Work Done Archive ( Last Updated 1/1/2017)

Sunday 16th August: A good turnout in pleasant conditions. Scrub clearance at the north end of the wood was the order of the day. This has let in a lot more light and made the footpath easier to use . That done, efforts transferred to clearing bramble from regenerating oak trees.
Wednesday 19th August: about a ton of granite chippings taken by trailer to the western perimeter path, and shovelled into large bags. This gives us a stock of material for path maintenance.  Stone path at far west of perimeter path completed - it was abandoned in haste after a downpour that would have sent Noah hurrying for his ark. A start was then made moving the firewood.
Sunday 23rd August: A large amount of firewood was moved to the stacks near the shed. A very large amount remains to be shifted. Two barriers were rebuilt with cleft oak stakes. The old barriers had largely rotted away. These barriers are built to ensure that horses do not wander onto footpaths, where they would do severe damage once the mud returns. As it always does!
Wednesday 26th August: A select band of three moved another two loads of firewood, and the last of the previous year's cordwood was collected. We now have ample space to park the new cordwood. The long pile of logs remaining to be brought in is already beginning to look a lot shorter.
By way of variety, an hour was spent preparing the uprights for Pete Sparkes' memorial bench. We have decided to do this using traditional hand tools only. The first part of the job is to determine the amount of heartwood available in three large cleft logs, which starts with removing the sapwood with axe and drawknife. This is always a popular task, turning something that  looks old and decayed into fresh and sharp-grained timbers. It also reminds us how durable oak is.
Sunday 30th August This being a Bank Holiday, turnout was predictably low. Two loads of firewood were moved to the stacks, at which point it was noticed that the tractor was losing water and the radiator had boiled. Although the tractor can still be moved, it will not be usable until the problem is fixed. When that will be is not known as the time of writing. The party then set out to deal with a reported fallen ash tree. They were unable to find it.
Wednesday 2nd September: No work party
Sunday 6th September: Several bags of logs were split in a great display of brute force and ignorance. Charles the Human Chainsaw, not to be beaten by the most obtuse of oak grain, reduced several rounds to matchwood without splitting them. A great triumph of the human spirit over mere vegetable truculence.
The party then set out to deal with the mythical ash tree, armed to the teeth with weapons grade steelwork. A half fallen birch tree, supposed to be the tree in question, was felled with the aid of stout sticks, breaking into fragments on impact. The ash tree still eludes us.
The rest of the morning was spent squaring up some cleft oak for the memorial bench, which gave some of our new volunteers a chance to savour the potential of Gransfors axes, while Dave Avens gave all present an object lesson in the use of the adze.
Dave was able to confirm that the tractor has a faulty water pump. Replacement should be simple enough once parts are sourced.
Wednesday 9th September: The basic boundaries of the new coppice were set out. The coppice is basically 400 x 200 feet, and includes the charcoal burning area. A large quantity of unsold produce was chopped up and laid across the worst areas of the path leading to the coppice, which becomes virtually impassable during wet weather.
The mythical ash tree was located at last. It is some way from any path, and poses no danger to walkers. It is a large tree, and getting it to the ground will not be easy. It can be left until ash wood is needed for handles and the  like.
A new water pump has been purchased for the tractor.
Sunday 13th September: A start was made on the new coppice. This has yielded an extraordinary volume of prime produce from a relatively small area of felling. This is probably because this coppice was the first to be properly fenced, meaning that regrowth has not been stunted by the nibbling of deer.
Sunday 20th September: Dave Avens fitted the new water pump for the tractor - in a fraction of the time it would have taken us rank amateurs.  This allowed us to get the saw horses and chopping block to the coppice, so that conversion of what is felled can get started. Most of the work done in the coppice was focussed on organising the conversion area and setting out stacks for new produce. Photographs of the work party will be posted as soon as the present chronicler can find his mini-usb cable.
The introduction of a small new dog provided a great deal of amusement.
Wednesday 23rd September: Most of this small work party was devoted to introducing one our new volunteers to the joy of driving the tractor. No disasters occurred.
Sunday 27th September: Five fencing panels were made from newly cut coppice materials

Panel Making
. The rest of the party moved firewood. Progress today suggests that all the wood can be brought in by two further work parties, after which all efforts will be devoted to coppicing. Further tractor instruction took place, the student (LIzzie Henderson) showing great aptitude in all departments, including, for the first time, reversing with the trailer. This usually makes fools of us all, but not in this case.

