Robin and his Merry Men

Hello All,

So, we've come to visit some friends and stay in a luxurious "Golden Oak" lodge in Sherwood Pines forest park, near the traditional home of Robin of Loxley. What a difference to the traditional tree houses his merry men were supposed to live in! It looks like this, and comes complete with a hot tub:
Aaaah, relaxation we were all in need of.

I've felt re-inspired over the last couple of days to write a blog post, as I have been struck by the similarities between the woodland here and in Thetford, where I used to write during my placement. We seem to be on a very sandy, raised heath type area with a lot of pine and even sweet chestnut. I didn't really think sweet chestnut grew well this far North, but it certainly seems to be doing OK here.
I love the diversity in this type of forest, where you have very mature large pine trees with lots of light reaching the forest floor, and a decent amount of understorey (the young pine trees you see emerging down below). This type of woodland community would be well suited to a less intensive, selective felling approach whereby a continuous cover of trees would be maintained. The only danger would be damaging the soil or young trees when felling and extracting, however the high value of the large diameter timber and absence of restocking costs could well make up for the extra cost of harvesting in a way which would lessen the chance of damage occurring. 
People enjoy being in these types of forests, for obvious reasons. They much more closely resemble 'natural' forests, although the mature trees are all much of a same age, so more re-spacing and selective thinning would be desirable in order to achieve a truly diverse age structure. By the same token, they are better ecosystems and support a greater range of flora and fauna than most plantations, providing a whole range of services to environment which we barely even think about.
Seeing forests managed in this way, with productivity in mind as well as maximum diversity and enjoyment for all parties, really makes me wonder why more of our productive forests can't we managed in this way. Sure, there are some areas in the West of Scotland where the soil types, altitudes and exposure make continuous cover difficult. There are also probably places where forests should never have been planted, which explains why it is so difficult to thin them... however sometimes I think this is just an excuse for forest managers who don't want the hassle of organising long-term thinning programmes, finding experienced chainsaw operators who may not exist and getting rid of harvesting machines which can work long, hard, productive hours without complaining...

Maybe a subject for another post and another day. In other news, we found this little fellow chowing down own our balcony this morning - probably one of the most well-fed squirrels I've ever seen!
After our walk around the forest yesterday, Grace and I wandered out into the woods outside or back door to find some wood to whittle with the intention of making Christmas presents and such. As luck would have it, somebody had been out marking a few stems which needed to be thinned out, so we had a good selection of branches to choose from!
Grace is making little spoons, while I chose a piece of Beech to make a serving spoon. I haven't had much experience working with beech, as I've always thought it would be quite tough and hard to work with, but I actually found it quite nice and almost waxy to carve as it was so fresh. Here are some pictures of the process:
Roughing out the back and handle of the spoon (above)
Hollowing out the bowl
Just about there, just need to do a bit more fine-tuning and then let it dry before sanding down and oiling. I want to leave it quite chunky, as a decent serving spoon should be, but make the lip of the bowl a bit thinner and the end of the handle taper down slightly. Will post pictures when it's finished.

Just to round the day off, we all jumped in the hot-tub and warmed up in style. Megan and  Carrie made delicious curry, then we all watched the Lorax and played Pictionary, which I haven't played for years! So much fun drawing "Orifice" and then "Crank"! Sounds like...

Just a quick quote from Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax" before I go - something which was brought up at the ConFor England Conference I was lucky enough to attend a couple of months ago.  Something I think we should all keep in mind if we are lucky enough to be in a position to affect the state of our landscape and environment - which we all are to varying degrees - especially when I think of my little nephews and nieces who are only just taking their first steps into this world:

"Unless someone like you
Cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better,
it's not."


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