The Friends of Haddon Wood

Everything interesting we can think of about Alhampton's community woodland. To leave a comment on a post, click on its title and scroll down…

Pond dig


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The digger is in! July 2014

As yet another marker of summer whizzing past, the pond construction is nearly into its third – and possibly final – week already. It seems an age since the community first put the idea forward as an adjunct to the Woodland Trust’s part in the woodland, but suddenly it’s taking shape – loud and proud.

In week one you would have noticed the Friends’ warning signs, followed swiftly by the contractor’s, but you can’t possibly miss them now that the Woodland Trust have added theirs to the gates too! If, however, by some bizarre chance, you did – landing, perhaps, by helicopter – no-one could fail to see the earthworks erupting in Field 4.

It’s going to be big – 50 x 100 metres – but not as big as the space suggests at the moment. Topsoil has been removed from a 20 metre strip all round, so that subsoil can be banked and spread, before being re-covered and re-planted. We’ve seen other, much smaller ponds that probably seemed large enough on paper, but have either shrunk over time, or been blotted out by surrounding vegetation and we wanted something that would make a proper contribution to wildlife habitat, with an island. Happily it was a concept that our then Woodland Trust manager took on board way back at the beginning, although on his plan it was higher up in Field 5 (before we found the land drains) and even bigger!

It’s going to be ephemeral too, so probably will only hold water for the wettest months of the year and yes, it won’t be so pretty for the first year or two, but it’s amazing how quickly grass – and other things – will creep into the space and we’ve got two hundred more trees waiting to go in below the Eastern rim, when conditions are right in the Autumn.

So, our biggest project yet  and one we’re immensely proud of. I’m no expert, but I know bad ground works when I see them and Mark has pulled off quite something by identifying one of the most proficient and hard-working teams I’ve come across. Yet again we’re lucky to have so many knowledgeable, helpful locals to get stuck in to help with Haddon.  Week one’s mysterious heaps in are beginning to make sense, the island has taken shape and there’s even a dribble of water in the bottom!

Just one last – but very important – thing: for those wondering why we’ve sited the pond where it is and a few other things, there’s a brilliant explanation, supplied by Roger Hutton – HERE

 

 

cut 2014


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Grass cut – June 2014

Haddon’s had it’s second annual haircut. Or rather it had it more than a month ago, but the Summer is racing past – the newly green, shorter areas already bear testament to the amazing weather we’re having with long stretches of gloriously warm weather and a very few – probably too few for the keen gardeners among us, but who’s complaining – crashing downpours.

This year the hay crop was taken by the Barbers, cutting one week, leaving to dry and collecting a few days later and it was a really tidy job, so many thanks to them.

I just thought it worth mentioning, if only to mark the passage of time. It doesn’t seem possible that this wood was pastureland only sixteen months ago. Some of the trees from the first planting are already more than twice as tall as their plastic tubes and nearly all seem to have settled well.

header open gardens


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Alhampton Open Gardens – How it went

Where to start, really – so much went incredibly well. Whoever arranged the weather did a perfect job; the tea & cakes were outstanding, and the people were all friendly, smiling and just plain nice.

2014-06-07 18.08.58jIn case you couldn’t make it, here’s a flavour of what you missed. In this tiny village of 65 odd houses, we have some outstanding, nationally-known gardeners as well as some incredible gardens you’d not otherwise see. The contrast between the formal, intimate garden around Highbridge House and The exuberant, lush mix of flower fruit and food at IMG_0807Meadowside couldn’t have been greater. In between you could visit the beautifully designed and maintained Bridge House, Alham House’s very individual garden with the house seeming to grow out of it, and Canada House with its quirks, foibles and (I love this) special seating area for a glass of wine with friends in the evening!

2014-06-07 19.12.38If you’re not already regretting missing it, let me tell you about a few more things you could’ve seen. The classic garden at Ashley House, the huge open natural space bordered by 2014-06-07 18.08.58dthe River Alham at The Mill House where you could also have sampled some truly great cakes and dainty sandwiches and seen the fascinating hydro-turbine, explained by experts who bring to life a brilliant way of generating power from a natural resource. On from there you’d have found Homeacres where Charles Dowding produces more food than you’d think possible, and all by avoiding digging. And a final contrast in the truly child-friendly White Chimneys, where the children (sorry girls I know teenage is here/beckoning) were dragooned (sorry, volunteered!) to bake, along with a host of other willing helpers, to provide yet another extraordinary spread.

