31.12.02 Oak felling in Dorothy Farrar's top wood is going well , but won't be finished by today . Should be finished and cleaned up by the end of January . First weekend in February a team of volunteers are coming in to plant up 500 hazel saplings that Colin Simpson has been nurturing in Dog Kennel wood .
04.12.02 Work in Dorothy Farrers' wood is progressing well this week and we are making good progress with felling the overstood oak coppice . Moving the wood has been made easier by Barney Morris and his horse 'Charlie ' . Barney used to be a circus performer and demonstrated a 'red indian' style mounting of his horse on the run which was quite spectacular . We are also making batons for mounting the oak shingles on the gazebo . An interesting effect on the oak in the cow barn has been noticed . The heartwood has turned dark brown and the sapwood has lightened . This apparently due to the ammonia in the atmosphere from the cows in the other half of the shed , and talking to Peter Nelson who used to work for a building firm in Windermere it was common for them to steep oak beams in horse urine to achieve the same effect .
10.11.02 We have actually got the lower part of the gazebo together now after nearly 300 hours of hand hewing and adzing and carpentry . No wonder everyone else uses power tools now . But the results are worth it . Its turning into a busy time at the moment as Ben Harris is re-appearing from Scotland for a couple of weeks to do an oak framed lean too , so I've got wood to cut for that (and I'm not sure there is enough straight oak in this bit of wood ) , the gazebo , firewood orders , bird feeders , a bird table and I keep getting asked for hurdles which is a problem as I've very little hazel to cut this winter .
28.10.02 The gazebo is coming along slowly but starting to look rather wonderful . The original idea was to turn it out in about a week , 150 hours later we are still building the main framework . Barry's little tractor has gone back to Catcrag for a couple of weeks to do some winching down of timber and the oak felling at Dorothy Farrar's is progressing nicely . Sale of the month has been a trailer load of birch tops sold to a place near Newcastle . Previously they were air freighting something similar in from California .
30.09.02 Well I've survived 4 days at the APF exhibition in Lockerbie . Luckily the weather was very kind as even after 2 weeks of dry weather the site was very boggy in places with vans suddenly disappearing up to their axles in mud . There was a very diverse set of people going to the show from the big machine forestry men to school children from the local schools . There was keen interest in the hewing of oak beams that we were doing and a couple of sawmills asked about the possibility of us supplying them with hand hewn beams . One set of men from a sawmill in Northern Ireland were talking about bringing us over to put an adzed finish on sawn beams for them . When I started doing some oak shingles an old chap started watching intently so I asked if he was an old shingle maker . It turned out he was , having turned out thousands of riven cedar shingles on an estate in Hampshire . He'd also made lots of tent pegs using a stock knife , the largest peg being 3 foot long !
19.09.02 It's been all go with the nice weather getting prepared for the APF exhibition in Lockerbie . Saul is helping to make a green oak gazebo out of the oak that we are cutting at the top end of Dorothy Farrer's wood . This has been great fun axing and adzing the various bits down to size and the finished product should look incredible . We are hoping to have no metal work in it at all and the roof will be covered in oak shingles . Very slowly autumn is starting , and the weather is so quiet at the moment that you can hear each individual leaf fall off the tree . Strange but true , and quite magical .
31.08.02 OooPs it was all a dream I havn't really been absent for 2 months just in the shower . Talking of showers its been a pretty dismal summer and charcoal sales have been worse than last year when foot and mouth reduced things . In the wet me and Barry have been beavering away making firewood in an attemp to make some money this year . This is being hampered by the wet weather as I can't pull a full load of firewood up the greasy slope when there's been the smallest amount of rain . I've also 'volunteered' to be the editor of the Coppice Association North West's newsletter . Given my English that could be fairly unintelligble . Among my many holidays this summer was a trip to the Isle of Man . The House of Mannen museum at Peel has an excellent reconstruction of a celtic roundhouse and must have kept some local hurdle maker in work for a considerable time . Well worth a visit . My nephew Jack Taylor has been up to help with the firewood , here he is on the L'al tractor.
07.07.02 Tis the season of fairs and displays . First up was the National Trust ' Centenary of the Trust in Borrowdale ' fair at Keswick . I was manning the Coppice Association stand for this one and we had a lot of interest from the public . If they all join we will double the membership , which would be no bad thing . Brian and Louise Crawley were also there doing a charcoal demonstration , here is Brian trying to put his barrel out at the end of the day .
