Sunday, 7 December 2008

Killynether: Woodland Management

I drove along the narrow country road very carefully yesterday morning. It was freezing and the puddles were as hard as an ice-rink. The entrance to Killynether woods is concealed; in fact I indicated too early, at another side entrance. I arrived on the dot of nine-thirty and Patricia was in the car-park already, so we shared a cup of coffee.

There used to be a rambling, Victorian mansion here, aptly named Killynether House; it was used by the US Army during the Second World War and then became a youth hostel for a spell before it was demolished.

There were nine of us today, which is a relatively good turn-out. Two staff from Minnowburn joined us with their chain-saws and equipment. We all got into the Land-rover and Mitsubishi, and drove further into the woods. We've been undertaking a gradual, phased process of coppicing in the middle of Killynether, on a steep slope at the side of a hill.

As Craig and Sean cut down hazel trees, we piled the branches on to a big bonfire we'd lit. Lighting a fire was the first task of the day! We'd brought some newspaper; Craig threw me a cigarette-lighter, and the fire lit immediately I'm glad to say. It was blazing, with an intense heat, within an hour. Poor Helen: she, or her fleece jacket, was peppered with little embers from the fire and sported lots of small, blackened holes! Never wear good clothes when doing this sort of work.

Coppicing entails cutting the trees right down to stumps at ground level, thus encouraging the growth of new branches in subsequent years. This method was used as a regular supply for fire-wood, and still is in some places. In our case it is simply for woodland management: bringing some daylight - sunlight - into the woods, thus fostering the growth or new flora and wildlife.

I'd treated myself to a Tesco Special: turkey sandwiches with all the trimmings! I dislike spending £2.50 on sandwiches (the very thought of the profit they make); however, these seasonal sandwiches were really sumptuous. They even had cranberry sauce and stuffing, sliced sausage etc.

The bonfire was still well alight when we left, late in the afternoon. Craig produced a packet of marshmallows and instructed us all to find a small branch each; then skewer the mallows thereon and toast them! Curiously enough, it worked.

Finally, later in the evening and slightly weary, I lifted the phone and ring Sam for a Chinese meal to be delivered. I'm getting rather partial to those beansprouts.

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