Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Nordic Walking

The first Nordic Walking session on Wenlock Edge is now full and there are just a few places left on the afternoon session which starts at 1pm. If your thinking about giving it a go you need to be quick and get yourself booked on before its too late! A welcome break from the hordes of Christmas shoppers.
So if you fancy trying a low impact full body workout, which is also one of the fastest growing activities in the world  then either ring 07948072075 or e-mail chris.dunkerley@nationaltrust.org.uk  to book. The event costs £6 and includes 40 minutes tuition in the correct technique by qualified instructors, pole hire and a 1 hour walk on Wenlock Edge. Booking is essential.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Timber extraction

We are making the most of the wonderful weather by winching felled timber out of the wood whilst the ground is dry and hard. Doing the work while the ground is frozed reduces ground disturbance and allows the tractor to go further up the hill, reducing the distance we have to pull out the cables.
Lengths of timber, laid out ready for extraction.
All of this timber will eventually be sold as firewood, giving us a bit of money towards carrying out the work.
The more tidily the trees are felled the easier and quicker it is to extract them, lining them all up in the right direction certainly makes the tractor driver and cable operator happy people. This is a good reason for being involved in the job from start to finish.

Lengths heading down to the bay.
The lengths of timber are taken from the steep slope down to a relatively flat area before being cut into the desired lengths, from here they can be stacked for drying out or collection by lorry.

Last load of the day being unhooked.


Getting the fire started, early in the day.
Those wonderful people called the Wolverhampton National Trust Conservation Volunteers paid Wenlock Edge another visit on Sunday. The job involved clearing scrub from some small quarries and a grassy ride so that wildflowers and butterflies will benefit. With temperatures of about minus 6 in the morning the lighting of the fire was certainly welcome. The group worked really well as always and had soon cleared a large area, by lunchtime it became apparent that they were going to exceed my expectations of how much they would achieve, easily.
The sun shone and there wasn't a cloud in the sky, it was an absolutely stunning day to be outside, even better to be outside doing something that will benefit wildlife.
Nearly done, looking much better.
Most of the scrub was Blackthorn and therefore it was very prickly and difficult to seperate as it had all become entwined, it didn't take us long though to complete the section and link it up with an area that had previously been cleared by our Tuesday volunteers.
This was very satisfying and all that was left to do was pack up as we enjoyed a wonderful sunset.
Thankyou to all who attended and i look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bird hide moves a step closer

I was fortunate to have assistance from Shrewsbury School Ornithology Group today in working on the bird hide. They also came last week and have now positioned the 6 uprights in the ground, this involved digging down 1 metre through rock before dropping in the post and packing the soil and rock back into the hole around it. The groups help certainly speeded the job up and thoughts can now turn to weather proofing it over the next few weeks. The hide is situated near the lime kilns at Presthope and when finished will offer people the chance to view the woodland birds feeding whilst sitting in relative comfort.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Woodland Thinning

Looking up hill at the start of the job.
Alistair and myself have been thinning the trees out in Northway wood for the past few months, with the help of Seamus and Lee from Broadacre Tree Services. Throughout Autumn and Winter this work accounts for 3 days work per week. The work is necessary as the trees are so close together that it is starting to inhibit their growth, if left the area would have very few quality, large trees that in the future would provide usable timber as well as valuable habitat for insects and nesting birds. The trees compete for light, which whilst they are young is good as it encourages vertical growth, as the trees get older they require more space so that they can put on girth in the trunk (timber).
Well in advance of commencing felling, the trees that are to be removed such as the ones with the worst form, least vigour, diseased or damaged by squirrels are marked. An application is then made to the Forestry Commission to carry out the planned work, once this is agreed in the form of a licence being granted we can begin.
By thinning the trees more sunlight can reach the woodland floor, this encourages the growth of wild flowers such as primroses and also allows tree seeds to germinate and become established. These will be the future trees of Wenlock Edge, so whilst it may seem bad that so many trees are being cut down it is actually beneficial to the woodland in the long term.
The trees are felled in such a way that they are in rows, pointing down the hill. This makes the task of extracting the timber with a tractor mounted winch much easier. Once winched down the hill the wood is processed into the required lengths depending on the tree species. Hardwood goes mainly for firewood whilst softwood often becomes fence posts of different sizes. Lengths are then stacked accordingly by hand ready for selling on.
Alistair tackling a 40 year old Spruce!
This area we are working in was planted with Larch and Sitka Spruce about 40 years ago, the Larch trees have generally grown well but much of the Spruce has not done so well. Removal of these trees takes time but there is no value in them so it becomes harder to make any money from doing the job. Hopefully in the future the trees that are left will provide a better source of income. In the mean time we will be left with a diverse woodland with a variety of ages of trees, rich in a variety of flora and fauna.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Dormice Thrive on the Edge

Twice yearly (since 1999) I check the dormouse boxes in the woods along Wenlock Edge. It is always a great task to do and my visits this year were amongst the best. I normally hope that 20% of the boxes will show signs of use by dormice, but in 2010 it was almost double that with some boxes having more than one brood.

It’s not just finding dormice that makes checking the boxes such a rewarding day out.  This year, nearly all of the boxes provided homes or shelter for something – nests of woodmice, voles, birds, wasps and even a roost of brown long-eared bats were found. 

Over the last 100 years, dormouse populations in Britain have dramatically declined, mainly due to the loss and fragmentation of their habitat. They are legally protected both nationally and internationally.  Shropshire is a significant county for dormice as it approaches their northwesterly limit in Europe, so they are particularly vulnerable.  Wenlock Edge is the county stronghold. 

The woodland management on Wenlock Edge, in particular rotational coppice and reversion of conifer areas to broadleaf trees, accounts for the thriving dormouse population. However, the reason for the big increase this year is unclear.  Perhaps the very cold winter was beneficial, allowing them to have a really solid hibernation. Dormice hibernate for 6 months of the year (Nov-Apr), and if they wake during this period, perhaps due to mild weather, they will struggle to find food and loose condition.  Another possibility is that the new bird boxes that have been put up are providing preferable home for the blue tits that often occupy the boxes before the dormice can claim them.  Whatever the explanation, it tells us that we are getting the woodland management right for them on Wenlock Edge.

Caroline Uff,
Ecologist, South Shropshire

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Nordic Walking-booking open!

Bookings are now being taken for the Introduction to Nordic Walking session, as already mentioned there will be two instructors on hand to advise on the correct walking technique. After about 40 minutes getting used to the walking poles around the car park, we will go for an hours walk on the Edge. Pole hire and tuition is included in the £6 charge for this event, really good value and possibly opening up a new hobby for participants.
The event is taking place on Saturday the 11th of December, 10am from the National Trust car park on the outskirts of Much Wenlock on the Church Stretton Road.
To book places please e-mail me at  Chris.dunkerley@nationaltrust.org.uk
or call 07948 072075
Thanks Chris