02.07.02 These updates are getting a bit sparse , I either forget the camera or I'm busy trying to make bird feeders in the shed . The pictures would consist mostly of rain falling in varying amounts although I did see the sun today . We are starting to make progress with clearing the felled trees in Catcrag and actually had to fell another large ash which had cracked down to the ground and was waving about rather alarmingly in the breeze . We've spent the last couple of days extracting birch tops for besom brooms and hedging stakes using the ariel ropeway which is pretty good fun . I've now got a barn full of birch and very nice it smells too . The farmers cows managed to get out of the field that we've been extracting through and have been running up the road to Staveley . It wasn't us guv as we made sure the gate was firmly closed when we left .
26.06.02 Helping Saul deliver his oak table to Ilkley last Saturday . Its all been hand made from shaping the beams with axe and adze to drilling the holes with a brace and bit .
19.06.02 What do charcoal burners do in their spare time ? Well they go and discuss charcoal burning with other charcoal burners . Last night was one such occasion at Rebecca Oaks' spot , where we gathered round to admire her new motorised grader and discuss the design of the Coppice association bags . Today was a bit more like summer and I was helping Colin Simpson move his firewood from Dorothy Farrer's to his house .
17.06.02 A week of gloom and despondency as June continues to be mostly wet , however the gloom is being broken by the World Cup . There is the faint glimmer of a good order from an Indian takeaway which would provide a steady income round the year although other charcoal burners have had trouble with this sort of customer wanting ever larger longer burning bits of charcoal . Anyway given them a couple of bags to try
29.05.02 Maureen the kiln has been fired up for the first time in Catcrag wood on Monday . It will be interesting to see how its gone , as air seemed to have been getting through the mud I was using to seal the bottom of the kiln . It was generally a busy day on Monday as the new technology arrived in the form of a firewood processor , hot off the boat from Northern Ireland . It was duly installed on the back of Tom tractor and the pair set off over the fields to the wood where it then fell off the back of the tractor with a rather load clang ! Surprisingly no damage was done and it has been happily chewing up lumps of wood into firewood . The weather has been pretty miserable with large amounts of rain so the charcoal sales aren't going that well .
22.05.02 Mixed weather last couple of days , Monday was spent in the barn doing a cleft oak archway and trying to sell charcoal to campsites . I've actually managed to get a supply into Side Farm at Patterdale which is a great little campsite that I've stopped at in the past . Tuesday was spent innoculating logs with Shittaki spawn and Wednesday was spent helping Saul with his oak slabs that he's making into a table .
19.05.02 The kiln is now set up in Catcrag woods ready to go and everything is starting to look a lot more purposeful . I've just come back from a weeks holiday so I'm raring to go .
01.05.02 Barry is back from his holidays and his hand has healed well enough to help with doing some fence alterations around the wood so that we can get the kiln in . We've also got his 'lal' tractor back into the wood to start winching the trees off the slope and get them cut and stacked for firewood and fencing . Got talking to Mr Saunders the farmer today , his son has broken his leg in three places after a stone gatepost slipped out of the chain that was holding it .
25.04.02 Spent today planting out the new willow bed down near Silverdale and doing a bit more hurdling
23.04.02 Things are starting to move on the charcoal front now with the better weather and I've been ferrying stocks down to the West (and East ) Midlands to prepare for the heatwave . This should be the sign for the onset of monsoon conditions . Last weekend I went to a course about the do and don'ts of contracting which was followed by demonstrations of various bits of equipment such as extraction by horse (impressive ) and extraction by Alstor mini forwarder , which was very impressive . The course was at the Green wood Trust in Coalbrookdale and if you are in the area is well worth a look round . I've spent Tuesday helping out Saul with his bits of oak that he wants to make a table out of and doing a bit more hurdleing .
17.04.02 Another dry day , quite incredible really . The mud in Catcrag wood is now baked hard like the middle of summer . Had a very pleasant barbecue in the wood with the family last night , there's nothing like the taste of Cumberland sausage cooked over my charcoal . What's this tree in full flower , spotted in the Lythe Valley ?
15.04.02 Glorious weather again , and lots of pale yellow butterflies about . Spent the day making hurdles and experimenting with some tent pegs . Barry managed to also break the bone in his hand with his bill hook , so he will be out of action for some while . And must now be doubtful for the world cup .