  Wednesday 30th September: Two more loads of firewood were brought in, a result made possible only by a revised reversing procedure for the tractor. Hitherto this consisted of a long snaking and narrow route, negotiation of which could take twenty minutes - not to mention a good deal of cursing

Sunday 4th October:  A glorious Autumn day, absolutely perfect for working in the wood. The rest of the firewood was brought in, followed by several six-foot logs, some of which had been mouldering for more than a year. We now have 25 half cords of firewood for sale, and enough material for 40 cleft oak stakes.
Two sections of woven fence were made, completing an order for seven, which the customer, unable to collect them due to a temperamental 4x4, generously paid for in advance. Half a cord of firewood was collected, making £100 takings for the day.
A large stack of birch twigs was built, ready for collection by Avoncroft, who are running a course on besom-making. Could there be any connection with Hallowe'en? Of course not,
 Wednesday 7th October:  A dreary, dripping grey morning. The large stack of birch twigs was taken away, soon, no doubt, to take to the skies over Bromsgrove.  A small and mud-resistant band cleared, snedded and partially converted everything that had been felled on Sunday. As they did so the skies cleared, and by midday conditions were more than pleasant 

Note ''to sned'  means to remove the side growth from the main stem of a sapling or tree. Just one a large number of odd terms you won't find outside a wood!

Anstice took billhook in hand for the first time in her life, and soon developed an action that would not have shamed a professional. This is not a trivial achievement.

The present coupe was the first in which layering was practiced - this consisting of pegging a hazel stem to the ground, where hopefully it will generate a new tree. We have now encountered some of the results of this process, and the success rate is gratifyingly high.

By the close of play, the coppice looked neat and well managed. This is important, as having a clear view of the task in hand makes life a lot easier for the next work party.

Sunday 11th October: Coppicing as usual, in superb Autumn weather. By close of play, a large stack of poles had been built - or rather piled up, clearly indicating that conversion would have to be the main task for the next work party

Wednesday 14th October: A very small select band spent four hours converting the material felled to date, and managed to process two thirds of it

Sunday 17th October:  Mostly devoted to conversion. A very large and some chaotic heap of poles has now been reduced to saleable produce. Very little has so far ended up on the brash pile

Sunday 24th October: A very large workparty made progress on all fronts. Half a dozen fence panels were made, and felling in the coppice has now nearly reached the northern boundary of the coupe. Nearly all the felled material has been pulled down to the saw horses, and conversion has managed - just for once - to keep pace with felling.

Sunday 31st October: Another good turn out, which allowed us to complete the current order for woven fence panels. Felling has new reached the northern boundary of the present compartment..

Wednesday 4th November: A gallant duo waged war on a  large pile of poles awaiting conversion.

Sunday 8th November:  The deepening of Autumn and the looming of Winter revives the practice of fireside coffee and cake, with a merry blaze in the bottom of an old oil drum and the rich aroma of roasting coffee beans wafting through the wood. Of course the resulting brew tasted brilliant - just as sausages burnt over an open fire are far better than anything a master chef can serve up. What a fire may lose us in productivity, it more than makes up in boosted morale.

Good progress was made in all departments, once the workforce had detached itself from the brazier. More evidence of the success of layering was found, with some stools having produced three new trees. We intend to mark all of these and to monitor their progress.

Wednesday 11th November:  Most of our efforts concentrated on conversion, with one more volunteer initiated into the mysteries of bean pole and hedging stake. The existing pile of poles has now been reduced to produced. But Charles the Human Chainsaw had been busy building another one. Shades of painting the Forth Bridge....

At long last we have managed to update the noticeboard, which has long been announcing prices for 2012. As usual, this was a fiddly operation, and underlines the need for a simpler, yet still vandal-resistant board. Memories of the persistent destructive efforts meted out to the old wooden notice board do not die easily.

Sunday 15th November: A well attended work party, with variety provided by advances in coffee-roasting technologies and the construction or rustic trackside furniture. There was even some work done.

Wednesday 18th November: The morning after some particularly high winds, and hence it was no surprise to find the bridlepath blocked by two fallen trees. Those reporting the fact insisted that 'this is a chainsaw job', but they underestimated what you can do with a sharp axe and a good bowsaw. The obstructions were removed in an hour, at which point the weather began a steady deterioration. A retreat was beaten to the shed, where a useful hour was spent reorganising the tools. By this time the rain was battering down from a sky grey to the horizon, and the work party was declared closed.

Sunday 22nd November:  A complete change of focus. The shelter in the craft area, erected more than ten years ago, has for some time been showing signs of collapse. The uprights are severely rotted, and the structure has developed a worrying tilt. It has therefore been demolished. This operation has yielded some first class firewood, and the roofing planks appear to be sound enough to be reclaimed for future use. Inevitably, some of them have been used for the construction of further fireside furniture, creating seating for six people, and further threats to productivity.

