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…

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Not another thistle…


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.


…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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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 ..

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…?


Of ponds, paths and weed control…

At our latest committee meeting on 4th July (no minutes posted yet because, to be belt-and-braces about it, they need to be ratified at the next one before they can go public), we talked about next steps towards achieving the FHW’s three main areas of focus – the wildflower meadow/s, the pond and the orchard.


New path!

Talking about priorities, we agreed that there were natural stages for each of the three, but the most pressing was to identify a site for the ephemeral pond and dig it – in the window after the cattle are moved off and before the next tranche of planting – in F4 and F5, in December. We’d heard that when Roger Hutton’s father had farmed the site 40 odd years ago, he’d had to drain the land because it was so wet (ideal for us), so Hil arranged to meet him there one evening last week.


Bovine entertainment…

By the time I got there – later than everyone else – the first thing I noticed was that we now have some new paths mown in the grass.  Mark has an ancient, but effective sit-on machine and had given it a test run. His paths are much narrower and more natural-looking, with curves instead of the relentless straight lines of the bigger machines.

The drain explorers were already on their way back – the water site had been dealt with. It turns out that we’ll need to dig the pond in F4, instead of F5, which isn’t a problem – and may even be more aesthetically pleasing – because Jon had drawn the original one where it was, simply because he’d found a plant species that grows in damp soil …but if the field has been drained historically and we can remove those drains, it puts a different slant on things. The other piece of news is that there may even be a spring somewhere near the top, which would be a definite bonus. Apparently the idea is to dig a trench across the hill to find where the clay is lurking and therefore the best location. The cows were interested in everything that was going on…


Ancient -v- modern

Apart from the pond, the most urgent thing we’re faced with is the thistle problem. We knew they were there , but perhaps not in such quantity and we don’t want them to choke out everything else. It’s urgent because they’re already coming into flower and in no time at all – encouraged by this amazing spell of hot weather – will be seeding everywhere. We don’t expect to eradicate them in one session – or even one season – obviously, but something needs to be done – and fast. While we were discussing, it  Nick let slip that he can use a scythe – he said it’s therapeutic. Mark immediately offered to bring his strimmer along too (not an implement that’s remotely therapeutic in my opinion) and maybe it was something to do with having the meeting sitting in the pub garden in the sun, but we agreed to combine the two things – not least to see which thistle chopping method would be quicker and more effective.


Photographer at work

Nick had been scything for a while by this time, so Mark started at a disadvantage and what with one thing and another we didn’t get around to any comparisons. The main thing is that it was a productive couple of hours. Needless to say Rose took a much more comprehensive record of events than these few pictures from my phone and they’ll be posted in the gallery soon …won’t they, Rose?!

By the way, the trees in Haddon Wood are coming on nicely. Of course they’re very small – only a few are poking their heads above the tubes – and not all have survived, but there’s definite progress.