Check out my new gallery: Yosemite Photographs, a small selection from my trip to Yosemite – more to follow of Mariposa Grove and Sequoia. I was first drawn to Yosemite from studying Ansel Adams during my photography course in my teens. 19 years later and I’ve managed to visit this wonderful area. The waterfalls were all dried up but my main draw was to Half Dome. Hoping to do a ‘proper’ post about my experience, I’ll try not to be too long this time!
Well it was a great, but tiring, adventure to California – jet lag is hitting me hard. Back to the trees tomorrow and looking forward to getting stuck in with the boys once again just as the weather starts to get cooler and soon Autumn will be upon us. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get to the APF show this year but there is always 2015, was looking forward to meeting some of you.
So keep checking back for my California adventure and LOTS of photos will soon be on here for you to ogle at the trees. Cheers – Kate x
beautiful photos of some of Devon’s trees with some interesting info
We were recently privileged to visit some friends in Devon. While we were there, we were privileged to meet some wonderful tree people, including Pip Howard and Rob the Treehunter. http://europeantrees.wordpress.com. They are part of a wonderful European-wide project looking at trees, landscape and people called HERCULES.
We were already keen on trees – we really have to be since we own a woodland containing quite a lot of them – but this was a real eye-opener to the presence of and meaning of special trees in the landscape.
South Devon has some very special trees and landscapes. First of all there are the amazing sunken old roads, now become paths or bridleways between steep hedge banks, with overgrown trees. Then, in the fields and in scattered places around the landscape, we find the most amazing old pollards, hundreds of years old, growing slowly and magnificently, hollow…
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Sorry for the lack of posts recently but I’m currently making my way to California for our honeymoon! The trip of a lifetime has finally begun, driving around California in a RV starting in San Francisco then heading to Yosemite National Park, through Mariposa Grove, down to Sequoia (obviously admiring all the mighty giant sequoias and stunning landscape on the way) then over to the coast and up through Big Sur (then it’s time for the Coastal Redwoods). Definitely won’t be a relaxing trip but one filled with adventure, open roads (on the wrong side) and huge trees!
Apart from the tree interest, I’ve always wanted to go to Yosemite after studying the work of the photographer Ansel Adams in my college days. Such an amazing photographer that seemed to capture the character and beauty of the area. He’s definitely worth a look, black & white and stunning. Just hope my camera skills will be enough to capture a small part of what he did.
So I shall return with plenty more photos and lots more to say so don’t be to disheartened – see you in a few weeks!
Getting kids outdoors and closer to nature
You may or may not have heard of the National Trust’s campaign – 50 Things to do before you’re 11 ¾…
This initiative was set up a few years ago in response to information about how today’s generation of kids are spending far less time outdoors doing the things we all used to do like climbing trees, running around in the rain and making mud pies.
This summer, we ran a very successful bushcraft club at our site at Coelbren and Henrhyd Falls, with the help of local bushcraft expert Angus. The aim was simply to get kids out and about playing and thinking outdoors, learning new skills, making friends and having fun.
Over the four sessions we did a whole variety of activities – firelighting techniques, whittling and sanding our own walking sticks, building shelters, making mini shelters for action figures, archery, toasting marshmallows, making…
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12th August 2014
Another week has rolled around here in the Brecon Beacons, the remains of Hurricane Bertha are still floating around making British weather even more unpredictable than usual. Yesterday, I thought it would be good of me to update my Tetanus seeing as the last time I had that was when I was 14 or something, now that I’m working in the great outdoors and all that. So my left arm is feeling a little worse for wear and like someone’s punched me.
But onwards and upwards, so after our morning catch up, I look to Stu with my usual eager face of ‘so, what we doing today then’ – he sees my face and goes “well, you’re climbing today”. My jaw drops then turns to a smile, my eyes light up in pure shock. “are you being serious?”. My reason for this reaction is that we don’t climb here, I haven’t climbed since I past my test (cs38, so no saw work yet) in May and I never thought I would have the opportunity to climb again unless I worked with a tree surgeon or something.
