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Well not a lot in terms of physically doing anything, but quite a lot in terms of planning and organising for the future. The Corsican Pines are infected and have to come down, if they are not felled they will fall down over the next few years. At this stage they are worth quite a lot of money and evidently their value is increasing month on month as the price for wood chip goes up and up. The wood chip is used as a fuel mainly by chicken farms to keep the hens at an optimum temperature so they grow real quick and can end up at Tescos a bit quicker and a bit cheaper…. cheap.. cheap  Ho ho. So a felling licences as been applied for and granted.  However cutting down and shifting the timber is a bit problematical. Here I would like to impart two pieces of advice to anyone thinking of buying a patch of woodland. It might seem obvious to some but if you were completely new to woodland management as I was then this might help. Firstly get help from a woodland management company, there are several and we now use Pryor Rickett Silviculture  They are invaluable, click on the name to link to their website. I would advise getting them on-board before you even purchase as their knowledge of woodlands could prevent a poor decision, or it could put you in a much stronger position to negotiate a fairer price for the woodland which you want to  buy. Some companies which sell small woods nationally have a poor reputation in terms of fair pricing. We paid over the odds for our patch and it has some problems, which we did not envisage when we bought it. Having said that it is only 7 miles from our house and that is a big advantage and I have not seen another similar sized wood being put on the market at a similar distance. So for the moment it was our only opportunity to buy,  what we might have been able to do was to have got a better price. Spilt milk.  The other advantage of a management company is that they know the price of things so they will get the best price for your timber, they know what price for felling, they know which companies fell sympathetically and which ones will get the job done quick but not care what state they leave the woodland in. So I think that the cost of employing a woodland management company will be repaid in getting good deals for any services you need. Probably repaid and more, I was not aware of the value of our timber and I spent quite a lot of time on the internet trying to discover prices without much success. It is quite complicated and depends on the tree species its size and what it can be split up into and the present price for each commodity. My second bit of advice relates to access. When you buy a wood, one day you will probably need to get a lorry onto it to collect and transport timber away. You can not park a lorry on the road and load up, it takes 40 minutes give or take and if a log accidentally falls off and a car or pedestrian is passing then you are in the ….  So good access is needed. We have a car park which is on a bit of land that the woodland company have retained.  It is a narrow entrance and I have trouble backing my 4WD onto it so there is no way a lorry would get on and there are overhead cables in that region so loading would not be possible. Again, Pryor and Rickett Silviculture have been very active over the last 6 weeks  in trying to get our own access, it involves getting planning permission from Monmouth County Council to make an entrance from the road and put some hard standing in the woods so a lorry can back in and load up safely. Catbrook hedgebank2Along the edge of the woods is an old wall or hedge bank. The council are concerned about destroying it, ( removing it). To be fair it is quite nice and does have a nice diversity of species. Notably the fern Polypody, it  is probably a home for woodmice and voles and possibly newts, slowworms etc. However I would think that removal of a section of this with the loss of diversity would more than be compensated for by the felling of the Corsican Pines and replanting with deciduous trees and the reinstatement of this PAWS site ( Ancient Woodland Site). So the council have indicated that they would be willing for us to remove the wall and make and entrance but then we have to build a new wall along the sides of the newly created, roadway into the woodland. In effect we remove 12M of wall and build two new walls each 6m long thus ending up with the same amount of wall ,just in a different place. OK fair enough but it all costs money. We met up with a dry stone wall man yesterday to discuss it. We can use the same stones and pile earth on top as it is now and even replant some of the ferns and other plants. As he said if you come across a toad or other animal you can put it into a suitable place further down the road where the wall will be untouched. He did express concern about all the vegetation growing in the wall, he was of the view that vegetation was to be avoided as it caused the wall to disintegrate.Catbrook hedgebank1 This set me wondering if it is possible to date an old wall or hedgebank in the same way as you can date hedges. The rule of thumb is that for every new woody species in a 30M section of hedge it adds one hundred years to the age. So let assume a dry stone wall is made and then from day one no one removes any plants then over the years it will gradually accumulate more and more species in the same way as a hedge does. I did a rough count up and found an average of 6/7 species per section. The species I came across were,  made up from Hawthorn, Oak, Beech, Silver Birch, Rowan, Hazel, Bramble, and Ivy.  So is the wall 600 years old? Catbrook hedgebank8Over the wall ie just inside the wood there are various items which have ‘accumulated’ over the years, I saw an old petrol can, rusty and yellow with Blue Circle still visible, I vaguely remember blue circle,  Also there was an old watering can, Monmouth County Council might want me to preserve this ancient microhabitat as it could be used by Robins to nest or mice to hibernate.    Sorry county Council. if you are reading this. As I said I do approve of your aims. Also you can see some old fence posts with rusting barbed wire along the top and in places some rabbit wire. My Woodland advisor thought this would have been put there in the 1960’s when the Corsican Pines were planted to protect the young trees, but I wondered if it might not go back to the 1920’s when the first crop of Conifers were planted after the original deciduous woodland had been destroyed/ felled. So progress is being made and if we get planning permission which will come through or not by the end of February then the entrance can be constructed in March and felling can commence in April.

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