It was found that the uprights of the shelter were still quite sound at the core. It is hoped that the disappearance of the shelter will reduce the attraction of the wood  to the nocturnal revellers whose litter we resent having to clear up

Wednesday 25th November: A grey morning of conversion, followed by a battle royal with a large willow stool, led by the human chainsaw, who, never liking to leave a job unfinished, imprisoned himself behind a great pile of branches. An hour was spent reducing these to manageable size. Conditions underfoot were best described as a quagmire, and operations in this area will be suspended until things dry out a bit or freeze solid.

Sunday 29th November: A most surprising workparty. The morning dawned wet, windy and generally horrible, but some die-hards were undeterred. Two trailer loads of cordwood and 100 hedging stakes were sold. The die hards soldiered on in the wettest part of the coppice, and the chance to stand around a particularly well fuelled brazier was more than welcome. The next area for felling in the high forest was marked out, and work will start tomorrow. Work also continues on the memorial bench for Pete Sparkes, the parts for the frame now being sufficiently straight and square for joints to be cut.

Much to our surprise, the rain stopped, but the wind continued to gust up to near gale force. Fortunately, it was a warm wind. No trees were blown over, and no one was killed. (Nothing to laugh at at all).

Wednesday 2nd December A dutiful session of conversion in relatively clement weather conditions. With no fire and no dogs to play with, quite a lot or work was done. The waste pile from recent fence weaving was finally reduced to invisibility, yielding in the process a surprising amount of produce. At least the Sunday crew won't be completely overwhelmed by the pile of sticks to be dealt with. In the western part of the wood, Pete Broadley and his brother are well advanced with felling this year's ride-side clearance.

There had been no rain for a day, and it was a pleasant surprise to see how much the ground can dry out in just 24 hours.

Sunday 6th December: An even more surprising work party. With the country in the hands of Storm Desmond, winds at gale force, and rain a-plenty, the fact that ten people turned up can only attest to an attack of collective idiocy.

With the assistance of David Slater's digger, the ruts which have long been affecting the car park entrance were smoothed out. The problem is that they will reappear soon, largely because the overwhelming majority of vehicles arrive from the Bromsgrove direction. Hence there are few forces to drive the displaced aggregate back in the other direction.  For the time being, we will try raking the surface every week until a more permanent solution can be found.

Coppicing continued in conditions which became so foul that the more sensible workers fled as soon as cake time passed. At that point the weather had a complete change of heart, the sun started to shine, and there was nothing for it but to work on till the whistle blew.

We should note that Pete Broadley has done an excellent job in removing several of the trees around the pond, which have been casting too much shade and dead leaves on the water. The next task is to remove the float grass, something that cannot be done earlier in the year due to the breeding cycle of the great crested newt. A measure of the urgency of this job is furnished by a recent visitor to the wood, who, when taken to see the pond, said 'Where is it?' Right now, the pond resembles a very poorly maintained lawn.

Wednesday 9th December: A couple of die-hards spent the morning reducing the considerable pile of stems generated by the last work party. Most of this was willow, which is little use for anything but burning, so the session lacked variety. Worth doing  nevertheless,

Sunday 13 December. A morning that started grey and grim, but soon improved. It also seemed to follow a recent trend, namely that the worse the conditions, the better the turnout. The recent rains have turned part of the coppice into a swamp, but this has not deterred anyone, and hence the pile of  willow stems has grown again. If only we could find a use for it!  Conditions are not assisted by the fact that there appears to be an old drainage ditch running across the coppice towards the pond. Unfortunately what it achieves in the drainage department is minus the square root of a very  small amount.

David and Amone Jovetic have made a start on clearing the the float grass from the pond. At last one can see open water! A lot more remains to be done, and waders will probably be needed to do it, but at least it is clear that there is a pond here, rather than a flat expanse of grass.

Sunday 20th December  Not a great deal of work was done; with the annual gathering at the Nailers imminent, most people pottered about doing their favourite thing. At 11:30 rools were downed, and the party decamped to the pub. A goodly number of volunteers turned up to give the cheesy chips a thorough bashing. It was particularly pleasing to see some old faces, notably those of Margaret Anderson and Laurence White.

Wednesday 30th December A large ash tree near the car park has been felled by contractors. It was severely rotted at its base and clearly unsafe. At our request, all the wood was left on site. The trunk is mostly straight, and contains a great deal of valuable timber- if we can find a way of sawing it up, our chainsaw mill being defunct. There is also a large amount of firewood, which needs separating from the brash and cutting to length. Two volunteers made a start on this, and have dealt with perhaps a quarter of the more manageable material.  At about 12:15 the rain, which had been no more than a minor irritation, began to pour down in earnest, and the work party was wound up in a hurry.