25th August 2008

Spent the morning volunteering as an information stroller at the Festival of the Tree at Westonbirt Arboretum. Really enjoyed wandering around the site, helping people where I could, and chatting to various stall holders. The chainsaw carving was amazing. The weather kept dry, which was a real bonus. The site would have quickly turned into a quagmire had it rained.

10th August 2008

This month's working party at Westonbirt set to clearing the epicormic growth from the Lime trees on Lime Avenue. Epicormic growth is the shoots that sprout from the base of the trunk, or sometimes part way up. This needs to be removed to prevent the tree going shrubby and losing its shape. Another interesting, productive, and enjoyable morning.

13th July 2008

This morning I spent a couple of hours volunteering at Westonbirt Arboretum. Having done the volunteer's induction course a couple of weeks ago, this was my first opportunity to get involved.

There were about 8 of us in the group, and our task for the day (well a couple of hours actually) was to sort out some coppice in Silkwood. The coppice had been harvested about 5 years ago, and the stools were regenerating nicely. However, the area was being overrun with Alder to the detriment of other species. Our task therefore was to take out all of the Alder, leaving the other species to prosper.

Alder is identified by the obvious lenticels of the bark, plus its leaf shape. The species being removed was either Red or Grey Alder. Ben, the team leader, wasn't sure which it was as he had been told it was Red Alder. However, Red Alder is native to North America and grown as a specimen species. Grey Alder on the other hand is native to Great Britain.

After an hour and a half we had made good progress, but we were all starting to flag in the heat. So we called it a day and returned to the Great Oak Hall (GOH).

Outside the GOH Jane (who helped on the Week In The Woods course last year) and Hazel Moy were bodging. Jane was making wands to accompany her book, and Hazel was making rustic chairs. Having seen her working, I decided it was something I should have a go at when I have some suitable material to hand.

Returned home feeling tired but contented.


7th September 2007

Today is a much more free-format day, with a series of short workshops.

Charcoal Burning - Brian Williamson

Alongside todays workshops there is a charcoal burn. The burn is being done in two 45 gallon oil drums. Both drums are the same, except one also has a lid. The fact that there is only one lid calls for two different mthods. Each drum has had one end cut out, but leaving a lip for the lid to rest on. The other end has four holes in it, each being about 2 inches in diameter.

The first drum was packed with logs of about 3-4 inch diameter and about 9-12 inches long. On top of this some smaller wood was placed to allow a fire to be lit. The fire was lit and fed until a good ember bed had been established. At this point some small diameter green branches were sprung across the top to hold everything in place. Then the drum was carefully inverted and stood on four pieces of crock to create a small airgap around the base. The fire is now at the bottom and starts to dry out the wood in the drum.

The second drum was placed on crocks with the open end uppermost. A fire was lit in the bottom, and wood aded until a good raging fire was burning in the drum. Then logs as above were added until they came just above the rim of the drum. After an hour or so, the logs will have slumped, allowing the lid to be fitted. It should be place on branches allowing the smoke to exit around its perimeter.

From here on, the method is pretty much the same for both drums. During the drying phase, copious amounts of thick white smoke is emitted. This feels cool and damp to the touch. After maybe a couple of hours, the smoke will start to clear to a bluer hue and become drier and warmer. At this stage it is worth shaking or banging the drum as this will give a more even burn. If the smoke returns to white and damp, then leave again.

Once the smoke is consistently blue/clear then the burn is complete. A check can be made by removing the lid. Caution as once air is admitted to the drum, the vapour can spontaneously combust. Check by taking a piece from the top and banging it on the drum. If it breaks apart as charcoal, then the burn is complete. If not, and you are quick enough, you can replace the lid and continue the burn.

The next phase is to close down the burn. This is done by sealing all holes and gaps with crocks and sand, ensuring that there are no gaps left. The drums should now be left overnight to cool.

Before opening the drum, test with you hand that the drum is cold. Then remove the lid. The charcoal can now be removed, sorted and bagged ready for use. Using this method a burn can be complete within 24 hours. If started early in the morning, then the drums can be safely left overnight whilst they cool. They should not be left unattended overnight whilst in the burning or cooking phases.

Sharpening - Brian Williamson/Dave Jackson

A blunt edge will reflect light, whereas a sharp edge will not. Also running your finger across the blade, not along it, will give an indication as your finger will glide over a blunt edge, but a sharp edge will bite. Sharpen to a finer angle for thin wood, and a steeper angle for bigger stuff or where it will be subject to a higher risk of damage such as when laying hedges. The temper of the steel will also affect how it is sharpened.

A grind wheel will produce a hollow-ground edge. Use one to create a basic bevel, and keep cooling in a bucket of water to ensure that the steel keeps it temper. Hone using the basic bevel to set the angle. Coppice tools do not have separate grind and honing angles. Use a canoe stone for billhooks and axes. Use plenty of oil to lubricate the stone, ensuring that the swarf is carried away. Finish using a fine-grade stone.

A skew chisel has a slightly convex shape to the grind, or it can sometimes have a flat grind.

Hone using a small circular action. Do the most difficult side first. This is so that when you start to get tired/bored you will be working on the most comfortable side, and therefore the honing is more likely to be even.

Single-ground tools (those with a bevel on only one side) should be equally sharpened on both sides to avoid a burr developing.

For loppers and secateurs, they should be dismantled and then sharpened as a single-bevelled tool as appropriate.

There is no need to worry about 'wire edges' on tools such as axes and Billhooks, but carpentry tools should be stropped before use.

Avoid really cheap bowsaws, as they tend to have poor blades. Its more cost effective to invest in something like a Sandvik. Should tools get wet, then they should be treated by using a toothbrush to work oil into the blade. Any oil such as 3-in-1, chainsaw, or clean engine oil will do.

When purchasing new tools, remove all varnish from the handles and treat with Linseed Oil.

Protect all edges during storage with guards or rags.

A carving axe has no discernible shoulder between the side and the honing angle, but has a gentle transition between the two.

To get a convex grind, gently rock the edge on the grind wheel.

Use a fine-grade stone. Start with quite a lot of pressure, then reduce until just the weight of the tool is being used. Use a slip-stone to clean buff off of the inside of a spoon-knife.

Bowl Blowing - Hannah

Halve a log and clean up the face, removing all pith wood. Rough up the centre area so that the coals are easier to keep in place.

Apply a pile of charcoal coals, and blow gently or fan to burn out the bowl. Occasionally scrape out the bowl to check on the depth. Make sure it is cleaned properly before attempting to restart.

Round off the edges and corners as required/desired. Sand, and treat with a vegetable oil.

Whistles - Dave

Use an Elder twig about 1/2 inch diameter, or larger. Compress the pith by at least 2 inches, but leave a plug at the far end. Make sure the hole is properly cleared of the pith.

Remove a wedge, making sure it intersects with the pith hole.

Find a stick which is a tight fit in the pith hole. Flatten one side. Insert with flat lining up with the hole, but only as far as the wedge hole. Test by blowing through into the slot. Once it is working, mark the plug, remove, trim, and reinsert.

Walking Stick

Use a metal tube with boiling water in the bottom to steam a Hazel rod. Once supple enough, bend around a pulley-like former, using a peg as a stop. Bend round to just more than the required angle. Tie securely and release from the jig.

