General outlook

Wurthymp Wood is a 17 acre / 6.9 hectare plot, divested from a mixed woodland 30 acre farmland project planted by others in 2006.

From 2014 it has stood as a stand-alone woodland conservation project in a wider landscape mosaic.
The woodland is privately owned and funded and is run on a break-even sustainable basis, resources are shared with the Meadowcopse Orchard Project a few miles to the north.

The primary objectives are mixed:-
a, Wildlife habitat conservation (trees, grassland and ponds).
b, Rotational coppice woodland management (thinning, regeneration, rural craft materials and firewood).
c, Selective long-term forestry tree management (coppice with selected standard trees left long-term).
d, Community, education & research engagement, (the promotion and understanding of wildlife & sustainable conservation in a wider landscape context).

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

August 2021

The last 'summery' Bank Holiday of the year, so a quick push to boost stock levels of barbecue charcoal made in the woods...

A reasonably productive yield, slowly and steadily graded and bagged up over a couple of days.

Other work has been addressing trees around the periphery of tracks, where grey squirrels have 'ring barked' the growing layer (usually about 3 metres down from the tree top) and killed the top growing leader of the tree.
Along the footpath, this has also given opportunity to widen the path margin edges for light, so a shrub and scrub level can develop for biodiversity.
Other intervention work on the trees is addressing Ash Dieback Disease (ADB) - here the dying trees are dry enough to go straight into the charcoal kiln.
As per national and research guidelines, resilient trees are left, in the hope that their seed leads to genetic resistance. For now, noticeable gaps will be replanted with a mix of Alder, Hazel and Birch.
I've put up a weatherproof info board at one end of the path in the woodland, this has some overview info regarding how the woodland is managed, as well as what work activities and wildlife are likely to be seen month by month...
Elsewhere, I've been following some conservation activities in places I get to around Wiltshire - one area of interest has been conservation grazing cattle at Savernake Forest. A wander further north to a 'Dr. Beeching' disused railway near Marlborough, highlighted some lapsed hazel coppice. There was evidence of (probably 1980s / 90s) conservation tree planting, but also at least one cycle of coppice cutting that seems to have now been overlooked.
Over towards Avebury Stone Circle (after a minor diversion to compare a similar farm estate woodland to my own), I finally tracked down and chatted to the person managing the (quite rare) White Park Cattle.

At some point, I'm still considering low density / high welfare very small herd of cows in the grassland areas of the woodland. This is with particular emphasis and research on how they would moderate the vegetation in a few defined areas.
Also, some very good news from The Royal Forestry Society, regarding how I manage my woodland.
After an on-site assessment by two Chartered Foresters for the RFS, I have been awarded a Certificate of Merit in their Excellence in Forestry awards. 
Thank you to those that have helped along the way with this - particularly the inspiring folk at Alvecote Wood and Bulworthy Project in sharing their outlooks, when I first committed to moving my own woodland efforts forward...

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

July 2021

 With a few farm and land sales and changes in the locality recently, it got me thinking about my own journey and some of the external dynamics of landscape custodianship..

Short rotation coppice energy crops going in the neighbour's fields

Generally, with a bit of prior research, visits to other projects and assessing site suitability, deciding on a conservation or woodland project site is very positive and uplifting.

Sometimes, you come up against some external or contrived challenges...

"So what are you doing with the woodland?"

More precisely it's realistically "What is he going to do with the woodland?"

As a responsible owner / custodian / operator, these days you will be the last to know when other people beyond 'genuinely interested' start getting their teeth into things and interpreting in their own way, what your ownership and activities mean...

A slightly general observation, but something a few folks with their own woodland, permaculture plot, private allotment or wildlife patch encounter.
I used to think random folk were genuinely interested, but something changed with public attitudes - particularly about 15 to 20+ years ago.
Gone are the days on the rural fringe when some passing local character takes time to chat and maybe comment "You're doing a grand job there, Mon." Years of their own knowledge and experience under a weathered exterior.

By the 1990s it's initially morphed into a (probably genuinely interested) "Excuse me, what are you doing?"
Then into "I don't know what he's doing, but is he allowed to do that?"
Reaching a climax in more recent times via Facebook etc. "Does anybody else know what's happening down xyz lane?" Or "Hello, is that the Council, there's someone cutting at trees and hedges in the fields by me..."

It's not just individuals with their own small projects - conservation groups and agricultural colleges and forward thinking rural estates, all doing informed and responsible habitat management, or restoration at what's become someone's favourite dog-walking patch - ending up with 'Dismayed residents anger!' in a local headline or regional evening TV news. 

