January 2011


Cutting Ash poles in QE Forest

Cutting Ash poles in QE Forest

Last week Matt Russell, an Iron Age re-enactor was in Holt Down cutting Ash poles that would later be turned in to spear shafts and javelins. Using the traditional methods these are all historically correct and will be used during events and educational activities throughout the coming season. 

Living History display

Living History display

Living History is a term that is used where the past is literally brought to life using recreated artifacts from a specific time period. A group called Weorod came to last year’s Wood Fair to demonstrate Medieval Living History, and their use of weaponry was too realistic for some spectators.

Spear training

Spear training

This is a great hands on way to get children involved in the history curriculum.

Tom Munday and apple tree

Tom Munday and apple tree

Several years ago the Park set about tracking down names for all the old apple trees growing out on site. This involved experts at  the Brogdale Fruit Trust or Wisley, for apples and crab apples respectively. Fruit, branch wood and foliage were duly examined proving the majority of our trees were wild seedlings of no provenance or quality. There were however two exceptions. To the north of Butser is a lane linking the Hill with the East Meon Road at Bo Peep pond. This lane has always been known as Crab Apple with many old fruit trees  planted along its length. The only one of these which could be  identified was Malus Striped Beauty, a crab apple first named in the 1930s.

The second tree of note was found growing on the edge of the A3 slip road close to the visitor centre, one of a number located there which probably originated from an apple core thrown out of a car window. A much younger tree with dark red fruit of a surprisingly good flavour. No match could be found and so the Park was left with a distinct tree but with no name. At the time one of our rangers was retiring after a long career at the Park and in the spirit of old varieties  such as James Grieve, or  Charles Ross, the new name became Tom Munday. Every year we graft another 15 Tom Munday trees on to semi-dwarfing rootstock and these are currently available from the Centre shop.

Other old varieties of local provenance such as the Hambledon Deux Ans or Easter Orange have been planted out on site either in the small paddocks close to our two cottages, or in Rake Field as standards in the newly laid hedge.

Wood chipper action

Wood chipper in action

The cold weather has increased the amount of wood chip being used by the biomass boiler with a trailer load of  8 cubic metres lasting about two weeks. The last bulk chipping took place in July with 60 tonnes of Beech wood going in to the storage barn. 

This time 30 tonnes of seasoned Spruce and Larch was used, enough to take us through to the spring. Contractors from Hindhead, Redwood Tree Services, were brought in for the morning which is all the time it takes.  The power unit is a Valtra 120 tractor which has a 160hp engine providing 145hp at the pto.  The chipper is a Heizohack which will produce  just the right chip sample (see earlier blog… ‘Biomass’). With this set up one operator can load the 3 metre tree lengths, two or three at once, and at the same time direct the stream of chip in to the barn. The whole lot can then be put in to the transport mode before heading back up the A3 at 40kmh.

On the evening of the 5th January it will be time to take down the Christmas cards and to pack away the decorations for another year. Of the 2,000 trees sold during December some will make their way back to the Park to be recycled, their nutrients returned to the soil to help future growth. A bay is located in the main car park for this purpose.

This year the delivery of trees, all sustainably grown in the UK, was upset by the snow.  Some 500 were either stuck in the plantations or on the road network unable to be delivered in time. The shortage meant that some people were unable to source the most popular Nordmann’s Fir, and will have tried a traditional Norway Spruce or even a Lodgepole Pine for the first time. All three are great trees which suit different situations and all have their supporters. 

In addition 1,000 seedling trees were given out free of charge, so customers could plant their own for the future. In 8 to 10 years time, with care they should be ready.