2014-06-07 18.08.58fThree hours disappeared in a flash. Never have so many people said how much they enjoyed open gardens, and very pleasingly that includes those who let us all troop through and have a good look around. Huge thanks to them, it was brilliant. There are two more things to be said about the day – the first is massive thanks to the people who did all the other work that isn’t always much recognised (though again, this year moreso than ever before). That means Louisa’s stint at the pub selling programmes (I know, I know, she didn’t have a glass of wine till quarter to five!); Ronnie for sitting outside Highbridge House for three hours (by my reckoning you didn’t wait quite as long as Louisa for, shall we say, refreshment!), bakers who supplied wonderful cakes (I don’t know who they all were, so forgive me for the omissions, but I can mention Clemmie, Mags, Emily and Holly), really good-looking posters and programmes Tony, putting up signs Nell, Rose and Tony for a great photographic exhibition of Haddon Wood in the tin chapel (still there for a short while if you’re interested) and of course the Alhampton Inn, without whose space for parking and ticket sales we’d be a bit stumped.

And for those of you whose interest is in Haddon Wood rather than gardens, here comes the really good bit. We took £560 in ticket sales, and with amazing sales of tea and cake, and Gert’s plants and tools (I’m still curious as to what you were selling to make that much!), plus very generous donations, our total proceeds for Haddon will be £1000. Wow. Seriously.

These are my snatched shots, mostly taken during the Gardeners’ preview – hence the angle of the sun and weird exposures …or at least that’s my excuse. For the more professional approach, see Heather’s pictures under the main Gallery tab at the top of the page…tr3planter

header thistles May 14


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Not another thistle…

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Half of us started below Mary’s bench…

…but there is.  And another thousand or so.  And probably a lot more.  Despite the efforts of those hardy Friends who turned out on the beautiful, sunny and rather warm morning of Sunday 18 May to pull as many as possible (and we pulled a lot) there are still way too many.  Despite the intrepid brush-cutting by the Jacob’s Lane gate, there are still too many.

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…and half the team worked by Rose’s Gate…

So here’s the thing: if every time someone walked the wood they pulled ten, after 100 walks there’d be a thousand fewer.  So that’s the challenge – remember your gloves, and pull just 10 thistles the next time you walk the wood.  The smaller ones pull easily.  You don’t have to take them anywhere; you don’t have to leave the path as there are loads alongside the paths, just leave them on the path where you pull them and either someone will pick them up or they’ll get mown when Mark does his next cut.

That’s it – a gardening glove gauntlet has been thrown down!  I wonder if anything’ll happen…

 

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FHW AGM – 15th May, 2014

It doesn’t seem possible, but we’ve had our first AGM!

Not everybody turned up, of course, but a fair selection of interested Friends arrived in the Manor, in Ditcheat, for 7pm and Hil started proceedings by welcoming everyone before launching into a comprehensive Chair’s report of the year’s activities. Amazing! Who’d a’ thought we’d achieved so much in just twelve months? She concluded with nice things to say about the varied and complementary  prowess of individual committee members, but with natural modesty failed to mention herself, so I’m going to do it here. Thank you, Hil, for being so good – not to mention conscientious – at what you do, keeping us all in order and to the point during meetings and well-informed at all other times. No-one else could do it the way you do and you are much appreciated by all.

After that came Jo with her Treasurer’s Report and then Nick gave us a briefing of his conversation with Justin Millward of the WT about the ramifications of taking a lease on Haddon – their preferred course of action in the future. Apparently, because their policy is to double the amount of broadleaved, deciduous woodland in the country by the end of this century, they need to outsource the managing of much of it. It was interesting, but clearly needs thought and it’s a subject we’ll be returning to.

The last piece of official business was to elect the committee for the coming year and to cut a long story short, the same people will be back at the table at our next meeting. We covered a lot of ground, but after a few items under AOB, Hil brought the meeting to a conclusion just after 8pm The minutes (with attached supplementary reports)  can be found HERE.

header open gardens jun 14


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Open Gardens – Sunday, 8th June, 2014

Just a week to go… Spread the word – and cross all fingers for good weather at BA4 6PY!