There are of course two sides - public engagement or prior information from the person managing the habitat helps inform the wider community, versus nearby residents mixing up development fears with little knowledge of responsible conservation and countryside management.

The latter is an interesting dynamic. It's repeated throughout village margins of England and Wales.
Yes, inappropriate and large scale development is a genuine concern - particularly as formal planning controls may seem to be weakening where a large developer comes up against a resource strapped Local Authority (but that's not going to change anytime soon with perceptions of and attitudes to, housing demand type).

On a smaller scale, one has to consider calling 'NiMBY' - Not in MY Back Yard.
From various forums I'm in and direct experiences of other small scale woodland custodians, there is a certain dynamic where folk in relatively new houses next to open fields or woods, get rather twitchy at the thought of possibly newer houses going opposite / behind them. Sorry, unless you are in a National Park or AONB - you've bought a house not a view.
By all means, buy the field behind you if you have concerns - or if more publicly spirited, set up a Trust or CIC for a village wildlife or nature area for the land.
Don't think cutting a gate in your back fence, chucking your grass-clippings and garden waste over, or letting your dog run free gives you a stake over somebody else's land.

On the one hand it's good that folk take an interest and care about their surroundings, but there is a deeper, darker side...
Folk not prepared to fund raise or dip in their own pocket to actively steer a responsible direction for their surrounding area, but upset somebody else is doing something they don't (want to) understand. Worse still, an irrational and emotive sour grapes grudge that somebody else has it and is doing something with it (or if really sensitive to a specific stasis habitat appearing not to be doing anything with it).
Bitterness is quite common, probably keeps solicitors in business, certainly adds to a Planning Officer's inbox, as well as a bit of overtime for a rural Police team, when disagreements over the fence overheat on a Bank Holiday weekend.

mini meadow by the woodland pond

The weirdest 'public relations' encounter I've had, was somebody assume I was on 'Community Service' whilst I was replanting part of my orchard hedge next to a public footpath. They were rather concerned as to whether 'The Landowner' would be happy with what was going on.
Judging by the look they gave me, they were rather surprised to find I was the land owner - the conversation continued with somewhat affected gestures waving towards what I thought was a pretty obvious Traditional Orchard:-
"So what exactly is all this then, are you going to build something here?"
"Erm no, it's a traditional / heritage varieties orchard on marginal farmland that floods..."
"Oh, I suppose you get a grant then for all that, it'll be our money paying for it then!"
"Not really Madam, with a pretty responsible long-term job, everything you see here has been paid for out of my own arse pocket!"

She's not been back with any more questions...

Two other NiMBY cases I've been following elsewhere got a bit formal and definitely hinge around petty aspects of envy that then fester and escalate.

1. A small plot of land gone wild on a village edge next to a detached house comes up on the open market...
A well intentioned purchaser finds a gate has appeared in the side fence, in the time between sale and completion, neighbour states the plot was going to be left to them and they've always had access. Any thoughts of neighbour adverse posession are robustly quashed, but the new acquisition of the plot is on the next month's Parish Council Agenda with local residents 'concerns' - New owner then gets 18 months of Parish Council and Local Authority Planning Department overbearing interest, various legal 'tennis volleys' and after formal representation, a Parish Council Chairman resigns and a Planning Officer moves sideways to a different authority.

2. Two patches of land, large and small - either side of a new road are sold off by a Council at auction...
Larger wooded plot has about 6 houses in a line to one boundary, smaller plot across the road comes up against a hedgeline to other fields.
New owner of wooded plot gets 'challenged' by a resident in one of the houses:-
"Excuse me, what are you doing - this is private land!"
"yes, I know, I completed on it last week."
"I don't think so - we've all clubbed together in these houses and bought it between us!"
"I can assure you that you haven't - I do have a copy of my deeds and plot plan in my van..."

The person representing the line of 6 houses at auction, had bought a plot of land - but unfortunately the smaller plot the other side of the road, not the one they intended behind their houses!
This really started to get ugly over the following weeks...
Local newspaper article "Residents concerns for future of local nature spot"
Minor and more serious vandalism (fencing and vehicle damage).
A push for the Local Authority to impose a tree preservation order - this backfired a little, as the Tree Officer was very sympathetic to remedial and safety related tree work. Local residents were surprised to find the trees with a spray paint dot had an appointment with the chainsaw as part of responsible management - although police and council were called out during workscopes.
The aggreived neighbours had 'concerns for wildlife' - a bit ironic as they had intended to purchase to extend their gardens, arguably a planning 'change of use' consent required and habitat compromised if turned into extensions of domestic gardens.

My own project sites occasionally attract interest - usually when the nearest neighbour is going through the planning process, I get a noticeable increase in folks using the footpath and straying a bit further off course to have a look around...