Leave for at least 30-40 minutes to cool. Then loosen the binding enough to release the pulley wheel, and re-tie the end back in its original position.

Leave for 4-6 months to fully season. Release from binding, and tidy up as required.

6th September 2007

Today we are making Hazel hurdles. Once the rods have been cut from the coppice stools they need trimming to length with a Billhook and the splitting. To safely trim with a Billhook hold the rod in your left hand and rest against your left thigh with the cutting location behind your leg. Then sweep down, through the rod and behind you. Practice is needed to find the right stance so that the rod is far enough away from your leg to be safe, but close enough to prevent the rod bouncing. To split a rod, start by creating a chisel end so that you can clearly see the pith. Then place the bill of the Billhook onto the end of the rod lining it up with the pith. This is easiest if you stand astride the rod and use your legs as a clamp. Using your free hand tap the end of the Billhook to get the split started. The use a twisting action to open up the split. To correct the direction of the split, increase the bend in the larger side at the point where the split ends, and then open out the split. Making small steps is more accurate than going for a few long splits. When working through a knot start biasing the split very early and remember that the wood will want to veer away from the knot. If you encounter a knot face-on, then you may need to use a club to force the Billhook through the knot. Having split your rods, select 9 pieces for the sails (uprights). Place them into the Mould Block and check for alignment in all planes. Some swapping may be required to achieve this. Start with 3 round poles and form the starting sequence. The build up the height using split poles, largest at the base. Two types of twist are used depending upon whether the sap or heartwood is against the sail. For heartwood, twist back and forth until the fibres separate, then twist round and upwards. For sapwood imagine you are riding a motorbike with you arms until fibres ease, then lift and twist. For round poles, circle the end to stretch the outer fibres, then twist and turn, continuing to twist as the pole is taken around. We then did some Sussex Style weaving which uses shorter lengths from the middle to the end. Finally we did the finishing sequence, which is a complicated sequence that ensures that the top of the hurdle is locked in place. The first pole goes in vertically between the end and second sail, then up to the top and in front of the end sail, so it lies in front of both. Then a double twist and weave to other end, single twist and lock. Second and third poles go in under the top and top two wattles respectively. Weave to end end and twist to lock. Fourth goes in tip first and just runs to the end, but with plenty to spare. Last goes in under top two, weaves to the end, double twist and insert under itself against the 3rd sail from the end. Finally lift the end of the fourth over the top of the last, locking against the end sail. Then trim all the ends neatly.

A hard days work, particularly on the hands and arms. After a short rest, Simon Tooomer, the Curator of Westonbirt Arboretum took us on a guided walk of the ornamental part of the Arboretum. Afterwards there was a barbeque and beer, and we all sat around the fire chatting until well into the night.

5th Septemeber 2007

Had kippers for breakfast this morning. Arrived on site just as the gate was opening at 9. Today I'm doing spoon carving with Dave.

We started off the day trying to identify a selection of logs. Silver Birch was the only one I recognised. The others were Hazel, Cherry, Field Maple, Pear, Alder, and Sycamore. As I have a lot of Sycamore available I decided to work with that one.

We started by cutting a billet to the exact length required, and then split it in half. We then marked up and removed both the pith and sapwood, leaving a small plank. This is because these are the most unstable parts of the wood. Next we drew a plan view of the spoon onto the wide face. Using a hatchet we then removed most of the waste wood, always working downhill. To make accurate cuts knock both the billet and the axe together against the chopping block. Next we drew out the profile onto the newly created side face, and again removed most of the wood with the hatchet, working the back first, leaving the bowl face for now.

Using the carving knife we cleaned up the back face using a variety of cutting techniques. Then we marked the transition from bowl to handle by making a stop-cut. The top face of the handle was then carved. We created the rake on the spoon by using the axe to remove wood in a line from the tip of the bowl, down to the bottom of the stop-cut.

The next phase is to mark and hollow out the bowl, leaving about 2mm around the lip. The final carving step was to tidy everything up with the carving knife.

The final wood-removal phase is to sand everything down starting with 120 grit to remove all imperfections, and then working down to about a 400 grit. We used wet & dry paper. To finish it off it can be treated with any vegetable oil applied with a rag. In the end I used Walnut oil on mine.

Finished just before 5pm. Afterwards I went into Tetbury to fill up the car and get some baked potatoes for this evening's meal. Spuds were cooked in the fire. Left the site about 9pm.

4th September 2007

After another hearty breakfast I headed back to the site, and back to the workshop. Today I'm turning my hand to the pole lathe.

Starting with a 1/4 or 1/8th log which has been cleeved, remove the heartwood using a side axe. The heartwood is not stable enough for turning. The axe was also used to round off all the corners, leaving me with something like an octagonal log. The draw knife was then used to round this off even further, getting to something approximating a cylinder. This rounding off can be done on the lathe, but its harder work and can quickly blunt the tools. The centre of each end was then centrepunched, and a drop of oil added for lubrication. The piece is then mounted in the lathe. The correct way to do this is to hold it in your right hand, pass it behind the cord, and then use your left hand to wrap the cord around a couple of times. This can be reversed if you are left-handed. The cord should leave the piece from the front.

The shape was roughed out using a gouge. Ride the back of the gouge on the piece, and then gradually lift the handle to engage the edge. Always run from uphill downwards as this will stop the grain splitting out. Once the basic shape has been produced, it can be smoothed off using a flat chisel, with the bevel face down. The flat chisel is used much like the blade of a plane to shave the surface. The final tool we used was a skew chisel. Start with the toe down, held on a slight angle to make a cut to the required depth. Repeat from the other side of the cut. Then open out the cut and round off the edges by turning the chisel toe up and using the heel of the chisel to round over the corner. If you need to go deeper, you cn use the very tip of the toe to shave a slice off of each face, allowing the chisel to go in further.

Decorative burns can be added by holding a dry, thin, offcut into the cut and treddling vigourously, although I never quite got the hang of this.

Lunch today was refried beans served with chappatti, and salad.

I made a rounders bat, a handle for my Froe blade, and a practice piece. The Froe handle will need to season for several months before being whittled to a final fit.

I finished about 5 and returned to the campsite. We had dinner of Dahl and chips which Hazel had prepared. We all sat round the fire chatting. The sky was really clear and we had a good view of the Milky Way, Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, and Dolphinus. I left just after 10 to head back to my B&B.

3rd September 2007

I am on a 5-day woodland crafts course, organized jointly by the Small Woods Association, The Green Wood Centre, and the Bill Hogarth MBE Memorial Apprenticeship Trust. The course is to promote the use of traditional woodland crafts through demonstration and practical experience. It can also be used to obtain an OCN certificate, and is a pre-qualifier for applying for a 3-year apprenticeship in coppicing and associated crafts. The location of the course is at the wonderful and inspirational Westonbirt Arboretum.

We met at the Mess Tent for a cup of tea and to receive our name badges and OCN packs. Once everyone had arrived we walked round to the Green Wood Workshop situated in the woods behind the Plant Centre. I'm in the red group, and today we are going to make a cleft gate hurdle.

Cut 2 pieces from Ash poles. The first was cleft in two for the heads (uprights). The other was quartered for the rails. Cleeving is done using a Froe and a Cleeving Brake. We trimmed the top and bottom of the heads, the bottom to act as a point for inserting into the ground, and the top edges were shamfered to avoid splitting when hit as they are being inserted into the ground. The rails were shaped using a side axe and a draw knife on a shave horse. The ends of each rail were roughly shaped to produce an oval tenon.