To help us out Jon Bevan is popping over, he does a lot of training sessions (Usk Valley Training) with us around Pont ar Daf and Stu’s asked him if he could do a small job for us, taking down a copper beech tree at Clytha, Stu also asked if I could join and he agreed. Jon also does some tutoring at my college so I know him from a felling course I did. Great teaching style, good laugh and knows his stuff.
So I get all kitted up, Jon will be providing my equipment and off we go to Clytha, for the first time I didn’t sleep on the way, far too excited. So we get a few things cleared and sorted and meet Jon up at the beech tree. Here’s our task for the day,
Unfortunately it has to come down, the only copper beech on the estate, as it’s too close to the house. The joys of bad planting. Stu shows Jon what he wants, which is basically to reduce it enough so we can just fell it in to the garden without any problems. So Stu checks I’m all happy and leaves me to join Tim with making a start on the huge windblown beech tree. After a catch up and chat, we get kitted up. I’m desperately trying to remember everything I was taught and Jon shows me a few things as well. Jon heads up the tree and starts chopping off some of the lower branches. After a slow start I manage to hoist myself up this relatively small but very bushy tree. It’s a little different to the open cedars I was taught on but I manage to set my anchor up and then make my way to join Jon, who then promptly hands me the top handle saw and lets me have a go.
I’ve always said that going up a tree with a saw never really floated my boat but after some awkward starts and getting myself in to weird positions it wasn’t too bad. Obviously my mind and body have been trained in forester mode so felt a little weird and quite tiring learning new techniques and body positions, but I did enjoy it.
Lunch approached and it looks like we’ve hardly done anything but the branches on the floor shows otherwise! The boys arrive for lunch and Jon and I just finish off moving the branches over the fence so they can be moved at another time (or get eaten by the cattle!)
With lunch complete it was back to it, now I was groundie for the rest of the day (filling the tank, removing brash, making sure ropes were free, etc) and the tree soon started disappearing. It seems like such an art when you see a tree being dismantled, I watched in awe.
In no time at all it was just a straight stem ready for felling another time. With a few minutes left Stu asked for a small Eucalyptus to be taken down, Jon was soon up there in his spikes dismantling. I’ve never worked with Eucalyptus but I did hear Stu saying that if you are going to burn it to make sure you split before it’s seasoned otherwise it goes solid and really difficult to split. So there is a little tip for you all, split your Eucalyptus while it’s green – before it’s too late!
With that complete it was a tidy up and a thank you to Jon for letting me climb with him then off we went back to base with a smile on my face and some seriously achy arms.
With the dizzying heights over of being a tree surgeon for a day it was back to solid ground and back to the monster of a tree. Tim and Stu managed to complete one half with a brash pile ready for burning. Luckily I remembered to bring my shorts, unlike the boys so I managed to get out of chainsaw duty for the day but it did mean removing the brash and making sure the fire was fed as well as loading up the trailer with smaller bits of wood. The larger sections will be handled by the forwarder.
After punching his way in, Tim had the joy of having to deal with the mess near the standing tree. Where it fell in to its sister, it snapped two of her branches as well as get its own mangled up. Luckily, with little drama and Tim’s experience it all came down with ease and the clean up continued. Stu made a start on the other side, just when you think you’re winning – it just keeps on going.
We made a small dent in the mess and it was already home time. Same again tomorrow!
A cooler day today and a bit of a breeze, good as I’m kitted up and ready to help break down this tree. Another trailer loaded and Stu had to head off to do some clearing up work in another part of the estate. With the smaller bits already dealt with it was now time to start converting the larger diameter bits.
We reached the limit of our saws bar pretty quickly as Tim found out, only a small bit was left in the middle when this section fell and we couldn’t help ourselves.
With the laughs over and the rain storm approaching it was time for lunch. Luckily the shower passed over just before lunch ended so it was back to the bigger stuff, time for the larger saw. Stu was back with the forwarder and loaded up, we were soon starting to get this mess cleared up. The brash pile was getting larger and larger, it’s amazing how much brash one tree can make.