I still get asked "So what exactly are you doing with the woodland?"
I'm probably more interested in wondering why they are asking, rather than comprehensively explaining.
(I have an info pack, printed or online - it's easier, as explaining "Active Forestry - Traditional coppice and growing trees and enhancing biodiversity." never gets taken seriously as an answer).

A significantly asked question is "Are you going to build here?"
Again I wonder 'why' they ask?

No, I'm not building a house or houses.
Yes, I'm in the middle of building a tractor and wood seasoning shed (Consent granted by the Local Authority back in 2018). But I don't take seriously folk in a line of newish houses (where their neighbours had similar concerns about their houses going up years before), with irrational made-up fears of other new houses and ignorance of rural landscape protections and planning policy conditions.

None of these negative dynamics make anybody feel any better or achieve much, apart from high blood pressure and wasted time and resources...

A slightly weirder question rarely asked to my face (but finding a way back to me from folk in the wider community) is:-
"How did he get that, how can he afford that? How does he make any money?"

The long answer is that in my spare time, I've always done conservation work (and some ad-hoc farm work locally), together with educational courses with various types of groups and conservation sites and it was something I wanted to do from leaving school a long time ago.
Unfortunately the job market in the 1980s was rather challenging. Fortunately leaving school with good science and maths results, I went into science & engineering instead. Despite family directly employed in professional forestry, I was offered a very promising engineering career.
I naïvely thought I could put a bit on one side and buy somewhere to plant up after a while as a project site. (Had the property market not had an upward curve outpacing my savings).
One part of my mainstream job turned out better than expected - a bit 'high risk / high reward' but approx 20 weeks a year off, if I took a particular shift pattern and lived in. A part of conventional life and relationships didn't quite survive and a major health issue created a step change rethink.

A good number of my colleagues had flash cars, fancy houses and 'consumerist' lifestyles - I shunned that (mostly).
Although 4 to 5 times the price per acre than the days I first started saving, the savings converted into investments and giving up on a house move, I made the decision 'now or never' on a 17 acre divested farm young woodland, relatively near home, rather than moving house. (I'd already had a trial run, with an orchard project on marginal land below market rates, together with a 'spare time' conservation degree course at a local agri college - as well as deciding staying with a small modest house on the edge of Chester would actually do me fine).

My main work in north-sea oil & gas was medical / fitness dependent. I knew at some point the time would come when a fortnightly 500 mile round train commute to work out of Aberdeen, helicopter flight 150 miles towards Norway, and a load of challenging work conditions couldn't be justified or sustained. I got another 9 years out of the job whilst making plans and setting the normal affairs of life into a sensible sustainable order (with one medical incident strongly hinting at a prudent 'sooner, rather than later outlook).

So, now self employed and a modest income from sustainable forest products out of the wood gets me by, working hours I choose (particularly around Crohns Disease and other medical complications), surrounded by nature and shaping the future direction of the woodland trees and wildlife for the next 80 to 100 years...

If you've got this far, you'll begin to understand why I don't take people too seriously, when they form opinions without genuine engagement with facts.

If you have conservation ideas and dreams - research you areas of interest and what works, check attitudes in your area, do impact assessments for the chosen site... Enjoy, engage and share what you do as a responsible custodian.

More regular Wurthymp Wood updates on Twitter...

Work journey for the Defender - mower/collector for meadow management

Thursday, 11 March 2021

March 2021

A slightly slow start to 2021 and a longer gap between blog posts than intended - although more frequent woodland updates and pictures are on the Wurthymp Wood Twitter feed.

Wet ground conditions still being a bit problematic for woodland and conservation habitat activities after probably the most challenging wet winter in a lifetime. The meadows north of the woodland are part of the natural River Dee floodplain, but record heights, longer duration of floods and frequency / occasions of flooding over this winter gone, seem to be particularly (historically) unusual when combined together.

Obviously 2020 and Covid-19 has been a challenging year for everyone. By year end, the uncertainty for folk in many respects has compromised outlooks ahead.

I normally spend challenging ground conditions and less pleasant weather doing woodland and orchard admin and research in Chester's fantastic Storyhouse Library, a short walk from home. Obviously that has been interrupted with lockdown restrictions - together with all the commercial and cultural interruptions too...

Something pencilled in for the academic year 2020/21, would have been exploring options for an environmental MSc.
Covid restrictions and disruptions limited thoughts around that, but also academia changing with digital distance learning might enable better options for my own circumstances.

