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Gathering winter fuel

by Rod Kebble

A new born calf at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm

This calf was born on the morning of December 10th and looked as though she was wondering why she picked such a cold day to arrive. She is as yet unnamed, but her mother is Rice Krispie, daughter of Corn Flake, so you get the drift. (All copyrights acknowledged.) Taking her picture was difficult as curious cows kept geting their heads in the way of the lens. Seven more calves are due to be born by 3rd January.

The Pierrepont conservation group working party on 10th December was a tidying up exercise, picking up timber from various points in Tankersford Wood and Tankersford Copse. Some of it was recently-cut chestnut and birch, some of it rhododendron from earlier years. Altogether we managed to fill two trailer-loads, which were emptied at the wood plat for later chopping and splitting.

The frozen slurry lagoon at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm

Deep and crisp and not quite even — but you would not want to skate on this, as it is the frozen surface of the farm's slurry pit (or "lagoon" as it was more romantically called on the architects' plans). As the spraying of slurry on fields is not permitted year-round, the pit is designed to hold five months'-worth of slurry and farmer Mike Clear is thankful we had a dry autumn, else the pit might have overflowed. Spraying will be permitted again in January.

Quite a bit of chestnut was left in place, for use in the charcoal kiln. Some more chestnut rods having been cut to size, these were split to form fence posts.

At the same time, work continued in clearing more rhododendron. During the timber collection, the extent of the land already cleared became apparent, with some remaining stumps indicating that the rhodies once bordered the permissive path through Tankersford Copse — whereas now there are none from the path to the fence bordering the RSPB’s Farnham Heath Reserve, a distance of some 73 metres (80 yards).

Farmer and Countryside Resroration Trust volunteers load a trailer with logs.

Farmer Mike Clear and CRT volunteers fill the trailer for the second time.

Unlike previous years, Pierrepont Farm appears to be well-stocked with firewood at present, so for the first time since the Countryside Restoration Trust took over the farm, the volunteers will not need to devote the first couple of post-Christmas working parties to cutting logs.

Man-size mince pies for an alfresco celebration of Christmas by Countryside Restoration Trust volunteers.

Man-size mince pies (with homemade mince) made a seasonal substitute for the usual mid-morning cakes.

Folowing our pattern of working alternate Saturdays, the next working party would have been on Christmas Eve but we have awarded ourselves that day off and will next meet on January 7th 2012.

Countryside Restoration Trust volunteers gather for coffee.

The mid-morning coffee's arrival being delayed by the men's inability to light a fire under the Kelly Kettle, Ann Bates requisitioned the dairy's kettle — only to find the problem solved by the time she got back to the worksite, thanks to the intervention of herdsman Tony Timmis (kneeling).