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An Historic Event

by Jonathan Foster

Countryside Restoration Trust volunteer Brian Lavers (second from right) briefs colleagues by the Green Farm chestnut coppice.

Brian Lavers (second from right) delivers a briefing about the Green Farm chestnut coppice.

Gaze upon this picture, gentle reader. You may not see its like again, being the first, and possibly the last Pierrepont Wrinkly Non-Working Party. The occasion of this unprecedented event? A Guided Tour of Green Farm, led by Brian Lavers, who knows his way around, having been a number of times with the Monitoring Group.

Parking near the farmhouse, next to a paddock of black sheep —

Three sheep at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Green Farm property.

"Wot us, damage young trees? You must be kidding, guv'nor!"

— (“Badger-faced”, said Ray — would he pull our legs?), we crossed Green Lane and set off southwards up an open sloping ride with young berry-bearing shrubs and trees either side until we come to recently coppiced chestnut on the left. There’s some deer damage, Allan Lang, the forester, had told Brian, but nevertheless the stools aren’t guarded and are growing away nicely.

Then on up the gentle sandy slope of Upper Forest, with some areas new-planted with hardwoods, some of mature pine and others of birch scrub with dwarf whortleberries, until we come to some acres of heathy open heather, where Brian tells us there had been a fire a while back, and a determined effort is being made to keep it clear of pine saplings. Beyond this was the boundary of the Countryside Restoration Trust land, the vast Beacon Hill housing estate. Though the locals obviously walk the paths and rides, that’s no bad thing, as they can keep an eye out for vandals, and there don’t seem to be many signs of dog poo.

Turning west, then back south, down the slope, weary limbs sink onto the grass by the trackside, thermoses are opened and we munch gratefully on Rod’s Extraordinarily Rich Fruit Cake.

Countryside RestorationTrust volunteers taking a coffee break on their visit to Green Farm.

Pierrepont conservation group volunteers stop for coffee while visiting Green Farm.

After all these calories, just as well the rest of the way back is downhill, through an area of Western Hemlock and down a gully, which is the western boundary of CRT land. Here is another first, Conway clutching a Himalayan Balsam plant — not actually pulled by himself, which would be against his strict principles.

Countryside Restoration Trust volunteer Conway Churchill with a stalk of Himalayan Balsam.

Conway Churchill and a stalk of Himalayan Balsam, a non-native plant that escaped from Kew Gardens in the mid-19th century.

Turning back along Green Lane, next to the farmhouse is one of five meadows, once grazed by alpaca, but, like the subsequent sheep, banished for damaging the young trees. Collecting up the cars, a mile drive north-east brought us to Elizabeth’s Wood and a different character of woodland, mature and less managed, more like Tankersford Wood at Pierrepont, with beech, oak, ash, overgrown coppice and even some bamboo. Down the grassy track, The Hut was an ideal place for a leisurely lunch…..

After which, Ray put us straight on When-is-a-barn-not-a-tea-barn. Answer, of course, When-it’s-a-Cart-Shed. Fortified, we set off southwards again gently up the narrow valley which is Gravel Hanger, flanked at first by over-stood hazel, then a tall stand of mature larch, ready for felling, then opening out on the west to a long triangle of bracken and gorse. All the boundary on the east of this narrow finger of CRT territory is National Trust land. Brian gave us the option of retracing our steps or toiling up a steep and stony path with a panorama from the top. Being Intrepid (not to say Foolhardy) Souls, we opted for the latter, so the 10 minute view of the Hogs Back and Chobham Ridges from the top was a chance to catch our breath.

Some returned down the same route, but eight of us struck out along the ridge, which eventually brought us back to the Elizabeth’s Wood gate. A short diversion to Elizabeth’s Seat rounded off a Good Day.

A bench erected by Countryside Restoration Trust benefactor John Broadbent-Jones in honour of his wife, Elizabeth.

A bench erected by John Broadbent-Jones in honour of his wife, Elizabeth.

Postscript: we bless your memory, John Broadbent-Jones, for buying all this land, planting these thousands of trees and willing the farm to the CRT.

The Tea Barn the volunteers cleared of rubbish recently turns out to be a cart shed, because it lacks a threshing floor, has a granary above it and has a second doorway at the end of its length. The Pierrepont barn (which dates from around 1600) really is a barn because its doors are tall enough to take a loaded farm waggon and it does have a threshing floor across its width.