I had a reasonable 5 year work management plan and outlook from acquisition of the woods and suddenly I'm into year 7 in the woods and into the looser 10 and 20 year details.
The present public interest in 'Rewilding' to some folk, sees management as an unnatural word - however from a long term woodland outlook it is highly imortant.
Wurthymp Wood was open fields 15 years ago, although a responsible planting scheme under professional guidence at the time, it is a compromise on the original grassland habitat and species, versus what the woodland will become over time.
Small woodlands (and some farm woodlands particularly) have rightly been observed as being 'undermanaged'.
The Smallwoods organisation at Coalbrookdale offer excellent resources, courses and information to practitioners and public, as well as its venue being at Ironbridge with an excellent cafe open to the public (in more normal times).

To many 'letting nature take back control' is an important but sometimes misguided concept - particularly where the landscape has been altered after a longer historic agricultural use and occasional step change interventions. These have to be worked around for a successful change or outcome.
I prefer in the areas I work, 'restoration' - an understanding of the long-term imprints on the landscape, the balances of stasis and succession and the overall wildlife ecology that is most suited.
Obviously a lot of judgements to make, but also research of old practices versus modern commentary and publications to interpret what suits - combined at times with primary source landscspe history documents and maps.

On a personal level, making a positive out of challenging winters and personal circumstances, isn't normally too bad for me, particularly with 20 odd acres of naturalistic landscapes to wander and work through. But with a wet winter and libraries, cafes, bars closed, travel restricted and many folk under less pleasant pressures, things hit home a bit. (A chat with a respected creative friend hammered home how productive or inspirational the 'social' in-between places can be, for odd bits of admin planning, shared chat and ideas, whilst separating home and work).

Buzzard on last year's birch Maypole

Winter seemed to drag, wet ground and wet weather making things slow to progress (normally a lot of woodland coppice cutting) at the woods and the access challenging for the first time. (My orchard further into the floodplain edge, peaked at 9 feet of water level)!
I normally take a few brief trips through similar landscapes elsewhere - a bit of a busman's holiday, but informative and inspiring, as well as social and relaxing.

I took on the woodland as a project, rather than moving house a few years back - particularly after a decline in health brought a halt to 30 years of high pressure / high reward work.
Fortunately the last 15 years of my main work was an unusual 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off work cycle (if a little inconvenient living on-site halfway between Aberdeen and Norway). It did give the opportunity to research and set up my traditional orchard, lots of visits during leave from work to similar projects and longer term ideas for larger landscape scale conservation projects - both the academic background and preparations, and practical workscopes (Early 1990s I was involved in a hilltop woodland restoration project near Oswestry, that would be seen as 'rewilding' in today's context - home and work commitments at the time meant it was juggle regarding spare time to do a lot more).
2020 was however reasonably productive and the healthiest year I've had for over 10 years, I'm guessing reduced random travel and reduced eating variations - as well as strongly concentrating on a lot of positive aspects of shaping the future direction of the woodland, its habitat and wildlife (and being out amongst nature). When first diagnosed with Crohns Disease a good while ago now, my unusual work pattern meant things for a while weren't too disruptive, the unusual shift leave periods initially being a complimentary balance between recovery and plodding on.
At the same time, medical professionals clearly spelled out that things would change. So from a relatively fortunate position I was able to set things in place over a few years to have contingency, rationalised a few things and pondered alternatives for the future. My final year of 'conventional' corporate employment also saw 20+ hospital / medical appointments and eventually having to take time off and a medically informed decision.

The first week of 2021 wasn't so much fun - trying to juggle a compromised immune system around a national Covid-19 surge. Although risk averse, an overnight in hospital hit home on a few practicalities and not being well enough to do much at the woodland, was at odds with the very reason I bought it - so as to be able to work on my terms in otherwise health sustaining surroundings.

A slight backlog added a bit of time pressure to an overdue task to restore and rejuvinate part of the roadside hedge on a bend, before bird nesting time.
Ultimately it will be layed and a few gaps filled in and the creep of blackthorn into the grassland reduced.
(Mainly more light onto the grass, as well as improving driver visibility on the bends with the hedge height back to 'normal').

Initial hedgerow preparations

One problem with hedgerow trees has been Ash Die Back with the regrowth brittle and declining - a few decades of flail cutting has left this as high coppice stumps with main stem rot too. (So down to ground they go).

Hedgerow management is understandably emotive, particularly regarding visual impact and wildlife impact.
This Hedgerow thread on Twitter read step by step, explains why some workscopes initially look brutal, but are potentially better long-term term, as well as the dynamics and risks of modern flail cutting.

Elsewhere at the tea-brewing bench, a few bird feeders get multiple visitors - mainly blue tits, long tailed tits, robins, dunnock, moorhens.
The woods are alive at night with Tawny, Barn and Little owls.
The meadows over the road have the call of curlews at the moment, tgeir habitat being part of the near by SSSI objectives.

