For a while now, the National Trust has been encouraging young people to get out and about, experience the countryside, climb a tree, dip a pond, spot an insect – that kind of thing. At Gibside, visiting groups of youngsters get to build shelters from branches and twigs, and sit on logs around a communal fire just like we oldies used to do. All good stuff, we think. Those of us who were in the Scouts and Guides used to cook inedible pastry things on green sticks to accompany our charred-on -the-outside pink-in-the-middle sausages, but it’s unlikely that that falls within the perceived safety zone these days.
|A camp fire circle|
Anyway, to get to the point: last week, by request, we worked in the Den Building Area clearing the woodland floor of branches, logs and twigs, and made neat, graded piles ready for use in building dens. We quite enjoyed the work. We even made a path. And it’s not unusual to heave timber around to improve the habitat or prepare the ground for planting. But tidying up nature before the children arrive is a new one.
|A den and cleared woodland floor|
This week, we’ve been at it again. The Forestry Commission have clear felled and removed considerable numbers of trees from West Wood, leaving much of the ground strewn with brash. So that the area can be replanted, we have to clear it. As previously reported, we made a start earlier in the year. Now we’ve moved to another sector, and bit by bit West Wood will become re-established as native woodland, and thoroughly deserve its designation as a Local Wildlife Site. Maybe we could get some children to help us tidy up; that would make it fifty-one things done before they reach the age of eleven and three quarters.
|The scale of the problem|
|Building a wall with the brash|
|The finished wall or perhaps a fence for horse racing!|
The weather has been miserable for the last six or eight weeks, postponing spring. But colour is returning to our woods. Wood sorrel, wood anemone, golden saxifrage, lesser celandine, coltsfoot, and ramsons are all in flower. The sun is shining, and birds are nesting.
|Ramsons just coming into flower|
|Even the cut western hemlock has flowers|
Steve Wootten & Phil Coyne