The smallest tenon was then used to determine the size that the mortices in the heads will be. A template was made from an offcut containing both an oval and a round mortice. The oval mortice was formed by drilling 2 holes with a brace and bit, and then joining them using a specialist tool called a Twybil (pron. Twie-bill). The tenons were then trimmed to the exact size required using the draw knife and shave horse. The top and bottom rails had oval tenons, whilst the middle two rails had round tenons. The tenons were cut such that they were a tight fit in the template, and extended for about an inch bigger than the width of the heads.

Laid out the heads and rails on the ground and marked the top of each mortice on the inside face of the rails. The template was then used to mark the outline of the mortice. Again the mortices were cut using the brace & bit, and the Twybil. Three brace struts were then added. This is traditional, although the design is entirely down to the whim of the maker.

Satisfied with our day's work we headed back to the campsite and the Mess Tent. Most people were making their own dinner, but a few of us heated up some of the Dahl leftover from lunch and had that sat round the fire. Went back to my B&B about 9 o'clock.

28th August 2007

Up again about 7:30. By this time Ben and Josh had put more kindling on the fire and it was close to getting going again. They had obviously studied what I had been doing. We had a short discussion about the dangers of relighting fires, and they understood that it should only be done under supervision. Breakfast was again porridge and toast, with a cup of tea.

After we had cleared up the breakfast things it was time to pack up ready for the journey home. Having packed most of my things I took Nat, Ben and Josh for a walk round the track to the other gate and back, leaving Steve and Will to finish their packing. By 12:30 we were packed and ready to leave. Steve set off, and I followed on behind having said farewell to Pam and Barney.

On the way back we met up at the Newcott Chef for lunch. On the journey back I had a call from Mr Williamson of the pig farm. He wanted to know what I thought about his application. I stated that I disagreed with it as the area should be kept as managed woodland, and not for any kind of livestock. I also said that I thought his buildings were inappropriate for both his proposed purpose and the area. Whether it will make any difference I have no idea, but at least he knows how I feel.

Got back home about 4:30, the end of a fabulous few days.

27th August 2007

By the time I woke up at 8, everybody else was already up and dressed. I got up and helped rekindle the fire. It was colder last night and there is still a chill in the air now at 10:15. Having had breakfast the boys are now playing lighting sticks in the fire.

Steve and the boys went into town to do some shopping whilst I went round to Fernbank to set out the corners of the workshop. On arrival at Fernbank the Buzzard flew down from the top of a tall Oak and down the track away from me. Saw several Gatekeepers, and 4 Dragonflies. Also there was a wren down by the Quarry, and daisy-like flowers at Fernbank. Ben found some Hazelnuts, including some that had been eaten. Later research determined these were probably eaten by a Wood Mouse.

The others came back and we set out the corners more accurately. Dug a trial foundation trench. With use of a mattock its relatively easy. Then headed back to camp to make pasta for lunch.

After lunch we decided to go to Jamaica Inn at Bolventnor. It is the Inn where Daphne Du Maurier placed her book of the same name. There was quite an interesting set of dioramas and a smuggling museum, but the boys wanted to move on through.

Back at camp the boys put on a short play for us. Tea was a fry-up of sausages, bacon, mushrooms, eggs, fried bread, and beans, with a cup of tea. After we'd cleared up Will and Nat cooked some more marshmallows on the fire.

It is getting cooler and damper this evening although there is very high level cloud.

26th August 2007

Again I woke up about 7:30, and by 8 the fire was well on its way. Breakfast of porridge, toast, and a cuppa. The boys had Frosties and toast.

After breakfast we had to restart my car. This involved pushing it into a position where we could get the jump leads to it. Will had to get in and 'drive', whilst Steve, Nat and I pushed. After some hard pushing we managed it, and got my car started.

I then trimmed back a few trees that were starting to encroach on the track.

Steve noticed that Josh had a tick on his neck. After trying to remove it with tweezers we decided to ring Barney for some advice. He said he had a removal gadget, so we went to see him. Removal is by grabbing the head and twisting in an anti-clockwise direction. Alternatively, they can be suffocated by covering them with Vaseline. Also worth treating the area with antiseptic after removal. If a red patch appears around the area then you should immediately get a doctor to do a blood test for Lyme's disease.

By now it was lunchtime so we decided it was time to stop.

Earlier today we had seen an adult and about 6 juvenile lizards. They were dappled brown/green, with the juveniles being almost brown. This area will now be known as lizard corner.

After lunch I cut some more firewood, which Steve and the boys brought back to camp. We now have a large log pile ready for this evening. We're now about to head down to Fernbank for the boys' fire building challenge. Josh's fire was the most efficiently built, although it wouldn't light until rebuilt. Ben's lit straight away and was the most artistic. It burnt really well and was the overall winner. Nats was the most architectural and was a classic cone fire. He would have been been joint winner if he hadn't tried to form a newspaper fuse. Will's was the most dangerous. It took a rebuild and three attempts to light it. Once lit it burnt quite a bit of the surrounding grass. It also shot shale out from the fire. 1st place went to Bem, 2nd to Nat, and equal 3rd to Will and Josh.

Returned to The Hollies and had a Mars Bar before getting the fire going again. Tonight we're having chilli with rice. Mince with Homepride chilli sauce and baked beans, served with a tortilla wrap and a cup of tea.

Steve saw a large red Damselfly at Fernbank. Night before last I heard a Barn Owl to the Southwest. We identified the frog/toad last night as a common toad.

Whilst sitting around the fire, Ben asked what the metal stand we had been using for cooking was called. I didn't have a name for it. Ben said that as it had "Jeff" written on it, we should call it Jeff. So that's its name!

25th August 2007

Woke up at about 8. Got up and restarted the fire. We had a heavy dew last night. Our rubbish bag had been opened and a yoghurt pot taken out and chewed. We came to the conclusion it was probably a fox. Made breakfast. Porridge was close to perfect this time, and serving it in a bowl helped retain the heat. Made toast on the mesh part of the stand, which was perfect.

After breakfast we headed into town to have a look around and do some shopping. We went to the castle first. It was much more impressive and interesting than I thought it would be. We then went into town and got some pasties, sandwiches and drink. We went back to the Castle Lawn and ate in the shade of the trees. We were then going to go to look at the museum, but it was closed (only open on weekdays). After getting some provisions we headed back to the camp.

The sun is really beating down and we are seeking some shade. Steve and the boys are going to have play their "wide game", which is a sort of hide and seek.

At about 4pm a Buzzard flew low over The Hollies and was mobbed by BBJs (Big Black Jobs), probably crows. Ravens were also heard, but not seen on this occasion. Nathanael saw a fox on the track between The Hollies and Fernbank. Will saw what he thinks was a common lizard on the bank at the corner of the turn into The Hollies. Steve saw a Striped Winged Grasshopper, identified by its red markings.

Rekindled the fire and baked some potatoes. Took about 45-50 minutes. Had then with baked beans and cheese, followed by rice pudding and a cup of tea.

It is decidely cooler this evening. It feels like there is a mist rolling in. Complete cloud cover, and quite hazy by 7:30. By9:30 the dew was dripping off the trees and the air was damp and cold, so we decided to turn in for the night. Nat found a tan-coloured frog or toad by their tent.