There was probably one 'proper winter' spell - the rest of winter mainly being wet weather and wet ground.
The pace of work for coppice cutting somewhat slowed, at what is normally a busy productive period.
Although cutting down trees when there are calls of 'plant more trees' may seem odd - the woodland is a single age plantation.
Transitioning to 7 areas of traditional coppice with standards sequentially varies the height and light and ultimately wildlife biodiversity throughout the site.
Overall, if sensitively continued beyond my lifetime, a stable diverse habitat is maintained.

The meadows over the road had several winter floods, peak at 2 metres height.
With more time and resources I'd be enthusiastic about a traditional meadow restoration long-term project.
When normal social times return, folks visiting for example Mottey Meadows in Staffordshire will get an example of what the UK has lost from the landscape.

Something I missed in 2020 were visits to Oxfordshire Fens Project sites.
My trips out and about usually sweep through landscape projects similar to my own (with obvious exceptions for soil type snd aspect etc.)
I visit 'stable' habitats (although often with conservation professionals and volunteers to keep them stable with succession arresting workscopes),  modern mixed deciduous woodlands 5 or 10 years ahead or behind mine to compare, as well as village and community projects.

Amongst the noise of politics, the uncertainty around Covid, concerns around the climate - my feet up reading on a summer evening in the woods was passed by reading this book - written by a talented young naturalist. Well worth getting a copy.

Grey squirrels in the woods are still a pain, below is a 15 year oak they ringbarked around head height.
It forks just above, so I'm tempted to pollard it at the to see how it goes.
(Some veteran trees elsewhere are demonstrably lapsed pollards).

One of the hares was lost - no outward signs of injury, but it was huge. I suspect old age after a spell of frost, three others still roam the plot.

Even typing up a blog post is impacted by Covid.
I seldom sit at home with a laptop - a shoulder bag with books and journals and tablet end up in independent cafes here and there for lunch, the library in bad weather or a country pub for a bite to eat on the way home. Things would normally flow, as well as the various interactions and social aspects along the way.

One thing of interest over wet winter evenings, there looks to have been an update / revision of the online repository of Welsh Tithe Maps - a fascinating resource as a historic snapshot of land use, owners and tennants.
Conservation and landscape scale restoration can lean on past information for a feeling habitat history...

Today the thermal layers are back on and a decent jacket, and out for a final push on stretch of hedgelaying before too late for this year.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

May 2020

A rather productive end to April and beginning of May.
A couple of productive sessions with the kiln from last year's coppice cutting in the woods.
The charcoal selling as fast as it gets weighed and bagged.

The rather challenging times we are in have not had too severe an impact on the woodland front.
The excellent Smallwoods organisation at Ironbridge / Coalbrookdale have done quite a bit of groundwork around woodland working (including DEFRA clarification), as well as Forestry organisations Confor and RFS.

The first weekend saw a minor amount of a few strange gateway incursions away from the footpath, but I'm guessing these were more distant travellers thwarted by Welsh travel restrictions.
The public footpath has had up to ten times as many walkers...
Although this has undoubted amenity and mental health benefits to people passing by, April is probably the worst time regarding wildlife impact.
I'm glad that I'd previously spent a bit of time enhancing the footpath (in terms of accessibility and biodiversity) - there are studies suggesting the more obvious a path, the less adverse impact from straying etc.
I've put a couple of extra coppice and woodland management information A4 info sheets up...

A new generation of hares has become quite obvious (as well as ducks and Canada geese).

One emergent incident was a car on its roof through the roadside hedge - fortunately no injuries, but the complexities of lockdown presented some challenges regarding recovery (and thanks to a local farmer given clearence to expedite removal to the recovery truck).

My other project at Farndon is a traditional / heritage varieties orchard - being near a larger village settlement, that has had a few specific trespass and damage problems - police have become involved and dialogue with a problem group seems to have settled things for now.
It does however highlight how less than positive engagement can become time and resource consuming.

Back at the woods before lockdown, I did have one odd incident of somebody photographing the nameplate and contact details at the roadside gatepost.
I'd have been a bit happier if they'd bothered to get in touch, not sure what their agenda is...

More positively, just prior to C-19 restricting things, I used a period of ill health (more Crohns complications) to get ahead with loads of paperwork.
Although I don't claim any grants / subsidies, I found a couple of errors in how the WPA had recorded field parcels- of course it wasn't a five minute fix either, but a couple of relaxed evenings prior to lockdown in Chester's Storyhouse Library (including bar & food) enabled various management plan updates and focus on tree and woodland habitat objectives.
I was also planning a range of visits / events and overlaps with other organisations elsewhere, but by March all that was on indefinite hold.
I did have some very positive news from an external organisation regarding woodland management practice, but that too is on hold until next year.