OG Poster 2014Nine gardens this year, including in No Through Road – by popular demand – Gert Schley’s lovely garden, which proclaims his lifelong experience of and love for everything horticultural in every leaf and twig, at the same time demonstrating how organic principals can supply a feast for both body and soul. Next to him is Charles Dowding’s prolific no-dig, organic vegetable garden – a true educational experience and if that’s all too much to digest, you’ll be able to get tea and cake across the road at White Chimneys to sustain you.

At the other end of the village and new this year, are Mill House (another tea and cake stop!) with its hydro turbine – that some of you may have seen before, but worth another look – and just over the bridge on the Ditcheat road, our local celebrity racing trainer is generously allowing us a snoop too – though the sensible man will be absent himself.

Between the two extremes are another five individual and contrasting gardens, each and every one worth a look and a little envy.

 

….STOP PRESS…. I’m told that Gert will be selling both plants and surplus garden tools too!

 

dog poo logo2


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Not such much the elephant in the room…

…but, all the same, something you might not want to read about – dog poo has become an issue.

It’s not news to anyone who uses it that Haddon Wood is a great thing: a green space – even in its current, futuristic, plastic-tubed state. It’s a lovely place to spend time in, with no silage crops, no livestock, no fear of being chased around by crazy horses (don’t bite me – I love horses, but some that inhabited the Chapel field displayed distinctly psychotic tendencies, in my opinion). We can go wherever we like in there, whenever we like; take a different route every day, without danger of either boredom or passing traffic – thanks to Mark for cutting increasing numbers of inviting, curvy paths.

As a regular myself, I’m really pleased to see quite how many people are using it, with dogs and without. Fantastic. Marvellous. That’s what community woodlands are for and I think it’s going to be even busier as we head for summer.

…which brings me to the dog poo issue again. You’d be amazed at the amount of time the Friends of committee spends discussing it. The thing is, the more people use the wood, the more signs we leave behind us – it’s inevitable. In fact we’ve been lucky that, so far, very little litter has encroached and that only in the area immediately round the gates on West Lane, where a few people stop to have their lunch and toss the packaging out of their cars, rather than take it home. No, the worst problem by far is the stuff left behind by dogs.

I think most people are aware that not picking up your dog’s leavings in a public place is unacceptable nowadays, but there are always a few who seem to think that because they’re in a field in the countryside it isn’t a problem – it’s natural after all, isn’t it and biodegradable and how am I supposed to know whether my dog has done it or not? Chances are it’s done it in the long grass, away from the paths, so that can’t be a problem, can it? Anyway, one good fall of rain and it’s gone, surely?

Actually, no. A lot of people walk the wood now. Kids use it. In the summer, people might want to sit and picnic on the grass and that’s on top of the number of those of us who are constantly monitoring the trees, straightening stakes, adjusting tree ties etc in the long grass. If you’ve never trod, slipped, or sat in dog poo, you’re lucky. Trust me, it’s vile.

The ignorance argument doesn’t hold up: pretty much all dog owners are well aware of their animal’s constitution – how many times it does it daily and when. …and if they’re not, they should be. Knowing your dog’s mechanics is part of being a responsible owner, the same as training it to come when it’s called, sit, stay, walk on a lead without wrenching your arm out of its socket and all the other things.

Dog poo bags (biodegradable, if you prefer) are readily available, in various quantities, all over the Net and let’s face it, any plastic bag without holes in it, will do. Lots of people swear by nappy bags. The point is, it’s not hard to get into the habit of keeping a supply in your pocket. Pick up the lead, pick up a poo bag. Simple.

The sad fact – and the point of this post – is that, despite the committee’s reservations about putting up bossy notices of any kind on the gates to the wood, this evening we’ve – reluctantly – given in to the inevitable and pinned signs to the gates, requesting that dog owners do the right thing.

You can see more about the rights and wrongs of this by following this link to the Dogs Trust page on Dog Fouling .. http://www.dogstrust.org.uk/az/d/dogfouling/#.U0rWUFfQzAY

Oh, and please don’t think this is aimed at the majority. It isn’t. I’m also not so naive as to think that everyone who uses the wood reads this blog. So, if you’re one of the many good guys that already cleans up after your hound, perhaps you could carry a few extra bags with you and educate the ignorant minority?

OK, rant over. Comments please…?

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