11.04.02 Yesterday was beautiful down at Dorothy Farrar's spring wood , lovely and warm . Spent the afternoon bundling up birch tops and strapping them up tightly so that they season to the right shape for besom brooms . Today was a bit of a strange day , the morning started well with my new (well 40 year old) tractor being delivered . What a beauty . The afternoon however went rapidly downhill after Barry managed to hit his left hand with his bill hook resulting in a very deep cut that has partly severed his tendon . I wish him a speedy recovery .Leaf spring is now underway.
09.04.02 Although the cutting season is finished it still seems very hectic . I've been extracting the last of the 'secret sticks ' out of Dorothy Farrar's spring wood using a 'death slide' type rope and pulley . Great fun in the nice weather , with the ground dried out . Went into C.T.Hayton's last week to buy a ball of string , came away with a rather nice tractor (Massey 135) in tip top condition . The warblers have now arrived in Dorothy Farrar's wood , several weeks early according to Colin Simpson .
03.04.02 MIL once again occupying the nerve centre of Lakeland Coppice Products has reduced updates , unfortunately when she got back home she had been burgled whish is very unpleasant . Picked up 500 'secret sticks' from Rebecca Oaks today , part of a consignment of 2000 . I hope the chap that is buying them has a big truck because they weigh tons . Sue who works with Rebecca makes yurts (and hires them out ) , here is the one she lives in . This is hardly roughing it in the woods .
27.03.02 Went to York Livestock centre today to try and buy a tractor . A little Massey Ferguson 135 really took our eye . Obviously a well loved tractor in very good nick but it went for £1900 which is probably more than it cost new . Interestingly the larger newer tractors seem to go for much less than you would imagine .
24.03.02 I am slowly getting through the order for 28 inch secret sticks . I'm now up to 1100 including Rebecca Oaks' contribution . Weather was absolutely gorgeous on Friday .
20.03.02 Friday was spent bagging up charcoal for the start of the season . I've also been ringing around trying to get new customers without much luck . However one notable new addition is the Grizedale visitor centre . This week I have mostly been cutting 'secret sticks ' in Catcrag wood . Its starting to look a real hive of activity . There is also lots of violets coming out in Catcrag , very nice .
14.03.02 Short day at Dorothy Farrer's spring wood due to child minding duties . Progress seemed a bit slow , not helped by repeatedly trying to chainsaw through stones . It has started dawning on me that I've got a very hectic couple of weeks coming up . I've got to get my charcoal stockists supplied for easter so that will take up a couple of days of bagging and delivering , and I've also got to get the 2000 'secret sticks' finished , the current count being 300 . I'm hoping that Rebecca Oaks might be recovered enough to chip in towards these .
13.03.02 What a day , clear blue skies and warm in the sunshine . All the birds twittering and a fine days charcoal burning . Makes all the days in the rain worthwhile .Kiln was lit at 5am and finished at 4pm .
11.03.02 Remember Maureen the charcoal kiln ? Well she's back from her winter holiday filled and ready to go , probably Wednesday . Looking a bit rusty after her layoff in the very wet weather but that will soon go when the burn gets going .Sunny today , absolutely marvelous.
10.03.02 Catcrag on Friday . Starting to make sense of all the wood that's lying about . Also another local forwarder operator turned up and has offered to swap some firewood for extracting the big cherry butt to the sawmill . This sounds good on the face of it but the vagueness about what he wanted makes me wonder if most of the wood will have disappeared as being 'that bit of firewood' . Secret project X1 started with the first 3 logs which need 40 holes each drilling in them . This is a very slow process and a cordless drill isn't really up to it . Here is a picture of the mother load of coppicing , straight , dense in rotation hazel .Hmmm
07.03.02 Bad weather , so I've spent the day doing some preperation for the forthcoming charcoal season . However as it will never stop raining I don't know why I'm bothering.
04.03.02 Friday was unusual as the sun came out . It was back to Catcrag wood where I discovered that someone had been wood rustling . A pile of birch logs that had been put aside for secret project X1 had completely disappeared . This was the only pile of smaller length logs near the entrance to the wood . I long for the time when you could be deported to Australia for such heinous crimes . Monday was the last day of felling in Catcrag for this season . Not all the trees I would have liked have been felled , but I have simply run out of time and space .
28.02.02 More rain . Here's a good trick to amuse your friends and relations . Park a Landrover next to field full of sheep and immediately the sheep will all start running towards you . Even ones in the next field were galloping at full tilt to watch me sharpen the chainsaw and walk off in the opposite direction .