24th August 2007

I've already lost track of the days. Must've woken about 7:30 and got up about 8. Relit the fire and got the kettle on. Made some more porridge, this time with mixed fruit. Much better, although tomorrow I'll add the fruit during cooking rather than at the end. Cleared up my breakfast things and did some simple QiGong exercises - amazingly refreshing.

Next job is to finish strimming the site ready for Steve's arrival later. Wood Pigeon calling in the distance.

Strimmed the area where Steve will pitch his tent. Its mainly reed there so I haven't been able to get it very short. Hopefully it will be OK. Put the kettle on for a cuppa. Whilst I was waiting for the kettle to boil, Barney appeared. He has a problem with his printer and wondered if I'd take a look. I agreed to take a look in return for a cup of tea. It turned out to be the printer driver not recognising the new ink cartridge had been installed. In return for sorting it out he gave me a bottle of wine, which I accepted reluctantly.

Back at camp I finished off the baguette I bought yesterday for lunch. Time to relax and read my bushcraft magazine. A Gatekeeper is resting on the brambles in The Hollies.

Steve and Co arrived about 2pm. Set up their tent. Went and got some water from the spring. Needed Will and his wellies so that we could get the collapsable bucket under a small waterfall. On the way I spotted a Hawthorn tree. Cut some firewood and then set about making dinner; spaghetti bolognese, yoghurt and a cup of tea. After clearing up we sat down around the fire and the boys did some marshmallows on the fire.

An iridescent Damselfly landed on some brambles in The Hollies. Black wings with an electric blue tail. We chatted well into the evening, and went to bed about 11:30.

23rd August 2007

Woke about 7:00, but didn't get up until about 7:30. Heard a crow fly overhead, together with several wood pigeon. Relit the fire, and had breakfast of porridge with honey, wolfberries, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. OK, but will add fruit tomorrow. It cooled down very quickly in the pan. Oh, and a cup of tea.

Next job is to sort out the car, and then get some shopping. A successful sortie into Launceston to replenish supplies. First job back at site was to rekindle the fire and get a brew going.

Several Dragonflies are buzzing around. Yellow body changing to a blue and black tail from what I could see, about 3 inches long. There is also a cricket or grasshopper in the brambles next to me. What looks like pink heather is growing in the middle of the campsite. Also saw a violet butterfly, about 1 inch across.

Another Dragonfly, this time nearly all yellow and about 3 inches long. Fighting the previous one now. Both are around the brambles.

Soon it was time to start heading down to Bridge Plantation for the Planning Site Meeting. There was about 25 of us including several Parish Councillors, Wildlife Trust and surrounding land owners. Mr Williamson wants to convert his 10 acre plot into a small pig farm. The meeting was to discuss the nature and siting of his proposed buildings; 4 off 4m x 20m. Supposedly they are for storage of fodder and wood products, but they seem completely out of proportion.

Apparently he can change the use of the woodland to agriculture without needing any consent, and he is permitted to erect up to 465 square metres of buildings under permitted development rights. All they can do is object to the siting and appearance of the buildings. However, several people raised objections under wildlife, Rights of Way, and Conservation Acts, so hopefully they will reject the application on these grounds.

Got back to camp about 2 and had soup lunch and a cuppa.

Decided the next job was to sort out some firewood. I cut up the trunks of the trees I had felled by hand on my last visit. Used the car to transport them back. As I was finishing unloading the logs, Barney appeared and invited me back for a drink and a chat.

Pam, Barney, and I sat on their patio. After 2 bottles of beer, Barney and I started on his bottle of Jägermeister, which is a liquorice flavoured spirit, 34% ABV. Between us we finished the whole bottle! Walked rather usteadily back to camp at about 9, and sat in front of the fire until about 10:30. Then went to bed. It was only when I was in bed that I realised that I hadn't had any dinner. Oh well, a bit late now!

22nd August 2007

Dropped of Taz (the cat) and packed the car. Left home about 12:15. Traffic wasn't too bad, but I was in no rush anyway. Stopped at the Newcott Chef for lunch about 1:45.

Arrived at the wood about 3:30. The grass has grown a lot since I was last here. Straight away I set to work with the strimmer, working my way from the track to The Hollies. Barney arrived and told me about a planning site meeting tomorrow further down the track. Someone wants to put in a pig farm! Meeting is at midday tomorrow.

Finished the strimming for today, and pitched the tent. Then it was time to light a fire and get something to eat and drink. I made maccaroni pasta with Campbell's chicken soup. And a cup of tea!

Sun is just starting to go below the horizon (19:45). Will clear up and then sit and relax before having an early night.

Waited until the heat had gone out of the fire. The night was surprisingly light, and by 9:30 only a few stars were visible. First to appear was Arcturus, which was later identified from Ursa Major. Cassiopeia was also seen, together with a few single stars. Went to bed about 9:30.

15 August 2007

I've booked to go on a 5-day Coppicing and Green Woodworking course at Westonbirt Arboretum. The course runs from 3rd to 6th of September. It is organised by the Small Woods Association, The Green Wood Centre, and the Bill Hogarth MBE Memorial Apprenticeship Trust.

Each of the first 4 days concentrates on a particular craft, such as; cleft gates, hurdles, turning, spoon making. The last day is less structured, so you can revisit something from earlier in the week, or try something new. There will also be a charcoal burn.

More details once I've been...

7th July 2007

On my previous trip to the wood I selected a piece of Beech, which I brought back home with me. I had decided some time ago that I wanted to have a go at carving my own spoon. A friend's birthday provided the ideal inspiration.

It took a total of about 7 hours work. This would have been less had I not chosen Beech, and I had not let it dry out so much before starting work. A tough combination for a first attempt. The shape was nothing like the picture I had in my mind when I started out, but was shaped by the wood itself suggesting the size and grain of the wood suggesting the way forward. At the end of the day I had a spoon that was very tactile, sat comfortably in the hand, and looked the part. I'm very pleased with how this has turned out, and has given me the inspiration and confidence to do something else.

Once oiled with Walnut oil, it will be sent off to the intended recipient in a few days time.

26th May 2007

Tony and I visited the wood for the day. First job when we arrived was to get a fire going and make a brew.

Decided that a good task for the day would be to clear some of the overhanging trees from the track in readiness for the lorry that will eventually deliver the cabin. I'd made the stupid decision not to take the chainsaw with me, so we cut down about half a dozen 6" diameter trees with a bowsaw.

Having achieved this, and dragged most of the sizeable debris back to Fernbank, we decided it was time for another brew.

After lunch we investigated the spring to see whether it might be possible to cap it as a source of water. After much consideration we decided that this was impractical, and abandoned the idea.

A section of one of the Beech trees felled was safely stowed in the car ready for taking back home. More about this later...

After an uneventful journey back, and having dropped off Tony, I arrived back home about 9pm, feeling very tired, but very, very satisfied and relaxed.

9th May 2007

Letter received from NCDC confirming approval of my application. Works have to be completed within 5 years of this date.

16th April 2007

Revised Prior Notification Planning Application submitted to NCDC. This time the structure is slightly smaller, and more rustic/utilitarian looking.


15th September 2006

Letter received from DEFRA regarding Phytophthora kernovaie/ Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden Oak Death). They wish to visit the wood to survey and assess for any possible infections.

