It’s the last Wednesday of February, and Gibside is closed. Like much of the country, the weather has got the better of us. We bloggers quite like the snow, but working in it wouldn’t have been at all pleasant. Then there are health and safety considerations, I suppose.
|A thin dusting of snow earlier in the month|
The month started in a gloom of damp vegetation with little sign of new growth. But, it’s February. Soon birch, hazel, snowdrop and gorse were all in flower, with fresh hawthorn leaves providing a hint of green. We’ve had some very wet and windy Wednesdays, but some that have been perfectly still with an early morning light that has lasted all day. As so often happens as we work, robin and red kite visit to see if there are easy pickings to be had from us causing disturbance. Red kites drift off disappointed or uninterested; brave robins get a bite to eat.
|Loading branches onto the truck|
We’ve worked hard this month. One of our jobs is to move things from one place to another. Sometimes we move them back again. Recently we shifted branches from den building area to the Birthday Area, ready for den-building. That’s right, the Birthday Area. It seems not that long ago that we moved them from the birch wood (or Birthday Area) to beech wood Den Building Area. There’s a purpose to everything, I’m sure.
Building the "Great Wall of Gibside", a wall of brash
to mark out the boundary of a footpath on Skyline walk
We’ve had more fires in order to rid West Wood of western hemlock brash. Fire lighting and tending continues to be a little competitive. Consequently, we’re all getting better at it. Well, nearly all. There is an art to it. Little tricks like knowing that birch bark lights whatever the weather, that feeding a fire by laying branches and twigs parallel, and not poking or otherwise interfering are key to success.
|Sunlight through the smoke|
Last week, before the snows came, we were back in Snipes Dene – pulling out or cutting down western hemlock and larch. We ring-barked a few of the larger larch. That is, by stripping bark from a small section in a complete circle around the trunk, the tree will die off, still standing upright. And dead trees standing create a different mini-habitat to dead trees lying down. And we don’t have to move them anywhere.
|Gorse in flower|
|Western hemlock cones - seeds for future work!|
Steve Wootten & Phil Coyne