27.02.02 The rain continues (well hail and snow ) and I now go to work looking like a Michelin man in an effort to keep warm . I was talking to Cumbria Rural Action today about the possibility of getting a new charcoal bag designed . It seems it I might be able to get some money towards the design but I've got to submit a marketing plan . Anyone know what one of these looks like ? The buzzards are very active at the moment wheeling around over the wood .
26.02.02 A pleasant few days away in Whitby at half term , and returned to more constant rain and high winds . Work is progressing reasonably well at Dorothy Farrers spring wood despite the weather .
20.02.02 Another wet and miserable morning but the sun came out in the afternoon , it instantly lifts the spirits even though your stood there in sodden chainsaw trousers . Cutting is proceeding well in Dorothy Farrer's spring wood and we should have the cutting finished next week . There is huge amounts of pea sticks and flower stakes being produced .
19.02.02 Busy again trying to get finished in Catcrag wood and started on some proper coppicing in Dorothy Farrar's spring wood near Bowston for Cumbria Wildlife Trust . This is coppice that is back in rotation , and the difference is incredible . You can cut through the hazel stools with one swipe of the chainsaw instead of picking each individual piece off with neglected coppice . The brash is a lot less as well and there is lot more useful produce and little charcoal wood . All in all….. marvelous.
14.02.02 Ain't sunshine brilliant . Barry's been helping today , and we've been winching down more of the tall trees around the perimeter of the wood . Most of these ash trees have big patches where the bark has been removed ( by horses according to Ed Mills ) and rot has got into the tree . This can make cutting them down a bit hit and miss . when one end of the hinge is rotten , it doesn't control the direction of the tree so well and a couple of the trees fell slightly of f their intended direction . Its not a problem from a health and safety point of view but can lead to trees that are being left getting knocked about . A local land agent came past today as well asking if we wanted to sell any of the wood for firewood . This might be a chance to get rid of some of it .
13.02.02 Its stopped raining and dried up a bit so I've been back on with felling in Catcrag wood . There is so much stuff for such a small wood that its becoming ridiculous , with trees everywhere and nowhere to put them . We need to be charcoaling soon . There has been a noticeable lengthening in the days during the week and there is even a clump of primroses out . They are not supposed to be out till March .
09.02.02 Rain continued , we have now had the equivalent of 2 months rain in 2 weeks . At least on Saturday it was only heavy showers for my hurdle making demonstration at Pilling (standing in for Rebecca Oaks who has damaged her eye with a stick ) .
07.02.02 Rain , rain ,rain . This time cold as well .
06.02.02 Rain , rain , wind , rain more rain and strong winds . The end of the cutting season is fast approaching and I still seem to have loads to do but the wood is swimming in mud and its not safe to be in when its blowing a gale . Went to Dave Sykes' funeral on Monday . A friend from Provincial and the quiz team its very sad that he's gone . He was buried at Helsington Church near Brigsteer . A fabulous spot with an great view over the Lythe valley . Because Rebecca Oaks has injured her eye I've been asked to do a hurdle making demonstration at Pilling this Saturday 9th February . Its at a hedgelaying competition so most of them will probably be hurdle makers as well . Hmm better go and do some practice .
31.01.02 A short day due to yet more rain and high winds . I was ready for it today though and managed to get an early start . I was able to get my quota of trees in before the rain started in earnest . Here is one of the first shoots to be poking through , what is it ?
29.01.02 Gloomy day at catcrag . We are currently working in the thinnest part of the wood taking down overgrown ash coppice that's approaching sixty foot tall . This is slow work at the limits of the winch and in the current wet weather a bit grim . The strange thing is that nature has decided to spring into life this week and the shoots are appearing everywhere . Also catkins are and buds are popping out on the hazel and willow .
28.01.02 A wild and windy day . Spent the morning in Catcrag wood doing a bit of path improvement until the trees started flailing about so much that it looked like a good idea to get out of there . Barry and I then spent the afternoon cutting and splitting another load of firewood .
24.01.02 A busy week so far . The tally this week is 30 trees down so we are making some progress clearing the overstorey . Wednesday night was very entertaining with the Coppice Association AGM at the Derby Arms in Witherslack . These tend to be 'an audience with Colin Simpson' , but that is no bad thing as he possesses an incredible depth of knowledge about all things coppicing . Ed Mills read out an excert from a book about a timber chute in Austria . This chute ( called something like the Luberhorn ) was 8 miles long and when the weather got icy they would flush water down it which froze . They would then send logs down the chute . On an average day the logs would take 5 mins , on a fast day when the ice was wet they would take 3 minutes , reaching a speed of 180 mph . Mmmm no there's an idea !