Back at the woods, the particularly wet winter slowed down a few things I'd have particularly liked to get ahead with (side branch pruning and finishing a coppice area for the year), but now we have the other extreme of being a bit too dry.
Ash Die Back realky is starting to show now in the wider area, a bit of a double blow was late frosts compromising recent new leaf growth on stressed trees.

On BBC Radio 4, the Costing The Earth programme recently did Future Forests - well worth a listen, particularly 'right tree, right place' and aftercare after planting initiatives...

More regular updates on @WurthympWood Twitter

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Charcoal making...

Too low of stock of bagged, graded charcoal this week - but hoping to have a kiln session finished by the end of the week for barbecue charcoal.

If having a barbecue during Corona Virus Covid-19 control measures, please keep to your own household and consider neighbours who may have respiratory problems.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Woodland updates

Woodland updates can be found on a Twitter account - including a couple of videos and links to wider woodland and conservation aspects.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

January 2020

A New Year - 2019 held a few challenges, a wet winter, hot summer and a wet autumn and winter again affecting ground conditions. My own health with Crohns Disease complications and a bad reaction to an embedded thorn in my ankle (and surgery) slowed me down through a major part of the year (but it's nice not to have to rush with a woodland project).
I hadn't meant to leave a blog post so long - more frequent updates are on @WurthympWood Twitter feed...
The woodland however grew on quite well (excepting the trees with Ash Die Back in the surrounding locality).
The darker wetter months gave opportunity for some document revision regarding the technical and long term habitat management aspects of the woodland plot.
Once I have some better interpretations of Yield Class figures for the woodland, I hope to finalise 'Grown in Britain' accreditation as part of the long term management plan and objectives (This also confirms compliance and understanding of UK Forestry Standards).

The new year didn't start amazingly well however, I have a traditional heritage varieties orchard I planted in 2010 a bit nearer to Chester. It occasionally becomes a hot spot for fly-tipping (a problem throughout rural areas that doesn't seem to be going away). Amazing that in some small communities certain folk can give an extended commentary about changes within neighbouring properties, but never see or report things like this taking place.
Cheshire West & Chester Streetscene and Enforcement have had a trawl through the rubbish for potential prosecution opportunities.
Back over the border at the Woodland in Wales, a similar drive by dumping of rubbish at the roadside gateway with a narrowly missed i.d. opportunity.

In a more festive spirit, Xmas saw a few books arrive. The Woodcolliers gives a good overall historical view of charcoal making and has sections very similar to parts of the rural history of The Lake District. It reminded me of how important the local steam rally near to here at Malpas was in the late 1980s, in setting up a rural craft section (including guest exhibitors Bill Hogarth and Walter Lloyd at a time BBC North West was highlighting the decline of regional rural crafts - a trend hopefully now reversed).

A cheap Ebay acquisition was this Forestry Commission book pictured below, 'Farm Woodland Planning' (also available free as .pdf online) - a little dated now, particularly as various schemes for planting have come and gone and Devolved Nation status saw Wales replace the FC with Natural Resources Wales and different objectives.
The reason I got it, was partly because it covered my first proper involvement with a large planting scheme near Oswestry in the 1990s, but mainly to review objectives and practices that carried through the Woodland Grant Schemes (WGS) - Wurthymp Wood was part of WGS3 (becoming Better Woods For Wales at Devolution and morphing into Glastir).
Some of the 'behind the scenes' aspect of the woodland involve an overview of the long term sustainable outlook, initially reviewed site wide in 2017 and recent changes about to be revised.

Reviewing original objectives in relation to present day expectation (and public perception) is an interesting exercise.
I hosted a 'walk & talk' for the W.I. organised by a local resident keen and active on maintaining community spirit - an interesting area of conversation was the grant aspect of woodland creation, with a presumption by a couple of folk of  £30,000 for 25,000 trees in 30 acres on the original owners land back around 2006, only out by 10 times and a few were surprised that it was as low as £3000 (which barely covers planting costs).
Outside the visiting group, one local resident had commented elsewhere that the previous owner "wouldn't have done it if there wasn't money in it!"
The Better Woods For Wales link above (a review in 2012 before the introduction of Glastir) has a report that details land owners motivation for planting - creating a measurable public benefit is part of the equation and important these days regarding public perceptions on tree-planting, climate change mitigation and the often misunderstood concept of 'Rewilding' (It is of vital importance that any tree-planting is appropriate, has a long term outlook and planned intervention if a flat age profile from mass planting - and it takes into consideration existing habitat / species markers).

