Winter work

It has been a busy winter so far, with a great mix of learning and work.

In November I spent a great day with other members of the Countryside Management Association learning about Oakfrith Wood in Wiltshire, where a community wood fuel co-operative has done some amazing work in protecting and conserving an ancient oak woodland and providing the whole community with wood fuel into the bargain. I’ve written a report which I’ll post soon. In other learning, I’ve enjoyed visits to Wildwood Trust to see their captive breeding and rewilding work, and Chippenham Fen NNR to test water quality.

A willow tree lying flat on the ground with a chainsaw resting on top of it
Felling willow at Frays Farm Meadows

Before Christmas I assisted London Wildlife Trust with a Wild Workday at Frays Farm Meadows, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) outside Uxbridge. On a very windy day, an enthusiastic group of volunteers worked hard doing the essential task of clearing scrub from the edge of a meadow. Volunteers on these corporate work days get a lot out of the experience and this group was no exception, with everyone really putting their back into it. I’ve also been back at Frays Farm with a chainsaw, clearing larger willow trees and branches that were encroaching onto the meadow.

Shortly before Christmas I joined a FORCE volunteering day on Crane Park Island, pollarding osiers (Salix viminalis), a small variety of willow with really bendy branches. London Wildlife Trust can use the willow for basket making and other craft activities and some are used as pea sticks on local allotments. FORCE volunteers also opened up the ruins of old incorporating mills from the gunpowder works that used to operate on the island.

Bundles of pollarded osier around the base of a brick tower
Pollarded osiers bundled up around the shot tower at Crane Park Island

Immediately after Christmas I led another work day on Crane Park Island where local volunteers helped by digging up nettles, clearing path edges and opening up wheelchair / pushchair passing places.

At other reserves, I’ve been clearing cut trees and burning material – the process of meadow restoration in reserves like Crane Meadows involves cutting back trees and scrub so they occupy no more than about 10% of the meadow, hopefully allowing wildflowers to flourish which in turn support invertebrates.

Moving into the new year, there’s much more to come and I’m looking forward to staying busy with more coppicing, pollarding, clearance work, surveying and whatever else comes along.

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