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Rhodie rhestling but no firewood chopping

by Rod Kebble

The conservation group met on 7th January and, as forecast, this was the first time since the CRT acquired Pierrepont Farm in 2006 that the working party immediately following Christmas was not spent chopping firewood because the farmhouse was about to run out.

This was partly due to the warmer weather before the holiday but also because supplies have been topped up to the extent that some of boxes the volunteers made from pallets early last year are still standing where they were built, full of cut logs that are now well-seasoned.

If the farmhouse starts to run short of fuel, all that is necessary is to send out the fork lift to pick up the boxes.

Which is not to say the volunteers had nothing to do. Work continued in clearing rhododendron from near the boundary with the RSPB’s Farnham Heath Reserve. There are now only two more working parties before this task will have to stop, so that wildlife is not disturbed in its spring activities (eg. nest building).

Countryside Restoration Trust volunteer Brian Lavers wrestles a rhodedendron out of the ground.

Going, going, gone! Brian Lavers "rhestles" a rhodie out of the ground.

Work will also have to cease soon in coppicing the chestnuts, before the sap starts to rise. Some green shoots were already pushing their way through the floor of Tankersford Copse (though the cold weather since might have made them regret it), so it looks as if spring might arrive a little early this year.

Conway Churchill was felling more trees and had help from two students reading Countryside Management at Merrist Wood. As part of their course, twins Damien and Richard Powle are required to do 200 hours of work placement between now and July, so they set to and were soon initiated into the mysteries of log-splitting.

If we are honest, there aren’t very many mysteries and they soon got the hang of it, producing a sizeable stack of fence posts before lunch, with the early mishaps going to the charcoal/firewood pile. They still found time to look about them, though, and spotted a buzzard above the copse being mobbed by two crows (if just two crows can constitute a mob) and later a muntjac in Pigeon Field. Damien and Richard were also shown the robotic milking machines in action, which they found interesting.

Countryside Restoration Trust vounteers for the day, Damien and Richard wonder what they have let themselves in for.

CRT volunteers for the day, Damien (left) and Richard Powle wonder what they have let themselves in for.

Conway and farmer Mike Clear have since put points on the posts and they are ready for use. The next job is to protect the stools from the muntjac and its bigger cousins, before the new shoots start to appear.

Work was also carried on the drive that runs from the farm gate and past the dairy. Some new hedging needs to be planted along here, by the end of March at the latest, but first the old barbed wire fencing has to be removed and foliage cut back.

Brian Lavers, the leader of the conservation group, has told the volunteers that about 50 metres of hedge will be planted. However, Mike Clear has said in a tweet of 13th January that the hedge will be 200 metres in length. To be continued…