Permission to visit granted.

24th August 2006

Formally withdrew my application.

17th July 2006

Received a letter from NCDC stating that my application had been refused due to ...

"... detailed plans are required showing:

      1. The siting, design and external appearance of the proposed new 
      agricultural/foresty building."

This makes no sense as full maps and constructional drawings were supplied. Rang David Tapsell, the officer dealing with the case. He said that they had to use a standard reply template and that was the closest reason! In fact, it came down to the fact that they didn't like the appearance, saying it was "too domesticated", although he refused to put it in writing.

26th June 2006

Revised Planning Application received by North Cornwall District Council. This time the correct colours have been used on the map!

31st May 2006

Prior Notification Planning Application for a cabin to be erected in the wood received by North Cornwall District Council. This application is for a cabin to act as a site office for forestry work within the wood.

Letter of receipt states that the enclosed map is insufficient.


18th June 2005

After a long recess, I made a return journey with Tony. The main purpose of this visit was to survey the proposed cabin location to determine how best to construct the foundations. After a good journey down we arrived about 10 o'clock. As we drove down the southern part of the track a Jay took off from the trees ahead of us, across the valley. We parked up, and prepared to brew up. However before the water had boiled, we ran out of gas for the burner. We tried making a brew from the hot water, but it was disgusting. Decided that the only way we were going to get a decent brew was to boil the kettle over a fire. We collected some dry twigs and leaves but couldn't get it to burn. Turns out the birch twigs contain so much sap that they don't burn very well. Anyway. eventually we got a fire going and had the best cup of tea we'd had in ages. After lunch and a siesta we had a wander around and did a bit of tidying up of branches that were encroaching onto the tracks and paths. A White Admiral butterfly was seen by Quarry Turn. We then returned to the proposed site of the cabin (now known as Fernbank) for another cuppa. All too soon it was time to leave. We packed everything away and headed off. As we drove back along Southern Way a Buzzard flew out of the trees and along the track towards the Main Gate. We followed it as it made several short flights along the track and then out along the drive. A fantastic sight. A very pleasant day all round.


20th October 2004

Grant cheque received from the Forestry Commission.

10th October 2004

I had arranged to Meet Mike Roe from the Forestry Commission, for him to inspect the work I have been doing under the Woodland Grant Scheme. He said he was very impressed with the work and was happy to approve my application for payment.

Once Mike had left I had a wonder around. I located a Sweet Chesnut close to the Main Gate. Close by the track is covered with deer tracks. Further into the south-east corner I spotted a small Rhododendrun. This will have to be removed in the near future. My walk took me to the Hollies where I heard a noise in the thicket. Then all of a sudden a deer crashed through the trees and away. Not sure of the species as I could only see a partial silouette.

Moving on I followed the new track towards the western side of the wood. This is where the new quarry has been opened. Unfortnuately, despite all of the recent rain, it is dry. The underlying stone is just too porous to hold water. I now have to decide whether to leave it as it is, or whether to import some clay. Down by the stream, the twisted beech tree is still upright, but shows even more signs of decay. Close by a Robin flitters through the trees.

Whilst stopped for a cup of tea in the new clearing where the cabin will be located, I happened to see a bird at the top of a nearby tree. On closer inspection it turned out to be a woodpecker. By comparing details with my bird book I have determined that it is a Greater Spotted Woodpecker. Identifying features are its silouette, its call, its behaviour and the white patches on its wings. It remained for some time before moving on to pastures new.

By 2pm I had done all I set out to, and so headed back home to Wiltshire.

2nd July 2004

Following a call from Barney, I made a trip down to inspect the work being carried out. To my horror, when I arrived I discovered that the entrance to the wood had been completely cleared and destroyed. A huge area just inside the gate had been completely cleared, destroying many saplings and a large area of brambles.

After some stern words with Roger, I instructed him to rebuild the fenceline with an earthen back, and to regrade the area from the huge spoil bank he had created.

The fallout from the above is that several neighbours have become worried over what my plans might be, and are keeping a careful eye on any work being carried out. In light of this I have decided to postpone the installation of the cabin until spring next year.

5th June 2004

Travelled down to meet up with Steve, Cathy and family. Arrived about 09:45. Having travelled through several banks of fog, the day is clear and bright. Whilst opening the gate, I heard a deer in the thicket just to the south. After getting organised and setting up the kettle, I had a quick wander around. Two magpies were spotted flying over The Hollies. There are no signs that anyone has been in. Cleared a few branches that have started overgrowing the trackway. Noticed an unidentified beetle, so went back for the camera to get a picture of it. Took a couple of pictures using the digital camera, but noticed the batteries were almost exhausted and I don't have any spares with me.

Returned to the car, and decided to take some more pictures of the flora - this time on film. Took several shots of Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) close to the Main Gate. Some of these pictures also included some as yet unidentified thistles, and a Bumble Bee. Also spotted a large blue and yellow dragonfly by the Main Gate. A swarm of bees then passed overhead travelling south.

Steve and Cathy arrived at about 12:15. Had a cup of tea and a spot of lunch sat in the sun. Saw a Jay being chased by another bird, probably of the crow family but not identified. After lunch we went for a tour around. Started in the southeast corner which is now very overgrown. Returned to the main path and followed it round to the west.

We left the track and headed down to the stream where we took a break. The twisted tree is now looking very unstable and appears to have had a bird's nest in one of its holes. Headed back up to the track and noted where the cabin needs to be sited: Heading north along the track from the slate dip, past the next tree, and the holly bush on the left, the next stump in the bank is directly above the glade next to the stream. The cabin need to be sited to the east of the path by the tree stump.

We continued our tour round to the North Gate and back along the road to the Main Gate and back to the cars. We were all in need of another cuppa. The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting in the shade chatting and trying to identify (unsuccessfully) some of the bugs that were around.

Steve and Cathy left about 17:00 to head back to the north coast. I packed away my things and called in at the farm to say hello. Left about 18:30, and arrived home about 20:45. A very pleasant day relaxing in the wood amongst the wildlife.

2nd June 2004

Call from Barney. He has noticed that the Main Gate is open. On further inspection it appears that the padlock bracket has come away from the post. There are no signs that anyone has entered the wood. We therefore surmise that a lorry has used the entrance-way to turn araound, and has nudged the gate. Barney has re-afixed the bracket to the post.

27th January 2004

Spoke to Roger Bloie for an update. He has not done any work in the wood recently, as the ground has been too wet, and he has had problems with the JCB. He says that as I will not be claiming a grant this coming year that I can defer the work until later in the year when the ground has dried out a bit. I need to check this with Mike Roe.

Roger's plan is to go back in sometime before the end of February and clear back the remaining trees and scrub that need clearing. This can be done when the ground is not entirely dry, and doing it this early in the year will avoid disturbing nesting birds later in the year.

We arranged to meet up towards the end of February to discuss routes and plans in more detail.

Spoke to Mike Roe. He confirmed that this should be OK. I need to send him a letter requesting the variation to the contract due to adverse ground conditions. He will then write back when the variation has been authorised.

17th January 2004

This was a day trip to see what the state of the wood was following the winter break, and to see how Roger had been getting on with putting in the tracks. I was accompanied for the day by Caroline. The weather the preceeding week had been very changeable, with a fair amount of rain. This fact was to become significant as you will see later.