With time rolling by it was time to call it a day. We’ll hopefully be able to finish it off next week. The two large stems will be left in situ for wildlife and habitats. Soon this section of the path will be able to be reopened and Clytha will be looking a little less wind battered.
Here’s a before and after shot, we’re getting there! Check back next time to see what I get up to next, thanks for reading.
5th August 2014
I arrived at work on a damp cool morning, is this summer over already? I am actually a little relieved as it appears that felling is on the agenda today at Clytha. Nothing as big as our winter felling days but enough to want cool weather. Wearing duvets around your legs in summer is not a nice feeling, I do not envy the arboriculturists (tree surgeons) among you.
So with the rain falling we loaded the van and off we went via a firewood delivery. Now the boys will tell you, I tend to snooze on our way to Clytha – it’s about 45mins/1 hour drive. When you’re stuck in the back and all you can see is the same scenery you’ve been looking at for the past how many journeys or a head rest there isn’t much else to do. I seem to wake up just as we approach the estate and usually step out the van a little blurry eyed and met with Stu’s usual comment “did you enjoy your snooze?”. It always makes me wonder if I’d been muttering (I do have a tendency to do this and sleep walk) or even snore, oh that would be embarrassing! Though they’ve never said anything…
Anyway, this time I thought I’d keep myself amused for a little while – I think I lasted all of 20 minutes till I started to doze. A sure fire way to get me sleepy, stick me in anything that moves like a train, car, boat, etc. So I decided to take a few ‘arty’ photos on my camera – for those of you who follow me on twitter (@femaleforester) I try to upload some photos when I take them but it seems mobile internet coverage hasn’t quite reached the Brecon Beacons.
We arrive at Clytha and get on with the task in hand. Fell a few trees where the tenant farmer is putting in a hedge. Tim’s in the forwarder today and Stu and I are on the ground felling and converting. These trees will be put towards our firewood stockpile for splitting in a few years time. Stu tells me which trees he wants down and they are all Ash (relatively slim) and leaning. I assess and reckon I should be doing something other than a standard fell cut but Stu reassures me it will be fine, with the added bits of wisdom like “just make sure you keep arms length, full throttle and chase it a little more than usual”…hmm reassuring! I’ve also come to the conclusion I am far too trustworthy for my own good.
On I go, first Ash came down right direction, good parallel hinge, feeling quite chuffed with that. Great comments from Stu while he stood behind me watching, get it converted and on to the next. Same again, all going well. I managed to take a before and after photo.
With lunch complete it was back to it, Stu started with his Beech tree. Had a few problems but it managed to come down in the end. My turn for the Ash. Now, I started my gob cut and for some reason felt uneasy, no idea why but something felt weird. I carry on – arms length and full throttle…a bit of a crack and boom. We have ourselves a Kicker, Widow Maker or Barber’s chair depending what you were taught (click here for a youtube clip – mine was no where near this bad, perhaps 4ft of tear if that). The one time Stu didn’t watch my every move today, but he glances over and the smile on his face was huge. Mine was a little bit more a look of shock and horror! So that’s why you shouldn’t put your head behind a tree when you’re felling. Though I have no idea why you would do that in the first place.
I later found out that he was hoping it would happen so I could experience it and learn from it, so I didn’t feel that bad and realised I should trust my instincts. We got it down and discussed the various ways I could deal with it. I didn’t feel so bad knowing that Stu was sort of planning for it and glad I learnt from it rather than just reading about it. With the brash piled ready for burning tomorrow and the weather warming up it was time to head back to base.
It was up to Tim & I to carry on the tasks for the rest of the week, today was the turn of the ‘little’ jobs that needed to be done around Clytha. With the brash pile burning it was up to the folly to break down a fallen sweet chestnut branch that was near a footpath and to check on an elm that was felled by the power line boys a few months ago.
