August Update

As it’s coming to the end of August I thought I’d post an update of some of the work we’ve been doing in recent weeks.

The path restoration work has been continuing as many paths were in bad shape after a very wet 2012. This involves removing the sludge and backfilling with stone chippings, fortunately our volunteers have been at hand to provide much of the muscle. On the subject of path improvements we have had externally funded contractors make good an area on the bridleway of the South East corner of the woods that was in bad shape after gas repair work.

As some paths were in bad shape much of the timber extraction from our winter work was delayed until the summer. This has now been completed using our new forwarding trailer. We intend to use much of the chestnut for replacing the dilapidated fence at Coldrum Longbarrow. Good straight lengths of oak we will mill into posts and planks for our own use. The rest of the extracted timber will be processed into logs, seasoned then sold locally.

Our log sheds are full to bursting with seasoned logs awaiting the demand for logs when the evenings grow colder. I’ve already begun taking out some deliveries to some households who are stocking up on logs before Autumn.

A handful of dangerous trees around paths have been removed in the last few weeks. We try to be as pro-active as possible when spotting dangerous trees and hanging branches but rely on members of the public letting us know of any potentially serious hazards. The office number is 01689 826393 if you spot anything that has real potential to cause injury.

Using the tractor and flail, volunteer elbow grease and selective herbicide we have been maintaining the heather plots and eliminating the three b’s of bracken, birch and bramble which ingress upon the heather patches. We would appreciate it if people would not walk across the plots as this establishes paths and bare patches which are unslightly and damage the heather.

We enjoyed a walk around Wrotham Water Farm with the committee. This involved a tour led by Sam around the chalk downland there and some of the tenanted farm. Everyone coped admirably with some very steep slopes and had an enjoyable picnic despite the drizzle. Sheep are currently grazing our ‘in hand’ fields at Wrotham. The challenge therein is moving the sheep between fields to ensure sufficient grazing on over grown areas yet protect other areas from being over grazed. Scrub clearance is commencing in a few weeks time, which begins a five year project to make Wrotham Water one of the very best examples of chalk grassland in Kent.

I’ve been using herbicide to control invasive species such as Laurel and Rhododendron which are often found hiding off the beaten track in the middle of compartments.

Charcoal produced through our burn earlier in the summer were taken over to Ightham Mote to stock the shop there. Another charcoal burn is planned later on in September so that we have enough bagged up to meet any early summer rush next summer.

Brick Field (the open area adjacent to the Gosshill Road entrance) has been cut using the tractor and flail. Our volunteers then raked and removed the cuttings. This stops the nutrients re-entering the soil, meaning that in time nitrogen loving weeds such as Thistle and Stinging Nettle that intersperse the grasses should give way to meadow wildflowers. We’re considering two cuts next year to accelerate this process.

Now that bird nesting season is over much of the heavier woodland management work can begin in earnest. I’ll endeavour to post regular pictures and updates.

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About Richard

Ranger Petts Wood & Hawkswood Estate
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