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!