We set of from home around 06:30, which looking back on it was a ludicrously early start. Never mind, it meant we had pretty much a full day in the wood. The trip down went without problems, or much traffic. We stopped for breakfast at the Newcott Chef just before the end of the A303. We arrived at the wood at about 09:30 - 09:45, neither of us taking note of the exact time.

Pulling into the gateway it was obvious that Roger had been in, as the ground was churned up where the JCB had been in and out. The stretch from the gate to The Hollies was a tad interesting as we slid around in the mud, grounding at one point.

We headed off on foot following the newly instated track. It was very muddy due to the workings of the JCB. However it has really opened up the wood, and the lie of the land particularly the slope away from the road was quite surprising. We left the track to head down to the stream, which was running strong with all of the run-off. Once you leave the track, you are in dense thicket. Visibility reduces to about 10 metres maximum, and its very easy to lose your sense of direction. As well as the dense branches of the trees, there's the bramble, gorse, and hidden holes and ditches to contend with (much of the evening was spent removing thorns from various parts of my anatomy). Sometimes you can follow the tracks kept clear by the deer, but they're not easy to find. All of the original rides have overgrown and are indistinguishable from the rest of the wood. All of this makes progress slow, but interesting.

Due to the fall of the land, and a couple of trees which have fallen across the stream, there is a marvellous view of the stream cascading down a series of small waterfalls beneath the fallen boughs. The sound of the trickling water is a pure delight. Some time was spent observing the mature trees in this area, notably the pronounced spiral growth on one of the trees. A hefty branch from this tree had come away and slid down the trunk. The top was embracing the main trunk, in a hug of support. There is also what I can only describe as a grotto, where a combination of the stream and the channeled run-off from the fields opposite have scoured out the soil under a tree. This is a really fascinating feature that deserves highlighting. Perhaps it's where the wood faeries live? At this point we disturbed a couple of Roe deer, who took off in opposite directions across the wood.

Continuing along the main track, we eventually arrived at the North Gate, and inspected the northern boundary. This is only marked by a few marker posts, and an ill-defined field bank. The plan is to clear a section on the southern side of this bank, piling the brush on top of the bank. This brush will be secured by poles made from the trunks of the felled trees driven into the bank. This will make the boundary obvious to anyone in the adjoining plots.

We returned along the road to the Main Gate, and headed back to the car. Passing the site where we had grounded, we both commented on how smooth the mud was, and we even made footprints in it. Back at the car we decided it was time for a cup of tea. The stove was set up on a convenient log and the kettle filled. No matches! We searched the car to no avail. I didn't even have the element for the cigarrette lighter in the car. Oh well, hopefully Barney will be at home, and we can borrow a box from him. Barney wasn't in, but Pam was. She had broken her arm just before Christmas whilst cleaning out some kitchen cupboards. The plaster should be coming off in the next week or so. Armed with a box of matches we headed back.

Having been reading a book by Ray Mears, and remembering his instructions for lighting matches I struck one, and immediately burnt the end of my finger. The idea is that you support the back of the match head with your finger whilst striking it to prevent the matchstick snapping. This is fine for 'normal' matches, but not safety matches which ignite furiously in a phosphorous fire. Point noted for the future! At last we sat down for a well earned cup of tea and a chat.

With the day marching on we decided it was time to practice some T'ai Chi. After some much needed warm-up exercises, we went through the Yang Long Form, and then did a bit of work on the four-corners sequence. Then it was back to the stove for another cup of tea.

With the daylight windling we decided to have a bite to eat and then make our way back home. Caroline had prepared a picnic lunch for us which went down very well. By now it was really cold. We loaded up the car and climbed aboard. Manoeuvring out from The Hollies there wasn't much steering grip, and then no traction - the tyres just spinning on the frosty, muddy grass. We tried putting down some brushwood to aid traction but that didn't work either. Next we tried some tarpaulin. No luck there. I know, blankets. They'll work. Nope! By now we didn't even have enough grip to make it onto the blankets, and there was no way we could use them to get through the mud. Remember that mud we grounded on coming in? Not a chance of getting through that. Caroline was meeting up with some friends for the evening, and so had to ring them to say she'd be late. I'm sure they were highly amused by it.

OK, lets give Barney a ring and see if his 4x4 will get us out. He's not in! I'll ring the farm then - I haven't got their number on my phone, and didn't bring it because if I need to speak to them I can always drive down there! We could ring the RAC, but it could take them hours to get a 4x4 to us. Time for a decision. Let's walk down to the farm and see if they're in.

Signs are looking good; there's lights on. Pete is in the yard treating one of the cows. After saying hello, I explain our predicament. "That's OK" he says. "I'll finish what I'm doing and get the tractor out". So we head inside for some warmth and a cup of tea.

Iris wants the story, so we run through it again. Another one for the book, she comments. I obviously have such an affinity with the land that it doesn't want to let me go. I'm sure they'll have a few laughs over it when they tell Barney and Pam. Cup of tea finished, Pete announces he's ready. We ride back on the 'footplate' of the tractor. An interesting ride, but not for the faint-hearted! After a few minutes and more slipping and sliding we are back out on the road. Just at that point Pete's eldest daughter arrives in her car and can't get past the tractor until we've finished. So she'll want to know what happened. My reputation sinks another level!

Back on tarmac we finally head home. After travelling for a good distance I suddenly realise I don't recognise the road we're on. After checking a few signposts I work out where we are. We're on the edge of Shepton Mallet on the road I used to take until I found the better route via Maiden Bradley. How on earth that happened, I have no idea. Oh well, I know the road well enough to get us back home without further incident.

Despite eveything that happened, it was a Grand Day Out.


27th May 2003

Spoke to Roger Bloie regarding the tracks. Agreed to reduce the figure to £9000. WGS application including management plan and map posted to Mike Roe.

22nd May 2003

Spoke to planning depertment at NCDC. I only need planning permission for the tracks if they join up to a classified or trunk road.

21st May 2003

Spoke to Mike Roe regarding the WGS application. He says it will be difficult to get approval for Cat1a roads as the work exceeds the grant limit, and its not considered necessary. He suggested single tracks with hardcore covering. They need a fairly detailed plan, but there is some leaway in actual positioning.

21st April 2003

We had quite a bit of rain last night. Slept through til half-six. Everything was damp, but it wasn't actually raining. First job is to restart the fire., which wasn't too bad as it was still warm from last night.

I decided upon scrambled eggs for breakfast as the margarine has got mixed up with someone else stuff and has gone home. One thing to remember next time is not to make scrambled eggs in a non, non-stick pan unless you have a really good scourer.

After clearing up the breakfast things I restocked the fire with plenty of logs so it should just about survive the morning. I had just sat down to write this when it clouded over and started to drizzle. So another mad dash to get everything under cover.

By the time everything was under cover it had stopped and the sun had started breaking through. Typical! Its now 09:25 and the temperature has reached 8°C.

This morning I have heard a deer in the undergrowth, and also a woodpecker over by the stream somewhere. Crows and magpies have also been seen this morning. There are lots of different birds around, but I can't see them and can't recognise them from their song.

20th April 2003

I woke up a couple of times during the night, but finally got up about half eight. The others were just appearing as well. Jim had survived the night. After a few false starts he managed to get into his hammock in his sleeping bag. He had woken about seven thirty and had been for an explore.