22.01.02 Lot of rain and wind today . The morning got off to a good start when I decided to take some action about the missing winch handle . A trip to Greggies' scrap yard produced a bit of bent pipe for a quid that does the job quite adequately . There was then a visit to Neil Stanway near Newby Bridge to see the cords of alder that he's cut for me . Unfortunately they were 8ft by 3ft by 3ft instead of 8ft by 4ft by 4ft which is quite a difference (only just over half the size ) . So poor Neil didn't have as much wood as he thought he did . It was on then to Ben Harris' wood at Staveley in Cartmel for some oak cutting . The news is that Ben has got a job with a timber frame building company in Scotland . Sounds like a great job and includes a regular income . Oh and another thing , saw 3 Red Deer today complete with antlers . As my sons are fond of saying 'awsome'.
17.01.02 Most of today was spent getting the new technology installed in the wood . Rain has turned the area into a quagmire , so it hasn't been easy to get Barry's 'lal' tractor and Hercules the winch in there . Combined with the slope and a liberal coating of stones that act like ball bearings its been a trying day . The winch has been great to use dragging out the bigger bits of wood , but you still get left with heavy bits of wood that have to be man handled into a stack .
16.01.02 Weather was a bit miserable today but not bad enough to stop working , so it was back to Catcrag to bundle up the hazel that's been cut this year and fell a few more trees . However its getting to the point where I can't fell anymore without a winch . I've also found the Murphy's law of woodcutting that the last tree of the day always gets hung up . Here's the business end of an ash tree thats been copiced in the past (about 50 years ago for this one ) . In the centre is whats known as 'black heart' and is why you will rarely get descent ash timber off a coppice stool . You are better off growing single stemmed 'maidens' for your standards .
15.01.02 Nice day today . Tried tidying up the hazel that's been cut before huge amounts of big ash trees get felled on top of them . There is an amazing amount of wood lying about already which needs to be stacked so the tractor can get into the wood .
14.01.02 A day at the forestry Aladdin's cave that is Jas P. Wilson's in Dalbeattie . We came away with a dinky little Norse winch to fit on Barry's compact tractor and avoided getting completely soaked at Catcrag .
10.01.02 A short day but an interesting one . When I got to Catcrag wood I was met by a couple of men dressed like something out of 'the deer hunter ' . In fact , they were deer hunters . Ray White was his name and he informed me he owned the shooting rights to the area . This is no problem to me but he then told me he was going to put a pheasant hut in the top wood and that the birds would get frightened off by tree cutting . As the hazel was just coming back into rotation and would need cutting every winter this didn't sound very good . Barry Drinkwaters art of persuasion came into effect via the mobile phone and Ray has now decided on another course of action . Probably putting the shed in the section where I'm working at the moment which should be finished next winter . They will then have a good seven years peace and quiet . He turned out to be quite an interesting bloke doing gamekeeping , welding contracting and bass fishing at Barrow . Might be a useful contact for 'project X1' . Here is a picture of a birch that caused a few heart stopping moments . It looked fine on the outside except for a black crack up one side . But when Barry did the first cut of the 'gob' it started moving and trapped his saw . When we eventually got it down safely it was totally rotten in the middle .
09.01.02 In Rayrigg woods today cutting up the last of the firewood there and loading up the kiln for its last burn (at Rayrigg ) . Charcoal kilns are certainly good for clearing a place up . Every last bit of wood is getting chucked in . We had what looked like American F14 fighter planes dog fighting over Windermere today , the noise was incredible and they were doing all sorts of aerobatics . .
08.01.02 The children are back at school so there should be a bit more work done now . Notable events of the last few days were the willow patch has been harvested for the first time and produced a couple of bundles of willow which will be replanted to increase the stock . Felling of the overstorey is continuing apace with Barry helping me out today . Weather still remarkably dry , if a little misty . Phase one of secret project X1 underway .
03.01.02 Happy new year to you . Back in full swing after the Christmas holidays . Updates have been a bit difficult due to M.I.L. occupation of the spare room . There has been an excellent freeze just the job for getting into the boggy willow patch , unfortunately I haven't been able to persuade the children to go there with me . Good progress is being made with Catcrag woods with the overstorey now being thinned down to give the hazel a chance to regenerate .