Part of my winter 'admin' work has included working through site history (recent & old) and local village history. I have a couple of local books, but 'A village through time' came out in November, concerning Shocklach - the next village north of the woods. A considerable amount of professional archaeological input went into the book.

Wet winter ground conditions and rain have slowed down things within the woods, but selective high coppice cuts have been done on the pond side willows.
Deliberately cut high at the pond sides, to encourage Willow Tit nests, but also to reduce / manage larger branch overhang and leaf drop into pond.
Coppice work elsewhere on the site is a more conventional ground level cut for other species down as a rotation coupe / compartment area with trees left as standards to grow on.

Once sufficiently dry, the smaller logs get mixed with other species of wood and into the charcoal kiln.
(The charcoal products pay for the wider woodland management projects).

A couple of excursions elsewhere through the year...
I ended up in a woodland near Blandford Forum, where a community activity overlap sees a variety of craft and traditional woodland management aspects come together in a socially and environmentally positive way.
Another overnight stop was for a day using a scythe for habitat management with academics and conservation professionals, on an Oxfordshire Fen - an area for habitat and landscape history, I've found fascinating over the last 25 years.
I also look through a few similar woodlands to my own - particularly 5 or 10 years either side of my planting dates for comparisons.

For a week in November I was guest host on the @SmallholdersUK Twitter feed.
I went over my orchard and woodland projects, but also the things that have influenced my habitat and conservation outlook from childhood to the present day.
(Please note, the embedded link should actually run from 11/11/19 to 17/11/19 - as this is a weekly guest feed, posts beyond those dates are other folks projects).

In looking into background history of the area around the woods, I stumbled across this early 1800s archive map indicating a well... No trace at the present day or later maps.

I dislike a proliferation of signs, but from shared observations and experiences of other small woodland operators, they have value in confirming appropriate habitat management activities to the genuinely interested, but also in conveying information to passers by with 'various' levels of interest (and sometimes tenuous reasons for that interest and a wander off away from pathways).
An anecdotal observation seems that whenever a near by neighbour has any interaction with the local planning system, there is an increase in folks taking a walk through the woodland footpath.
An aim for this year is to put up a couple of weatherproof notice boards (with information on seasonal variations of conservation activities) at either end of the path through the woods.

One sad aspect that comes with landscape project management, is poor interpretation by the public.
Although the site owner / operator can go a long way towards cordial understanding, a minority of people generally repeat some deep seated behaviours - particularly regarding small woodland operators and smallholders etc.
I work and socialise within a couple of land based organisations. There are some trends that unrelated ill-informed folk in villages across England and Wales follow regarding projects on their doorstep.
Usually it is folk in a newish house seeing some tree and / or groundwork and making an incorrect assumption 'something' is going to be built near them. (If / when I go back to agri-college, I'll try to put a coherent paper together on this matter - it was something that cropped up on a degree course module a few years ago, ironically one example was where the agri-college was going in doing long term habitat conservation as student placement. this was in partnership with a large countryside charity, but the local dog-walkers and folks in big houses seemed to know better than the historical and evidence based year on year work put together by the college and other conservation professionals...)

I've been on the receiving end of false development allegations twice, (once by a person on a public body who should and could have known better - their motives are inexplicable).
I'm relatively lucky, I'm approachable and have nothing to hide, I do have formal planning approval from 2018 for a big tractor shed. (Desirable and in part already planned for equipment / produce storage from before I committed to the site, but which I put in for and got approved within the 28 day Prior Notification formal planning process after someone linked to a Community Council made flippant remarks locally about my understanding of planning matters. The justification & mitigation support documents used in the application are now used as a working example by other woodland / forestry and planning professionals as a good working example of site considerations).

A near by neighbour has a farm diversification project, some of the backlash has been irrational and a distraction. A small minority of folk concluded I had somehow made land available to enable access to the neighbour's project. One has to make a conscious decision to either ignore such folk, or call them out head on when their ignorance becomes challenging or obstructive.
'Bigger picture' considerations are what else would go on a previous farm site that also has business use permissions. Having seen some of the potential other purchasers of that plot and possibilities, I'm not too concerned with the present outlook, other than for consistency and rationality by folks (and public bodies) who engage with any consultation process. It is difficult to understand the motives of why folk perpetuate misinformation locally and to statutory bodies, rather than the decency to engage with the applicant in such cases.