We set to making breakfast; what a feast. Two eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms and black pudding set us up for the day. Mary's kitchen was once again used for the washing up - an excellent construction. It was then time for Matt to leave.

Brian and Mary returned to firewood duties whilst the rest of us went to finish the gates. Alan, Sue and Jo have gone to Salcombe today. The first job on the gates is to fit the hinges. Easy in theory. However the concrete hadn't set properly so the post still wobbled a bit. After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably a couple of hours, the gate was fitted and we returned to The Hollies for a break.

At about midday Brian and Mary departed as they had to pick up Sarah. Simon, Jim and myself headed to the North Gate to fit that. Second problem - the drill battery ran out! I had the brace and bit with me so we drilled the hole by hand. Second gate completed, we returned for a well-earned pint.

By 4 o'clock Simon and Jim were ready to leave, although they needed a jump-start to get the car going. The rest of the afternoon was spent mainly collecting firewood. However I did make Mary a Teamboard 'finger'. The first Lodgegate Wood product. It then started to drizzle so I cleared up the campsite as best I could and restocked the fire. I took shelter under the tailgate of the car.

Matthew rang about 20:15 to see how I was getting on. I told him the news of the day. I must ring Cathy in a minute to see how the party went. Its now getting decidedly chilly and the temperature is cooling down fast. As its stopped raining I shall go and sit by the fire until it gets either too cold or too dark. It feels like its going to be another cold night.

19th April 2003

Woke about 03:00. Its freezing! There is a cold draft coming through the vent in the tent. I repositioned the blanket to form a head shield and went back to sleep. I finally woke up about 7.

The fire was restarted and breakfast cooked and cleared up. Three crows have just arrived. By 10:00 the temperature had only climbed to 8°C!

Matthew arrived soon after ten, with Mary and Brian arriving about 11:00. Alan and Matt made a start on the Main Gate posts. However they soon hit solid rock. After an hour of so I went up to Barney's and borrowed a couple of cold chisels. These helped but we had hit a huge block of rock - it looks like slate but is as hard granite.

By mid afternoon Simon and Jim had arrived and setup camp. Jim is going to sleep in a hammock under a poncho - brave man in this weather. Between Mary and Simon we had virtually a whole canteen - saucepans, crockery, cutlery, picnic bench, wine glasses, mugs, and beer. Mary set to work cooking chilli and rice. By half six it was ready. We all stuffed our faces with superb food. After having cleared up it was starting to get dark and cold, so Alan, Sue and Jo departed for the B&B.

The rest of us built up the fire and settled down to a drink and a chat. By 11 o'clock it was pitch dark and quite a few of us were ready to turn in, so we called it a night.

18th March 2003

I woke again around 5 o'clock which seems to be when the night is at its coldest. However I soon got back to sleep and finally woke about seven, to the sound of the dawn chorus in full song.

Having got dressed, I relaid and relit the fie. Breakfast was soon on the go. After egg, bacon, sausage and mushrooms, the daily camp chores resumed with the washing up and replenishing the fire. The weather is again hot, sunny, and dry. The GPS records it as 28°C at 11:00.

After another few goes at starting the brushcutter I abandonned it for the day. It would have been too hot anyway. I think painting the North Gate would be a good task for the day. Having gathered together the necessary paint and tools, together with a drink I headed off.

The gate was as I had left it, so no one had been using it to gain access to the neighbouring plot. Painting proceeded at a leisurely but steady pace. Amy Bloie cycled past and we said hello. After an hour or so the pot was nearly empty and the gate painted, so I returned to The Hollies.

Took a rest and had a read whilst drinking more water. At half one I decided to go up to Barney's and refill the water tank. Had a nice chat with them. Roger then drove past so I headed back lugging the water. We had a good long chat about the track systems. We decided upon a 'Cat1a' (Ministry of Transport specification) road down to the glade and continuing on to the North Gate. This would mean I don't need a lorry turning circle. Various hard standings will be put along here for cross-cutting and storage of timber awaiting collection.

Roger had a look at the brushcutter, and he couldn't get it working either. We determined that there wasn't a spark. He said I could borrow one of his. We set off and I followed him back to to his house to collect it. I quickly set to work clearing the area by the Main Gate and also along the loop. It is so much easier than doing it by hand, although you need the protective gear as it can throw stones and twigs at you at high speed.

Just after 5 o'clock Alan, Sue, and Jo arrived; visitors 3, 4, and 5 (Vistors 1 and 2 were cousins John & Val who visited whilst I was deciding whether to buy the wood or not). They got stuck in chopping firewood and clearing the main track. This will need renaming once the road goes in. Maybe Eastern Avenue?

By 6 o'clock we were getting hungry. We had planned to go down the pub for a meal. However the chicken needed cooking, so I offered to cook dinner. We had perfectly cooked baked potatoes (1 hour) with chicken and baked beans. After cleaning up we decided to head down to the pub for a drink. The pub is the Elliot Arms at Tregadillet, and it's a wonderful traditional pub with really friendly people. We decided to order a pudding. Sue and I had apple pie and custard, whilst Alan and Jo shared a chocolate fudge cake. Must remember that they stop serving at 21:00. Jo wanted a glass of milk which they rustled up from the kitchen. Alan only wanted half for the second round, but got nearly a full pint. When he commented on it they said "yeah, we're like that", and I believe it. We then headed back. After taking a few astro-photos I retired about half ten.

17th April 2003

Woke at about 05:00. The wood was silent. After about 15 minutes a pigeon signalled the start of the dawn chorus. I dozed back to sleep until about 07:30. Time to get up. The fire was lit and after about an hour it was ready to begin cooking breakfast - egg, bacon, sausage and mushrooms. By the time I'd eaten and cleared up it was about 10:00. A latrine was dug and tested.

Time to assemble the brushcutter - what a hassle. I soon realised how useless the instructions were, and had to work a lot of it out myself. Two hours later I had it assembled and ready to go. I began clearing further along the main track. After a while I had emptied the fuel tank and was exhausted in the heat - time for a sit down.

After a drink and a rest I refilled the brushcutter, but it wouldn't start. I spent well over an hour trying to get it going, but to no avail.

By six o'clock I decided it was dinner time. The fire was stoked and another potato put on. After 40 minutes I put on the chicken and the beans. Total cooking time 45 minutes. This time the potato was a bit hard!

After stoking the fire again for the evening I cleared up. The evening was spent reading my book and drinking a bottle of beer. By 21:30 I was exhausted, a little bit on the cold side, and ready for bed. Another clear night. Whilst lying in bed I could hear a Tawny Owl somewhere in the wood. I can add this to my list along with a raven and a chiff-chaff, not forgetting the pigeons.

16th April 2003

After stopping off at Val & John's last night I arrived at the wood at 14:45. Roger has done a good job of clearing the track and the camping area to be known as "The Hollies".

The weather today has been superb - in the high 70s. After pitching the tent I headed off into Launceston to find Tescos - which I never did! I did find a large co-op on the Newport Industrial Estate. Having stocked up with plenty of provisions I headed back.

Next priority is to light a fire. I got it started easily by using dry grass and dead twigs. However it took some effort to get enough heat into it to become self-sustaining. Eventually I got it sorted and put a baking potato in to cook. Because there wasn't much heat in the fire I decided on a cooking time of 90 minutes.

