If you’re a regular follower of the Woodlands.co.uk blog, you will remember Gordon and Enid’s story from December 2008, Owning a Wood – The First Few Weeks . Work is progressing and Gordon turns his attention to an oak stand that is in need of thinning …
Since writing last year on our first few weeks of ownership, delight in our 10 acres of mixed woodland has grown and our appreciation of the beauty and peace of the Blackdown Hills has soared. Though we are still beginners andhave so much to learn about wildlife and woodland management, there havebeen significant advances in our general knowledge and our confidence to attempt new things.
It was obvious from the first that an informal stand of seven 80 to100 year-old oaks needed attention. Right in the centre of the wood, secluded and comparatively sheltered from the wind at the top of the hill, these oaks were there many years before the quicker-growing Douglas Fir and Norway Spruce which were overtopping them and denying vital light. Even the conifers are beautiful - straight, stately, some nearly 100 feet high .The Douglas Fir is also a potential source of wonderfully strong and durable timber. But the few oaks are even more precious and are in a section that would lend itself to becoming a beautiful glade.
Having looked at the conifers many times and waited in vain for a local farmer to fell some in exchange for some chestnut for fencing, I took the decision to tackle them myself. Having handled a chainsaw for 35 years and talked to experts about technique, I felt confident enough to choose trees on the east and south sides (the ones taking the most light) and which looked like falling away from the precious oaks. On a day when the wind was gentle and blowing away from the oaks, I made sure the area round the first tree to be felled was clear of obstruction, checked the 22 inch chain was tensioned correctly and suitably sharp and then pulled the start cord. Not being a professional I won't presume to describe the technique fully, lest I lead anyone astray, but, briefly, it involved a wedge out of the trunk, opening towards the direction of intended fall. Then another cut higher up on the back side, to create a hinge to encourage the tree to fall where I wanted. There being little wind and as the tree was healthy, it was not until the cut was within an inch or two of the wedge cut that the tree showed sign of moving. Time to stop the saw, move carefully back and behind another substantial tree for safety and watch and listen as the 50 year old tree fell smoothly and cleanly between other conifers, landing with a satisfyingcrump on the ground!
Being careful not to exceed the permitted 5 cubic metres of timber per quarter, five more trees have suffered the same treatment and now sun shines on the oaks all day in summer months and the glade is becoming a place of beauty and an ideal spot to sit and read. The last tree felled was a mighty 85 foot Douglas Fir which I deliberately felled just over a metre from the ground so that a comfy seat with back could be chain-sawed into the stump, looking down through the wood. Sitting there, I was immediately rewarded by the sight of one bird "walking" up an oak trunk and a beautiful woodpecker flitting from tree to tree.
Not wanting heavy equipment invading the wood and having uses galore for planks, I first cut eight 21" by 3" rings for garden tables and have now set about turning the remaining timber into planks up to 10 inches wide and 8' long with a chain saw adaptor which produces very reasonable planks. These are sealed at the ends and stacked to dry - but that's another skill being learned and to be recounted perhaps another time! Meanwhile, may I stress the importance of not tackling trees beyond one’s expertise or trees with inherent problems. It is essential to ensure neither pets nor observers are anywhere near, whilst still being available in case of emergency. If in doubt - DON'T !