Winter 09/10

What a winter! Ok, it’s the usual weather report, but, hey, in a few years time looking back this might be really interesting, so hang in here. We had a lot, and I mean a lot, of snow and rain and cold. In fact, like English winters ought to be. Ruts where Nellie ran through to help us with our tree work, soggy ground in other places to walk on and the ponds and scrapes are full again, at last after the dry autumn.

We did as much work as we had time for. Pruning in Oat Field, the first planted field, took a minimum time because from now no more will need to be done. Claire helped to remove rabbit guards and canes from the hedge thicket, a task we never got around to last winter but it could not have waited another year because already some shrubs had grown around their guards; growing so thickly together they were ignored in previous years. But now it’s done. Rye Field, being so far behind in tree growth due to the heavy soil, will have to be pruned next year probably. Big Field, the last planted, is doing so well that probably next year also will be the last for pruning, if we think it necessary.

Another big task for this winter was to remove the oak shelters from Rye Field and Big Field. The photo in the Gallery shows how they were shredding - and those were replaced two years ago (or three? I can’t remember off the top of my head). Not impressive. Yet the oak shelters in Oat Field were apparently exactly the same; they are still in place, though many are now being split by the oak tree as it grows bigger than the shelter. This is how they are supposed to behave. So now many rabbit guards and oak shelters are removed and when we look across the fields it looks much more like woodland than rows of plastic.

The hollies suffered where their small guards split like the oak shelters and voles could creep in to bark the stems. The stems are now protected again but it may be too late for some of the plants. Deer damage has, thankfully, been at a minimum at a higher level where we cannot offer protection.

While working in Gimswood we had the opportunity to observe the wildlife. In the early winter the snipe seemed to move away but are now back with the milder weather. We did not see a barn owl at all, but there was plenty of buzzard activity. We found a caterpillar, some chrysalises, a lacewing, several ladybirds (2 and 7 spot but no Harlequins) and a moth hiding in the guards and shelters. Hopefully they will find alternative winter accommodation when there are no guards at all. More than a couple of beautiful tiny bird nests were in the shrubs, woven out of grass or wool or moss and twigs. They were very small but in my ignorance I will not hazard a guess as to the owners. There are now plenty of potential nesting sites in the piles of brash we have left for that purpose. Just the place for wrens and goldcrests, maybe even blackbirds. We heard jackdaws and pheasants calling, saw magpies and robins, a fox, four small deer, bluetit, kestrels. Not all at once on one day of course, but wildlife is going on there in Gimswood. That is its aim and the aim is obviously being achieved.

snow 4