Quarter of an hour before the cooking time was up I put some chicken breasts on to pan-fry in butter. Well the potato was a disaster - a ball of charcoal with a bit of potato in the middle. I'll try for an hour next time! The chicken was superb though. Time to put on a pan to boil some washing up water.

Having cleared up I sat down by the fire in my chair with a bottle of beer listening to the birds. Absolute heaven. It is now 20:45 and its the limit of there being enough light to write by. Time to relax, watch the wood go to sleep, and then join it.

17th March 2003

Met up with Roger and Mike Roe. Did an initial survey. We agreed that a proper detailed plan was not feasible at this time. Agreed that opening of the tracks and general cleaning and thinning should be the main priorities. Need to progress the grant application as soon as possible. Suggested that a network of made-up tracks should be installed to improve access. However these may require planning permission. I need to speak to Max Burden at North Cornwall District Council (the Planning Authority for this area).

After Mike had left I continued discussions with Roger. We agreed to install a track up to the first campsite ("The Hollies") before Easter and to meet up again then to discuss plans in more detail.

16th March 2003

Arrived at approximately 11:30. Painted the main gate with Hammerite. Only managed a single, thin coat. It will need another one at least. One 500ml tin does one coat of a gate. Also did a small amount of tidying around the entrance way.

11th March 2003

Phone call from Roger Bloie. Arranged to meet him and Mike Roe on Monday 17th March to discuss clearance of tracks and future plans.

27th February 2003

Phone call to Roger Bloie, regarding clearance of tracks. He is keen to help and says I should apply for a grant. He knows Mike Roe at the Forestry Commission who is responsible for grants etc. Roger will try and arrange a meeting.

22nd February 2003

First visit since purchasing the wood. Accompanied by cousins Val & John. The purpose of this trip is mainly to perform an initial survey, and to decide upon a plan of action.

We began at the southern-most gate and headed towards the southern boundary making a note of plant species found along the way. We located the southern boundary together with an access through to the adjoining plot in the southeast corner. From here we followed the southern boundary as best we could, and eventually reached the southwest corner, and the spring.

We continued around the perimeter as best we could, given the lie of the land and the swamp areas. We located the boundary between Lodgegate and Beech woods in a relatively open area of bracken. Here we found an 'ivy lollipop'. At this point we headed down to the stream. Our journey continued along the western edge, heading northwards. The northwest corner is very boggy and not accessible.

Turning east we made our way along the northern boundary until we reached the main track, and then headed back to the car for a well earned cuppa, and lunch.

After lunch we traced the eastern boundary north, eventually reaching the north gate. Here we picked up the other end of the main track and traced its route back to the main (southern) gate.

After another break we headed back to the stream for another look. Here we found a badger sett with at least 6 tunnels. By now the light was starting to fade, so we headed back home.

Plants found were; hard fern, hazel, common ash, willow, gorse, beech, dogwood, hornbeam, bramble, birch, honeysuckle, sweet chestnut, bracken, holly, polypody, cherry laurel, ivy, scotts pine, sessile oak, ash, sulphurtuft, foxgloves, rhododendron, and various lichens. Evidence of deer, badgers, and squirrels was also found.

The first time we met

Not a true part of the diary of my ownership of the wood, but a story that deserves recording anyway...

Having looked at the details for two adjoining plots of land, known as Lodgegate Wood and Beech Wood, I decided to take a look. A nearby farm does B&B so I decided to go down after work one summer's Friday, stay overnight at the farm and have a good look round on the Saturday before returning home. My night's stay was booked and I headed off.

Not really having any idea of how long it would take to get there I allowed 4 hours. However it turned out that it only took two and a half. So I arrived at the wood about 8 o'clock in the evening. Being much too early to go down to the farm, I decided to have a look round the wood first. With the sun not setting until about 9, I had plenty of time - or so I thought.

The undergrowth is so thick that its hard to see very far in any direction. So I decided to make for the southern boundary and follow that for a bit. This was easily done. I then followed a series of deer tracks through the wood, ending up at the stream on the far side of the wood. By now it was getting on toward 9 so I decided to head back to the car, even though I had only covered half of the wood. Having located the boundary between the two plots, I calculated that the car was pretty much due east from where I was. And so I set off.

After trudging through the undergrowth for a while I suddenly came upon a fence I couldn't identify, and a field full of cows beyond it. Hmmm... A good few minutes were spent trying to work out where I was. By now it was almost dark, and the few landmarks that are visible from the wood were fading into the gloom.

I think I better ring the farm and tell them I'm going to be a bit late. Luckily I can remember their phone number. "Hello, its Graham here. I'm lost in the wood". I tried to describe the location and the fact that I was stood next to a field of cows. "Hmm" says Pete, "The only cows I know of are mine, and they're all inside". OK, lets try something else. I can hear a chainsaw being used. Pete can't. Let's try and get a bearing. The sun has completely gone now, but there is a lighter patch in the sky. Pete says that's in the west, so I need to head directly away from it and that will put me near to the road. Iris' father was about to leave and he agreed to sound his car horn as he passed the gate, so I could get a bearing off that. Well, I never did hear it.

So I turned about and headed off, keeping in as straight a line as possible... and sunk up to my knees in mud! With both legs stuck fast I lose my balance and fall over backwards into the mud. Dragging my legs out of the mud, one of my trainers comes off - coming straight from work I wasn't exactly dressed for the wilderness - leaving it somewhere in the mud. With no change of clothes I had to find it.

The next 15-20 minutes was spent digging around in the mud trying to find the trainer. With the mud being cold and wet, I soon lost any sensitivity in my fingers so I ended up scooping up anything that wasn't watery. Eventually I found it, packed full of mud.

Having regained a full set of clothing I set of again, and soon found another bit of marshy bog. I was now so wet and muddy I decided it was better to 'swim' through it rather than try and go round and lose my direction again. Having swam across another couple of streams I finally found solid ground, and a deer track that I recognised.

A few minutes later I was back at the car. Wet, and plastered in mud. I scraped the worst off with my bare hands, but it didn't have much of impact on my general appearance. The next problem is how the get myself and the car down to the farm without covering the inside of the car with mud aswell. I can't sit down in the car as I am, without plastering the driver's seat in mud. I also can't put my trainers on without spending ages clearing the mud out of them.

The only clean clothing I had in the car was my coat. So I took the decision to take of my shoes, socks and trousers, and put my coat on (which luckily came down to my knees) to drive down to the farm. By now Pete and Iris were getting a bit worried, and were looking out for the car. So when I pulled up, Iris came out to meet me. So I get out of the car, seemingly wearing nothing but a coat! "Hello, I've had a bit of an accident" says I.

It takes a few minutes fighting back the laughter to explain what had happened. I asked if they had a hosepipe I could use to wash myself and my clothes down. Iris told me to go upstairs and have a bath and go to bed, and to leave my clothes outside the door and she'd sort them out.

After a fairly good night's sleep I woke up and wondered what I was going to do now. I didn't know where my clothes were, and there were two elderly ladies also staying that night. So I gingerly opened the door, and found my clothes, clean and neatly folded outside my room.

I dressed and sheepishly went down for breakfast. Luckily the two ladies had no idea of the events of the night before. I got a few wry smiles and a friendly ribbing from Iris. I paid up and left later that morning. After all that I still bought the wood!