Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Storm Doris

On the 23rd of February storm Doris hit Shropshire. The biggest gusts were 68mph which is more than we have had for years. We adhered to our high winds policy which includes putting out warning notices at various access points to the property to advise visitors not to enter the woodland during the severe weather. We also took to Facebook to warn people as well.

Fortunately, we only lost two trees on minor roads, which we promptly cleared away. These were perfectly healthy trees; their failure was due to them being completely uprooted by the sheer strength of the winds. 
The week after the storm we will be searching Wenlock Edge checking for any more damage and potentially hazardous situations such as hanging branches, leaning trees and fallen trees over the tracks. Just like with dead trees, any damaged trees close to the paths are a health and safety concern, but trees fallen in the middle of the woods are usually left to provide habitat for fungi, lichens, invertebrates, mosses and birds.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Hart's Tongue Fern

If you've walked along the Hollow ways or around the old quarries you might have noticed these ferns growing on the side. It is called hart's-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) which is a widespread evergreen across Britain preferring shaded locations. 

It's name comes from the medieval word Hart, meaning deer, and the frond shape resembling their tongues. It's striking appearance means that even in France it has the same common name "Langue de Cerf"!

The 'scolopendrium' part of it's name is also Latin for centipede which refers to the little marks on the underside of it's fronds which look like centipede legs. It is an unusual fern due to having these un-divided fronds.
Left: Underside of the fronds showing the pattern 
Right: a closer view of the fern

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Sheep checks and the Wilderhope Yew tree

Yesterday we loaded up the Landrover with the tools needed for the day and then drove down to Ballstone quarry and Ippikin's meadow to feed and count the sheep. Our hebridean sheep are part of the RSPCA freedom foods scheme which means they have the highest standard of welfare. We check on them every day and as it is particularly cold at the moment we give them some sheep nuts, which they love! 
As soon as the sheep hear us calling and see the bucket they come running over
Our sheep never enter the foodchain, they are purely used for conservation grazing and therefore get to live out their whole lives happily grazing our meadows for us.
Placement student Emily feeding the sheep at Ippikin's meadow
We then headed to Wilderhope to remove the lower branches on a Yew tree in the grounds of the manor. This was to enable the tenant farmer to graze cows underneath where it had become overgrown. Yew trees are poisonous to livestock so it had to be trimmed so that they couldn't reach it. 
Left: From far away it looks like one tree, but it is actually two very large old trees close together
Middle: The view of the tree from the manor patio
Right: The litter underneath the tree
But before we could start we had to do a quick litter pick underneath. After filling a few bags worth of recyclables and litter it was time to select the branches to be removed. By using a harness for safety, the branches were cut one by one until they could no longer be reached from below.
The stone wall provides a good step to reach slightly higher into the canopy.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Hazardous trees

At the moment we are following up some of the actions identified in our tree safety reports. Every two years we formally inspect all the trees to look for signs that they may be ‘hazardous’. It is carried out in late autumn so that leaves and the crown can give away clues and so fruiting bodies of fungus are showing. 
The sort of signs which we look for are; yellowed leaves, a sparse crown, lack of fine branch ends (twigs), excessive dead branches, peeling or split bark, fungal fruits, exudes weeping from the bark, splits or tears in the wood, pockets of decay or roots pulling from the ground. Other signs include mammal damage, badly balanced, tightly forked, excessive road salt, soil compaction or soil erosion around roots and impeded rooting due to wet ground or rock. As we informally survey and act day to day, not too much remedial action (felling, reduction or pruning) is required from the survey.