This is the month when much of the practical work begins in the Park, and with 600 hectares to manage it is often difficult for all the staff, let alone our visitors, to keep in touch with what  is happening. This year with a team of 5 rangers and two apprentices we have made a great start.

Over the winter about 1 km of fencing will be put in, using a standard specification of livestock netting topped with two strands of barbed wire for livestock, or two of plain wire for humans. We have our own tractor mounted post thumper which makes the work easier on the accessible slopes. The image is of the first job completed replacing a short length alongside the Cannonball BBQ site.

Fencing at Cannonball

About ten years ago we planted two new hedges in Rake Field to the north of Butser. One was a requirement of the organic inspector for our first years accreditation, to act as a buffer against pesticide drift from neighbouring arable fields, and the second was restoring  an old boundary line long since grubbed out. The total length planted, with 5 trees and shrubs per metre, was 340 metres. Funding for the project came from a young couple who decided to offer metres of hedge as presents on their wedding list. A web-site was set up and the friends and family ensured that the happy couple would leave a lasting memory of the occasion.

After eight to ten years, about the lifespan of a toaster or kettle,  a hedge needs to be laid. This is a process essential to maintain the health of the growing plants and to keep the whole thing stock proof. We brought in Les Brannon an expert hedge layer and coppice worker to help. This was a great chance to involve all the rangers, students and volunteers in the process, from cutting the 800 stakes and binders in the QE forest, to practising the South of England style.

Cutting stakes and bindersHedge laid in 2009Hedge laid in 2010 showing stakes (vertical) and binders (horizontal)

Hedge laid in 2009

Hedge laid in 2010 with stakes(vertical) and binders(horizontal)

Ever since the main visitor centre turned off the supply of Russian gas and installed a biomass, or woodchip heating and hot water system, we  have had a yard full of timber. The 85KW boiler needs 85 tonnes of timber per annum, felled and seasoned for at least one year to produce chip of the correct specification and moisture content.
As the timber seasons, it can become more suitable for higher quality products offering a better return. This month the Hampshire Timber Mill came to visit. The mobile saw bench processes small parcels of quality timber for craftsmen and hobbyist alike. Some Red Cedar was soon turned in to tree stakes destined for Hillier’s’ Arboretum, and some spalted Beech for flooring and worktops.

Hampshire Timber Mill with mobile saw bench