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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Final community planting day! Saturday 22 November

So it’s finally arrived – the very last planting of the native broadleaves, delayed until now because of construction of the pond.  There are around 200 left, all heeled in at the end of the March planting by Gert in his garden (did you spot them on open gardens day?  Bet you didn’t!)  They’re alders and willows, so they’re appropriate for round the pond which is where we’ll be planting – on the eastern and southern perimeter at the bottom of the bank up to the pond (if you use our site maps, the pond is in field 4 and the plan showing the pond needs updating as the pond is further north and east than shown).

If you’d like to come along and help, please bring a spade as we don’t have many spares!  If you haven’t done this before, no previous experience required as there’ll be someone to show you exactly what to do. In fact, please find either Gert or Nick for a planting demo. Join us and you can tell your children and grandchildren that you were part of the creation of our fantastic wood.

If you need to drive, please park in the Castle Cary Rugby Club car park (BA7 7PF).  Turn right as you walk out and use the pedestrian gate into the wood across the road on your left as you walk away from Castle Cary.  Follow the hedgerow which runs alongside the road and you’ll find us.

Hope to see you there!


The pond is complete …you can’t miss it!

Yes, it’s a pond that, at the moment, thinks it’s a reservoir …or at least that’s how it looks to me. I hasten to add, that isn’t a negative, more an observation.

I’ve been holding off from writing this post in the unrealistic hope that I’d be able to accompany it with an attractive picture, but that isn’t going to happen in the near future – at least at my skill level. Having said that, the topsoil, back in place round the edges and covering the banks, is starting to green up already, specially from a distance and committee members have scattered pond-specific wildflower seed around – quite a lot in fact, but we thought it worth raiding the budget for.

The great thing is that there’s water collecting in the bottom already, by now all round the island and filling the three deeper pools.

I say great thing and it is, because that’s the point after all, but what none of us took into account from the beginning – and it’s one that makes me more than grumpy – is that our wildlife pond would be adopted as a handy, regular swimming pond for dogs. This was never the idea and whilst we thought it possible that one or two might flop in to cool off occasionally in future years, it simply never occurred to us that, if we put up yards of tape and clear notices asking people to stay off the area – for goodness sake, the place is big enough without it! – while soil settled and seed germinated, that people would ignore the request and any possible reasons behind it and follow their own agenda. Naive? Obviously!

To be fair there have been only a few transgressors, probably not in the Friends group and who almost certainly won’t read this, but they have been regular and persistent and accompanied by the larger (and therefore more destructive) breeds.  If you see if happening, please feel free to have a word, if for no other reason than to find out why they do it. Personally, I don’t get it because apart from anything else the water is grey and smelly and will be unless and until it gets deeper – probably in the cold weather when no-one, canine or otherwise – feels much like swimming. But there you are. There will always be a few who have to be different.

It’s a shame because our wood is being enjoyed by increasing numbers of people, most of whom are brilliant in all other respects – picking up dog poo, pulling and cutting back thistles – but I’m guessing this will be a longer and more drawn out battle and I really don’t know how it will turn out. Perhaps a pair of particularly aggressive swans will take up residence on the island and repel all borders….


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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




February 2014 – latest happenings and date for the FHW AGM

If you’re a Friend and on Hilly’s circulation list, you may have seen this already, but I thought it worth posting for the record.

Hi all

A quick update and an advance date for your diary.

The AGM will be on Thursday 15 May at 7pm.  I’ll send out a reminder nearer the time when I’ll be asking you to confirm whether or not you’re coming so we can sort out a suitable venue, hopefully at no cost.

The committee’s still working with the WT to sort out the pond, as the costings are coming in much higher than anticipated.  We think we have a solution and we’re waiting for the go-ahead; don’t expect to see any work before the ground dries out considerably!  Probably April, we’re advised.  We’d hoped to have this sorted out in the autumn but Jon’s departure and some bureaucracy got in the way…!

HW blog LogoFriends of Haddon Wood now have a logo, and you’ll see it when we put up some notices asking people to clear up after their dogs.  It’s great that we now have quite a lot of people regularly walking there, and as we’d all like to enjoy it, please remember poo bags if you bring your dog.  We have no bins for disposal, so you’ll need to take them away.

Despite the weather, last weekend the committee managed to get out and clear the remaining fallen trees at the top of the hill, as well as re-staking a surprising number of the latest planting.  The high winds have meant that a lot of the new trees have been blown over, some of them completely.  If you’re inclined to do some helping out, feel free to take your lump hammer and straighten them up and hammer the stakes in – we’ve found that simply pushing them in by hand doesn’t give them enough purchase to stay up in the next strong wind.  You’ll see that some tree guards in field 3 (bordered by the road and Jacob’s Lane) have yellow spots and have been angled sideways.  Please leave these as the contractors have done this to indicate trees which have failed and need replacing.

We’ve reminded the WT that there should be a kissing gate by the tin tabernacle; we met with Tim Russell, the new manager, on Friday, and he’s going to take this up with the contractors.  We’ve also got plans for improvements to some of the field entrances and informal gaps through hedges, so watch this space.  ………………………………………………………………….. there’s a great picture at the top of the latest blog entry (which also shows the angled tree tubes!) which is about the (almost) final planting by the contractors.  They’re still holding about 200 trees which can’t be planted until the pond’s dug.  And do please comment if you visit the blog – it would be good to know that it’s of interest.


So, there you have it – couldn’t have put it better myself…

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Pond update: exploratory dig…

Mark found a gap between rain showers last Friday and hired a mini digger to… well, do some digging.

It was a serious exercise, not just a boys and toys thing – though I don’t remember that any women drivers present were offered a turn – but we needed to find the land drains we’d been told about and that Richard had found during the divining episode.

To keep you up to date, the plan is now to locate the pond across, say, two thirds of F4 (to be worthwhile, we want it to be a decent size)  and set a way back from, but running parallel with, West Lane. This will be further down the hill than some of us wanted originally, but is a good decision based partly on aesthetics and partly because it’s where Richard got stronger signals. It’s also more practical because of the levels and the amount of spoil to come out and be distributed etc etc

By the time I got there Mark had already dug two short trenches (thanks to Network Rail for closing the A371…) and was well under way with the third. The first bit of good news is that he cut drains about 3 metres apart, at a depth of about 3ft and water was actually running out and puddling in the bottom of the second trench by the time I got there with my camera; the second, that between 2 and 3ft down he found the heavy grey/black stuff that we love to hate. Now the only thing we have to worry about (and I never thought I’d say such a thing) is that the clay seam is broad and deep enough for our needs!

Now I know that pictures of muddy trenches are not necessarily the most exciting thing to look at, but we need to keep a record…


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.