Then it was on to removing some of the tree shelters in the park that were no longer needed, due to the wet weather and marshy areas some of the trees haven’t lasted very long so the guards against the cattle were no longer needed. We also took the opportunity to do a bit of pruning as some have become a little bushy.
These were installed a long time ago and have been painted quite a few times but it didn’t take long to unbolt them. It was getting them out the ground that was the difficult bit. After a little head scratching and trial and error we managed to work out how to get them out. With my height, I wasn’t a great match for Tim’s strength nor for a guard that was taller than me, but we managed to fully remove 1 out of 4. Due to their size we could only load one half at a time in to the back of the land rover and then take it back to the yard. That turned out to be a little time consuming so we decided that maybe we’d just unbolt all of them, get them out the ground then place them gently back in the holes with only the top bolts loosely done up. That way it looks no different to the visitor or cow but makes it quicker when we come back to remove them with the forwarder tomorrow.
While we were doing that I had a little visitor pop up on my shoulder, a silver/grey four spot orb weaver – or so I think it was. I’m not at all good with wildlife so from memory this is what I reckon. Luckily I’m not too scared about spiders (might be because I grew up in the Caribbean with tarantulas), but have to admit there was a slight heartbeat moment when you see something move on your shoulder and because it’s so close to your face it is just a blur but I managed to slowly remove it with very little harm and without a screech. Tim wanted a photo opportunity so had to try and keep it on the spanner while he ran off to get the camera. Don’t worry, we released it back amongst the grass.
With 1 tree guard in storage it was time to head back to base feeling a little weak in the arms, got to get the strength back ready for tomorrow!
It was time to remove the guards, all 6 sections. Using the forwarder we loaded up the jigsaw puzzle. With those driving by we must have looked like we were installing some weird metal art sculpture.
All the guards loaded and trees pruned we headed back to the summer yard where we carefully managed to fit them all in ready to be installed at another site. With that complete, it was back to the fire to do a quick tidy up of all the small bits of wood that we piled up. I found myself saving a frog, this time it was under the twig pile I was about to chuck on the fire, so I managed to catch it and place it under a much larger log pile that wasn’t going to be moving any time soon. Could that be classed as a tick off the National Trust’s 50 things list? OK, I’m not 11 but still, no harm in doing them, right?
So with the fire simmering down, the tenant farmer collecting his wood pile and Clytha looking a little tidier it was back to base and time for home. Next week we’ll be back to work on the massive beech that collapsed in the storm earlier in the year. Here is a panoramic shot I took back then, can you spot the boys?
29th July 2014
With the wedding done and dusted our ‘minimoon’ over it was time to head back to our respective workplaces. We will be heading off on our honeymoon in couple of months, a road trip around California in a small motorhome starting in San Francisco then to Yosemite and Sequoia (can’t wait to see those big trees!) then back towards the coast and then make our way back to SF, all in the space of 2 weeks. I hope we can fit it all in!
I arrive at work feeling a little worse for wear and it’s not because of alcohol – honest! – just pure exhaustion. I remembered to bring back some wedding cake for the team, a bit of all three layers – chocolate, lemon drizzle and stripy sponge. The stripy one was the smallest layer so I only managed to save 2 slivers for the boys. Seeing as there wasn’t much left, I’m guessing it was a great success.
With the quick recap of the wedding we were back on the road, but this time heading to Coed-y-Bwnydd which is a large Iron Age Hill Fort that overlooks Bettws Newydd, near Raglan. It has a wonderful bluebell show in the Spring, so worth checking it out if you are in the area.
Luckily it’s been dry for a few days as we’re about to head up some steep slopes. We need to repair the fence line that marks our boundary but we won’t have time to complete it all, so for now Stu has decided to make use of this dry weather and get the strainers and turning posts in. Mainly as we don’t fancy having to dig them all in by hand.
Stu sets off marking up the holes while I follow up behind putting in the large strainers with Tim flexing his leg muscles as he prevents the tractor from sliding down the hill, or toppling sideways, so lots of zig zagging (slowly drives down then reverses back up) his way along this large slope. We managed to get a few in but one we had to do by hand as the tractor couldn’t get to it.
