Monday 21 December 2015

A wee bit of shelter

So we've all been talking a lot about the weather. For those of you not in the Dumfries and Galloway area - we've had a fair bit of rain. In fact a lot of rain. Really it rains pretty much all of the time and has done for the last couple of months.
But that hasn't deterred our Corehead volunteer team from tackling a new project - starting the clearance of our shelterbelts. When we purchased Corehead in 2009, we did inherit some trees but they were in the form of mostly non-native conifers such as Larch and Sitka Spruce and were planted in 4 shelterbelts.
A shelterbelt is a group of trees often planted to give (you guessed it!) shelter! The trees would give some protection from harsh weather conditions and on farms it is often a place where stock can gather for shelter.
We had hoped to tackle these earlier but are currently working on a plan to address how best to go about this - it all takes time.
In the meantime we have started to do some small scale clearance of windblown trees in InBye Wood. This is the easiest of all our shelterbelts to access and really was in a bit of a mess with access difficult making it all rather unsafe!
Where to start!!??
It's trees like this that we've been tackling. Cue the embarrassing stuck chainsaw picture!
We decided to clear up as much as possible. Whilst it's not a great thing to talk about 'tidying' a woodland ('untidy' woodlands are often the most diverse) we agreed that doing some clearance so that we could at least move around in there would be a good start. We agreed to stack any large wood and leave this to decay naturally (most of it was rotten to begin with) and burn any brash on a raised platform to minimise damage to the ground.
Our burning platform. Corrugated sheets of iron on some metal field gates set on rolls of old mesh fencing wire.

The fire gets well going!
And the platform means scaring and damage is minimal.
There is also a fringe of laurel bushes on the northern edge. Laurel is not a shrub we would want to encourage - it can be very invasive and take over large areas - so that was to come out as well. But instead of burning the brash we created piles - did you know laurel leaves have cyanide in them? Not a great idea therefore to burn on the fire and realise into the air for those around to breathe in!
Tackling the laurel!
We have spent around 3 days working in the shelterbelt and it's definitely made a huge difference already. There is still plenty of work to do and, funds permitting, we will look to do more felling (subject to approval from the Forestry Commission and SNH). We are investigating opportunities for selling any wood we take out - much of it is past it's best or too tricky to extract without causing a lot of damage but we are considering all options!
Site Officer

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