Following on from our big woodland work day in November, this time round we took to a different part of the woodland campus to undertake some tasks that needed doing to ensure the ongoing health of the woodland.
One important task was to rescue a bunch of saplings from the grip of heavy bramble growth! The saplings, a mixture of Oak, Hawthorn, Hazel and Ash, were planted quite a long time ago (nobody remembers who planted them!) and had since been left to their own devices. They have grown slowly, as there is a lot of canopy shade, but most of them seem to be very healthy. We gently cut away their plastic tree guards, as the saplings had started to grow into them, and bashed all the bramble that was smothering them. This should ensure that they continue to grow unimpeded, and should provide a nice understory layer to the woodland - providing food for birds, small mammals and invertebrates! When they get big enough we can even think about coppicing them!
And talking of coppicing... we have some old hazel stands in the woodland, that are ripe for coppicing! Derryn and Kelly had a go at coppicing the old stands - I think the consensus was that it is actually quite hard work!
Whilst that was going on, elsewhere in the woodland Rhododendron was being bashed! We have a huge amount of Rhododendron ponticum in the woodland, which in the UK is a non-native and invasive species. It grows surprisingly fast, shades out all native vegetation and releases chemicals toxic to other plants into the soil, creating a sterile monoculture around it.
Luckily for us, its quite easy and VERY satisfying to chop down and so that is exactly what we're doing across the woodland. It will take some time to chop it all down, so we're taking it bit by bit!
On this occasion, we were glad to find that we were even able to pull the roots up by hand, which normally have to be injected with herbicide. We will be keeping an eye on this area to ensure that we bash any regrowth.
Thanks to all the volunteers, both from Kingston University and BTCV, who came along to help!