I’ve never had to dig a post hole so this was a new thing for me and even after this lesson I still haven’t used one of those post hole digging contraption things. If you are a seasoned pro at digging post holes, you can easily skip this paragraph.
So first we started to dig a hole about 1.5ft square and roughly aimed to get it 2ft deep with straight sides. With the 3 of us on a dry day it didn’t seem too bad. We inserted the strainer (pointed end up) to get it sitting straight against the back wall, we placed in some small to medium sized rocks for a good fit. Then filled it halfway with the extracted soil while making sure it got in to the gaps and compressed it. Put some more rocks in for the next layer making sure it was a snug fit and jammed them down using the heavy metal bar from fencing. Then finished with soil, again compacting it down. The post seemed pretty rock solid to me and at a later date we’ll chop the point off to leave a secure turning post.
My phone has been playing up and forgot my small camera so unfortunately there are very little photos in this post but I will aim to get back on track. The day was filled with more post knocking so tomorrow will be spent doing the next section.
Today we’re back to Coed-y-Bwyndd to carry on with knocking in the strainers and turning posts. Now we’re going up the slope rather than across it so even more pressure to try and get these posts straight and not go with the slope, harder than it sounds especially when you have two seasoned pros watching you. I think I did OK overall, except for a stubborn one which decided to go all over the place – it must have it something, obviously *cough*.
Anyway, the second half of the day we stopped at a loyal firewood customer to see about some trees they want out due to some building work they are having done as well as some of Stu’s professional advice. There was a tree there that they were umming and ahhing over whether we could fell it in to the field or if they had to get a tree surgeon in. I was eyeing it up as I recently passed my CS38 (access a tree using rope and harness) but unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to do any heavy pruning as I don’t have a ticket for that, yet. Stu joked that I missed out on a job there as I would’ve loved to do it. See the boys don’t have the tickets, but it’s more like they don’t fancy doing any aerial tree work, especially when you can just cut it down in one.
I have to admit at the beginning I always felt that I didn’t fancy climbing a tree with a chainsaw attached to me, it just sounds slightly, well, wrong. Though I am now warming to the idea, perhaps another one to think about at college next year, I might just add it to my ever growing wish list.
No idea what’s happened with me today, feel awful and a little spaced out – perhaps the wedding exhaustion is back for round 2. We were back at Clytha to do some felling, I was meant to be helping Tim but I thought it would be best (and safer for everyone) if I didn’t, so I made a dent in cutting up the fallen Beech from Christmas. We’ll be taking the majority of it for our firewood piles but will be leaving the large rotting end for wildlife habitats. Stu was in the tractor moving brash to our fire pile and then came to help me with the cross cutting. We loaded a few logs in to the back and will be back to collect the rest with the trailer.
Feeling rather useless and taking it easy so I wasn’t much help to the boys today and very much looking forward to a day off tomorrow. I’ll be back to my normal self next week and raring to go, well I hope so, there’s more felling to be done!
15th July 2014
With Stu off for a few days it was just Tim and I to continue fencing Quarry Wood. Last of the blocks of wood to fence here at Clytha, phew! First it was to remove the old fence which seemed to contain hundreds of staples, I definitely feel that I have managed to perfect their removal now, surely. The usual culprits were responsible for my many scratches and itches, the good old nettles, brambles and you got it, horseflies!
I was on post knocker duty once again with Tim in the tractor, I haven’t completed my tractor ticket yet so I’m unable to have a go. Although technically I can, it’s their policy (and probably very wise!) that you should have formal training before being allowed to use the tractor.
We managed to get the second stretch up and tacked against the cattle as we won’t be back here till Thursday.
We had our team meeting in the morning followed by a firewood delivery to Neath for a volunteer of ours, so not too much to report here.
Back to Quarry Wood to complete the third leg with Stu and Tim. This is my last week before my ‘holiday’ as I’ll be getting married next weekend. With that in mind, my tasks for the day consisted of those that would pose little risk of injury or scratches to the arms such as marking out posts, barring holes and stapling – so just the usual really! With the day coming to a close it was time to head back to base, the boys will finish off the fencing next week then it will be on to a new site and maybe new jobs.
