Give a little, get a little back.

Good evening kind Sirs and Madams, sorry it has been a while since my last post. May I say you are looking particularly fine this afternoon?

Well, it seems that Christmas is nearly here. Next week is our last week at work, and man, do I feel like I need the holiday. Here is a picture of our resident Santa, Rodney, at work. If you ever wondered how Santa spends the Summer months, he makes his living felling trees and carting them about on the back of a forwarder:

 What a legend.

Rodney actually works up at Centre Parcs as Santa. You can pay to have your children go and sit on his knee. He's a good old boy.

Sadly we had a rather tragic incident this week: one of our team passed away while out working in the woods. Although I really don't want to discuss it here, I just thought I'd say that my thoughts are with his family, and he will be sadly missed. It has really had an impact on everyone around here.

I guess you never really know when you're going to go, which is why we should live every last day to its utmost potential.

On a different note, because I know he wouldn't want people agonising over it, we had some Bulgarian forestry students visiting us the other day. I took them out in the forest, and showed them the thinning site I looked at in my last video. We also looked around the nursery at all the machinery and equipment we use for planting, maintenance etc.

Here are some of them talking to my colleague Rachel about forest mammals:

And here is another one using the Reloscope - the thing I talked about in the video the other day:

Simon, the one who basically looked like a Bulgarian version of me, said their foresters just make them out of a twig they know is the right size and a bit of string, rather than spend money on buying a metal one. Makes sense, really.

He was also saying they do most of their stuff the old way, with chainsaws and men rather than machines. This is partly due to the mountainous terrain being unsuitable for anything else, but also because the machines are so massively expensive (about £300,000 for a new harvester). Hence, they thought the mud and the ruts were outrageous, as they had never seen anything like it in the forest:

This was pretty bad, even for us.

It's always interesting to hear how different people tackle the same problem, and the same applied to hearing Simon talk about how they do thinning in Bulgaria. If you remember me talking about thinning, I said we tend to drive in a line through the crop and then remove a few forked or crooked trees from either side. The practice in Bulgaria is to mark out the trees they want to keep - the 'future trees' - which are the best shape, highest value etc., and remove their nearest competitors. This sounds similar to what was happening in Germany when we went on a study trip there.

It seems self-evident that this is the best way to thin, as you don't cut great lines through your crop (which could have some of the best trees in them) and you have much greater control over the final number of stems/ha (if any of this doesn't make sense, shout at me and I will try to rectify).

Here is the kind of forest you get if you use this system: with regeneration coming up from underneath and mature trees which are ready to fell. This looks like it could be from our Germany trip, but I promise this is just up the road from me. Thetford's answer to CCF:

Compare that picture to this, which is the norm and right next to the one above:

The difference is that the first one has been thinned selectively (in the past, we used to do that too) so all the best trees have been kept on to the end. They are all really nice and straight, and because they have been properly thinned there has been enough light to let their seeds germinate and grow. The second one is the industrial, everything the same age, all will get felled at the same time, no time to look at individual trees... you can see there is nothing growing underneath these ones, apart from a bit of holly in the background.

The reason we don't do it like this any more is just the lack of (expensive) manpower. I guess in that way they have it easier in Bulgaria, as they can still afford to put people out in the woods.

Well, I could spend the whole day discussing what CCF (Continuous Cover Forestry) is, and what the benefits are over our current system of clear-felling, but I think I'll save that for another day. While I've been writing this I've been eating a mighty fine bowl of home-made leek, potato and wild mushroom soup, cooked on our wood burner.

I've been for a nice long walk in the woods and got soaked today, so I feel like relaxing in front of the fire. Hell, I might even have me an ale. Oh, and by the way, I'm dressed like a Victorian sheriff today. I'll leave that to you imagination.

Ta-ta for now.

Listening to: Johnny Cash – I Walk The Line on Spotify


  1. phew! You're back! We had been wondering where you'd gone. It's now your duty to provide us with wholesome, improving reading material every day, Luke, don't let us down!


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