For others with projects elsewhere, it is a distraction and at times a serious obstruction. 'Sour grapes' can be a common theme - I'm familiar with a situation 30 miles away, where 2 plots came up for auction either side of a roadway. One of the plots backed onto a line of 6 houses - they all clubbed together and at auction bought the wrong plot, the other side of the road to their back gardens! The chap who successfully bid for the plot behind them, has had continuous malicious grief and it has got to the level of police / local authority and anti-harassment levels of legal interaction.
I have a close family member who is a chartered surveyor with a lot of Local Authority experience - those professional experiences mirror the negative experiences and attitudes received by other woodlanders elsewhere in England & Wales.

Beyond a lack of understanding by objecting parties, there sometimes seems to be an unwillingness to understand or engage, particularly when some deep seated personal attitudes, resentments and grudges start to surface. It is an area where I work elsewhere to my project on people getting a deeper understanding of the technical, environmental and justification / mitigation aspects together as a counter measure to irrational emotive points.
One quite challenging person thought I was on Community Service whilst I was planting trees in my orchard project - they were even more horrified when I made them aware I was the owner...
"How have you got this, did you just move on here or something?"
(The concept of putting a bit on one side during a mainstream career and raising a hand at an auction seemed to have passed them by).

The excellent Smallwoods Organisation at Coalbrookdale / Ironbridge now collaborate with a rural planning professional, with a woodland specific planning outlook and host a woodland specific planning course.

Some of the info sheets I intend to put up at the woods will be explaining management operations and seasonal changes and species / habitat specific enhancements.

Further historical information involved looking at old Tithe Maps from the mid 1800s.
These can be searched online by various parameters after a public cooperation exercise collating register entries against field numbers.

The fields at the top of the map are today in the picture below, viewed from the woodland gateway. Flooding occurs seasonally as part of the River Dee floodplain (my orchard project is amongst it 4 miles north).
This year saw an infrequent summer flood (an old local history book comments on this), what is interesting to determine is whether the flooding is becoming more frequent. 
I'm hoping to set up an IoT - Internet of Things environmental monitoring package for a more detailed local analysis of conditions and trends.
Compared to a few other woodland friends elsewhere, I'm at a relatively low altitude between 14 and 17 metres asl. Altitude for various reasons has influences on tree growth. My own concerns on climate change revolve presently on ground and surface water conditions, local micro-climate for dampness and tree pathogen / pest resistance and extreme summer events.

Footpath enhancements stalled once the ground conditions got wet. Apart from a wide circular 'glade' under way at the west side, the footpath here has minimal intervention since cutting the margins slightly wider (a benefit to bats, owls and buzzards). As the trees grow up and shade the light, it will be gradually cut wider still for enhancing edge margin diversity by managing light hitting the ground.

A local beekeeper has set up (with one afternoon of excitement when a colony cleared off and swarmed elsewhere). A slight worry is a mild damp winter and resources for them.

The east side of the footpath has patches of local native plant reintroductions, particularly as the relatively young woodland is starting to develop canopy closure and reduced light,  that restricts the original grassland mixed plants that were present before the trees were planted.
Below is a patch of Marsh Woundwort.

Controversially for the area, badgers pass through the site - Dairy herd TB is a problem in the area, complicated on a policy aspect due to England and Wales devolved / divergent policy in a border location.

A reasonable amount of Barn and Tawny Owls on the site, but I've suspected Little Owls from their evening screeches. I managed to photograph this one early evening whilst working amongst a patch of willow trees.

One of the main site species that enjoys the mixed habitat is the Brown hare. Unfortunately I've had a late night incident of night hunting / trespass, so measures are in place to minimise the chance of this repeating.
Local roads pose a risk for them and I've lost one on site from a possible buzzard or fox strike.

A couple of other creatures on site have been cats and grey squirrels - both are detrimental to the habitat. Grey squirrel damage to the trees is becoming quite evident and approved control measures have become desirable.
There is a chance of Pine Martens - twice I've seen what I think is one, initially moving very fast through the woods one evening and a week later dashing across a hedgerow to another woodland less than a mile away.
The summer was particularly good again for dragon flies and moths / butterflies.

Hopefully the increasing daylight hours will see the ground start to dry a bit and further small scale habitat management aspects going on. Because the trees were planted in 'one go' over a year, they will all grow at a relatively even height and age profile, which isn't great for biodiversity or the original grassland species. It is why some parts of the woodland are 'work in progress' to create wider biodiversity across the woodland over a prolonged period of time.
External to the woods, it is a wider issue that requires expert input and assessment 'so called' rewilding schemes and the right tree in the right place and appropriateness - particularly if niche species and existing biodiverse habitats become parts of larger landscape scale projects.

Despite some of the content further up the post, being custodian of a woodland is profoundly rewarding, often relaxing, but also stimulating, educational and rewarding...