So check back to see what we’ll be up to in August
8th July 2014
I arrived in work after my usual Monday off (still college holidays) and get told that the boys did some felling yesterday but left me one tree. Just one. So my paranoid brain is put in to overdrive “Stu, why have you left me one…what’s wrong with it?”. Is it awkward, is it really rotten, too close to the fence, have to fell it next to a building???…but they don’t say anything helpful just “because we felt like it”, “thought you might like to do some felling”, “didn’t want you feeling left out”.
So with my chainsaw gear on (just me) we set out to Clytha. The trees they were talking about were the Western Reds from the first block we started fencing as mentioned in a previous post. With the weather a little cooler, Stu took the opportunity to knock a few out so we can finish the fencing. Up we trundle, Stu shows me the one and wants it in to the field and checks I’m ok with that then he leaves me to it. The boys make a start on clearing up the brash from yesterday, but don’t worry I know Stu is watching me.
Well, there was nothing wrong or awkward about the tree, just a little bigger than the usual and it definitely wants to go in the field so no biggie on the direction. He just wanted to let me have a go on a slightly bigger tree so no need for the paranoia. I decided to do a split level – our usual. I trim the buttresses, clear my exits, get my wedge and hammer ready, eye up my directional marker and make a start. Now, this trunk is slightly wider than my bar – this is new to me. With Stu and Tim in the distance I decide that I’m going to have to make the gob from two sides so the cuts meet in the middle to make one big directional cut. Great, all goes to plan. Now time for the two thirds cut, on a ‘small’ tree you would start your cut using two thirds of your bar, but this time I needed the full bar. All done, phew – in with the wedge.
Now, time for the final one, at an angle with the bottom of the cut below the two thirds cut and with Stu’s usual words in my ear “just chase it a little when it starts to go” – here we go! Feeling a little nervous as it twitches, there it goes – felt pretty chuffed, right direction and went down without any drama.
but now I had to sned it, the boring bit. Feeling happy with how it went, it was time to clean it up and get it ready for Stu to move.
With all the trees out of the way of the fence line it was time to start. A few grey clouds were visible on the horizon but with little breeze we were unsure where they were heading. With Stu in the tractor clearing up the brash, I started to clear up the fence line use the chainsaw. Low lying branches, small trees, etc that type of thing. With that task complete, I went to join Tim at the top of the wood – just as we head through under the trees the thunderstorm rolled in. Not the best place to be for any of us, Stu in a metal box and Tim and I under a big old Sweet Chestnut, all of us on top of a hill. Luckily, the storm seemed to move over us without any problems, just some sheet lightning. Tim and I got a little restless so decided to use this time wisely – by climbing a tree! Tim climbed while I took a photo to show the size of the sycamore for the National Trust Breacon Beacons Facebook page
With the passing of the storm it was time for our morning break, you could see the clouds nearby but the stillness made them threatening. It looked like some more could be approaching, so we pushed on to do as much as we could but it soon got a little too muddy for the tractor, it was time to call it a day and we’ll return on Thursday to finish off.
The morning was spent sorting out some trees at Cwm Gwdi car park. The road was getting a little over grown so we just needed to prune some lower branches. Nothing major but some more horseflies, surprise surprise! With that complete we headed back to base for lunch then some firewood processing. On the way we passed the access team putting a new information sign at Carno Wood. I think they look great, have you seen any of our new signs around?
With Tim preoccupied with other tasks we got on with some firewood processing. There wasn’t enough to do with big processor so I cut up bits with the chainsaw while Stu chopped by hand, luckily it was mainly ash so a little easier to split. This firewood will be delivered next week to one of our volunteers down near Neath.
Back to Clytha to finish off the fence line, lots of stapling to be done. Nothing to major to report here but I did get a compliment from both of them, my stapling has got a lot quicker – yes! A great way to end the week.