Happy New Year! 2021, who knew?
After a solid break, consisting of feasting and resting, I’m back in the woods. Here’s what’s been happening this past week:
On Wednesday, veteran mountain biker Chris Farquar and I took up arms and set to work dismantling the knackered old wooden bike jumps above the dragon’s den. These timber creations have seen many good days of use – their time had come as they were pretty well rotted in parts and not the safest. The many nails sticking out was also pretty worrying. Smashing them up with a big mell (after the chainsaw hit one too many hidden nails!), we heaped them well out of the way to be swallowed up by the forest. The timber jumps along the trail ‘Street Fighter’ were also taken care of. Chris has agreed to plug away at improving these trails in lieu of the missing wooden jumps – the result of which will be more organic and certainly less hazardous.
However, where one is destroyed one more appears. Freshly constructed jumps were noticed in a different part of the wood, and their presence was passed on to me. I do not appreciate this kind of construction happening without any kind of permission, as in this particular case the new trail passed by extremely close to one of our pine marten den boxes. The disturbance caused by mountain bikers using the trail means it is very unlikely that the box will be utilised by martens – who by nature are shy, retiring creatures.
On Saturday, I joined Angus and his lad Owain for another round of Rhody clearing at the castle pond. Mighty progress has been made here of recent weeks thanks to their steady efforts. It is hoped this clearance work, as well as making the pond a more pleasant place to spend time, will improve the habitat value of the pond by allowing more light to reach the water and the water’s edge. This should allow for the development of aquatic plants in the water as well as marginal plants along the bank. The nice, tight piles of cut wood will also make for hibernacula (places to hide and hibernate) for frogs, and newts. Really excited to watch this one unfold!
Speaking of habitat, I am excited to announce that a new club is in formation. The Gillies Hill Natural History Club will be a group of folk interested in the wildlife and ecology of the woods. I intend to bring the group together for regular meetings to engage in such pursuits as pond-dipping, moth trapping, bat detecting, fungi walks and the monitoring of the various boxes we have in place – when of course restrictions are eased, and we are allowed to come together. For now, we have a Facebook group of the same name for sharing photos etc. Anyone who would be interested in joining the new club please drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will add you to the list. Hopefully it won’t be too long til we can make stuff happen.
Though a year seems like a long time for us, especially this past year, for a woodland it is the blink of an eye. I know to a lot of folk in the village the woods have been a great source of comfort and wellbeing in these dark days of the virus. As we enter a new period of lockdown, I hope you can gain some inspiration and uplift from being among the trees, surrounded by the comings and goings of the wildlife we share it with. The robins, particularly, are very curious at the moment and will come and say hi if you are patient. How lucky we are to have this place on our doorstep.
As ever, please don’t hesitate to get in touch about anything woodsy.
Cheers for now,