badger setts too but none seem active. Woodcock abound and I will have to control the dog in spring. It isn’t silent but I’m surprised there isn’t a greater dawn chorus when I visit. Perhaps the buzzards and red kites are scaring smaller birds off.   I certainly hear those birds of prey about. Is this a sign of climate change or a lack of tree diversity? To help the both I’ve planted some cuttings of hazel and walnut, and a variety of seeds – conkers, acorns, sloes, sweet chestnuts, sycamore and walnut, but goodness knows if anything will germinate, or whether the squirrels have had a feast!  It was a rushed affair as I wasn’t completely recovered from surgery when I did it. There are lots of plots within the greater wood and I’ve met many of my neighbours, who are all very friendly. At least one is an outstanding wildlife expert and I’m sure there’s lots to learn from them.  I don’t have great plans as yet other than increasing the diversity of trees. A fig tree at home next to a west facing wall does really well.   Will the west facing aspect enable similar here?  There seems to be some quite large structures within the wider wood. On my plot, there’s a small hut and I don’t have plans for anything more. I just want to observe for a year, open up a couple of paths through the jungle and create somewhere flat to camp. There is wonderful solitude and the dog loves it – even though she has come back with ticks. Neighbours have told me their 'tick stories' and I’ve noted that they wear thick overalls and boots.   Probably best  if I string up a hammock to watch the sunsets!  
From meadow to woodland.

From meadow to woodland.

by Tatevik, 22 November, 2023, 0 comments

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.

Sweet chestnut finger-jointing at InWood in Whitesmith,East Sussex.

by Angus, 15 September, 2023, 1 comments

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.

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