PIERS' WORKING BEE REPORTIn the storms of late November an ash tree finally gave up the struggle against the multiple challenges of high wind, die-back and riverbank erosion. They always say mother nature takes care of her own and the tree fell just upstream of where we were working last month, so there was an opportunity to use many of the upper branches to help complete the fence along the riverside.

With our new resolution not to use chainsaws (specifically for insurance/safety reasons but it is also gives an environmental benefit) we were never going to clear the multiple and large trunks, which we’ll have to get the tree surgeons in to deal with. But by clearing the upper branches we were able to re-open a safe path through Broadwood. The new route does, however,
mean another diversion to confuse our visitors…..this time we are asking visitors to head left, away from the riverbank up the path which goes up to the caravan and workshop and after about 15 meters (and before it gets steep) turn right along the route of the leat.

There is a sign and barriers to lead you through this, but it also meant we had to tackle a problem that we have been pondering for a while. This section of the leat has two or three springs seeping out of the bank and the route is very muddy. But with the help of some fir brash we have laid a layer that will keep the worst of the mud under control until we can pipe the water under the path. It looks very festive so go and visit – our very own Santa’s Stara grotto!

We also finished the salmon hedge/fence we were building last month and planted a few willow cuttings which we hope will take and create a new line of trees along the river as the old ones get undercut and fall.

PIERS' WORKING BEE REPORTFinally, we brushed the leaves off the bridge, making it less slippery when the rains return, and cleared the ditch on the west bank were the path gets waterlogged, so hopefully we won’t have to close the bridge this January.

Speaking of bridge closures, I would like to remind our visitors that all paths over the bridge are permissive paths (i.e. not public footpaths). This means that if we do decide we need to close the bridge (for example when the ash tree fell and blocked the path) we absolutely expect our visitors to respect this decision and not risk their own safety by ignoring it. When the ash fell, I had to shut the bridge using the built-in bar and a couple of large pieces of wood that were to hand. The next day they were neatly stacked beside the path – clearly someone believed they knew better and would not respect the closure. We do have a gate, but it is a significant effort to put it in place – surely a little respect for our efforts is not too much to ask in exchange for visiting the woods….. is it?

The next Stara Bee will our festive one, sharing the last crumbs of our various Christmas feasts up at the workshop. We will be doing a bit of work as well so come and join us – January 7th at 10.00am – see you there.

Simon’s Contribution

The hot weather this past summer has severely damaged areas of oak woodland on the edge of Dartmoor. Aerial photographs of the Upper Teign Valley taken by the Forestry Commission back in August show large areas of dead trees on the higher elevations where the soil is thin. Perhaps this is no surprise, given this year’s extreme heat over several weeks but no such losses have been recorded in the past, not even in the hot summer of 1976.

PIERS' WORKING BEE REPORTI have not yet heard of any similar damage in Cornwall but this is likely to happen more often thanks to climate change. It is likely that many of the drought damaged trees will die but in the long term this may not be a total disaster. These old upland oak woods have been coppiced time and time again through the centuries. This has slowly impoverished the soil and reduced its depth to just a few centimetres, making it very prone to drought in any hot weather. Large numbers of dead trees from this summer will slowly decompose and help to restore the soil and improve its resilience from drying. As long as the woodland is allowed to regenerate over the next few years, it is likely that it will be able to withstand hot summers just a little bit better than now. Nature is good at repairing itself if we allow it sufficient time. The attached photo shows an area of oak coppice near Looe which was cut and completely cleared just over 30 years ago with no replanting and no maintenance. This has worked well, but in the future we will need to be much more careful to rebuild depleted soils that will be able to withstand ever more acute changes to our climate.

 

That’s all for the last report of 2022. Look out for news of planned anniversary events to come. In the meantime we wish all who support and visit Stara Woods all the best for 2023, in the hope that it will be a much better and happier year for all.