Sunday, 9 January 2022

Shock to the system.....

      Well that was a bloody shock to the system to say the least, first day back at work, albeit not heavy work. I was up at seven am this morning and sitting in the van by eight awaiting it to defrost the windscreen. Zero degrees centigrade was the outside temperature with the wind whistling down from the North making it feel a damn site colder. First job was to visit the local refuge centre and empty the van of whatever detritus had been left in it since the 'Snap'.  By the time I had reached the next village down the hill the temperature was reading a couple of degrees in the positive direction and by the time I had descended to the refuge centre on the Wrexham industrial estate the temperature was reading a positively balmy four degrees above. Not sure of the height descended but it just goes to show how our village's climate can be much harsher than the surrounding local area.

     I have to admit to being a tad apprehensive about emptying the van and lifting three rubble bags worth of hedge cuttings into the skips provided. Fortunately they proved lighter than anticipated which made sense as they were into the third month of drying out within the van. Mission accomplished time to head to my first place of work since the 'Snap', definitely mixed feeling upon arrival of be glad to be working again but unsure of how my body was going to cope. So the job today involved the start of a tidy up of a hedge-line that has been neglected for many a year....



     Now the above picture may well look like a perfect day for working and last year I would have agreed with you. But with being out of action since the milder weather was with us, that Northerly wind proved to be bitter and lazy (it cuts through a body instead of traveling around it). Even the extra blubber that I now sport proved no protection for this cold wind. Last year I would have just shrugged it off without a second thought being well attuned to our weather but this enforced break (pardon the pun) has lowered my bodies ability to cope. It will improve I know but it will take time.

     The work went better than expected with my injury holding up reasonably will. Having said this I am quietly surprised at how I am now protecting my right side by using my left arm much more, it is almost an automatic and unthinking action and this adaption has indeed pleased me somewhat. I have cleared about ten per cent of the hedge line of the lighter branches and dead wood leaving only a few larger limbs that will require the use of my chainsaw (which requires a bit of work on it before firing it up) though I am apprehensive about the starting up of any of my machinery as none of it is key start and all require a good pull upon the starter cord. 

      Now last winter I carried out similar work for this client upon another hedge and once all the required material was cut away and stacked a contractor was hired to turn all but the very thickest of branches into woodchip with the idea of generating areas within the hedge that would encourage an increase of biodiversity by firstly slowly feeding the hedge and also encouraging the invertebrates to move in and increase in number, hence encouraging the next step in the food chain and so on. This year the results were plain to see with a greater number of insect dependent birds observed along the hedge and also regular visits by a Sparrow Hawk gliding under the newly formed browse line looking for prey. With this year's hedge I have used a different approach and that is instead of having the cut off chipped I am laying the branches within the hedge line instead. This different approach will, I hope, will have a better impact than having the branches chipped. This year's hedge is far sparser than last years hedge and requires rejuvenating somewhat more. 


     So as said, I am laying the cut branches, dead wood included, within the hedge line as above. The invertebrates will not multiply as quickly here but this more natural tactic, I believe, will have better long term benefits to this hedge. The branches will break down more slowly and naturally than chippings hence the number/variety of fungi and invertebrates will also increase but at a slower rate. But the main advantage is that this layering of cut timber will provide some protection for the hedge's seedlings from the browsing livestock on the land, hopefully allowing them to begin to fill the hedge line with the native species that are already resident within it. These include Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Hazel, Holly, some Willow and the occasional Dog rose. Not only potentially protecting future seedlings, these branches will provide protection for small fauna such as Wren, Robin, Vole and Blackbird all of which I observed using the cut branches of last years hedge (before they were chipped) in which to forage. This will hopefully encourage an increase of fauna to stay within the hedge line, pooping out berries that they have eaten. As well as the branches being used this way this hedge line will also be supplemented with the addition of Hawthorn whips within these protective stacks. The final gain of this method is not having the cost of the chipping to contend with, something I am sure that my client will appreciate.

      So in about ten weeks (I'm working on it one day a week at the moment) this particular hedge will be done and then it will be interesting to compare its progress over time with the previous hedge. I am pleased with the way my body coped with the five hours of work today especially after a hot bath once I was home to warm up my bone cold legs and ease my aching knees. Tomorrow I shall be contacting other clients and hopefully the work shall start picking up, also tomorrow I shall be resuming the clear-out and reorganisation of the Orc's Workshop and already I have some ideas of how that is going to move forward this year. So that's about it for this evening apart from my final mug of tea before the wooden hills lead me to bed. Stay safe and well folks and above all make good memories to cherish.

22 comments:

  1. I will be interested to see the comparison as well John. Thanks for sharing!

    Do be kind to yourself - sounds like you are paying the appropriate amount of attention to your body, just keep doing that (and dress warmly).

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    1. I think that the comparison will indeed make interesting reading TB, although tis a long term process.

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  2. You have done remarkably well John. Doesn't a hot bath feel good when you've been cold to the bone all day. 😊

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    1. Thank you PP, Oohhh the hot bath was heavenly, trouble is that I resemble a boiled lobster afterwards as I like it very hot.

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  3. It must feel so good to be out and active again! Sounds like you paced yourself sensibly and properly pampered yourself afterward. Good job.

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    1. Hi Leigh, the feeling of being 'out there' at last was indescribable m'dear, it has been far too long m'thinks

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  4. Your work on the gaps in the hedge sounds very like a 'dead hedge' which provides more insect/invertebrate cover than a newly planted hedge which in turn encourages the likes of hedgehogs and birds - sounds like a good alternative to taking away and chipping the hedge cuttings :) shall be watching with interest.

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    1. There you go John, this is what I was referring to... Dead Hedging...

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    2. Thank you for dropping by Kj, I think that the comparisons will bear out my thoughts in the long term.

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  5. It must feel hugely satisfying to see the benefit your hard work has on the local wildlife. I'm looking forward to hearing how it progresses.
    It's good to hear things are picking up for you. X

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    1. Thank you Jules, it is nice to feel that I am making a difference (for the better) for our local fauna and flora but I must also thank my client in this case for getting onboard with my ideas.

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  6. Wonderful to hear of hedges being treated properly to support wildlife. I can remember being absolutely horrified when "Next Door" (farmer) where we used to live in Carms, was grubbing up half his hedges because there was a grant to do so. We managed to rescue some Blackthorns and Mountain Ash saplings, but Next Door thought we were completely batty ... not that we cared.

    Eldest Daughter bought my husband a thermal vest for Christmas and he is singing its praises. Those Scarborough winds don't take any prisoners (one of the g.grannies lived in Scarborough and said the winds there came straight from Siberia. A good reason to be a West Coast person!)

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    1. Hi Bovey, I believe that the wholesale uprooting of our wildlife rich hedgerows has its roots (pardon the pun) in the aftermath of the second great war where successive governments fervently encouraged the growing of evermore food within the UK. This led to 'bigger, better' machinery that required much larger fields to operate efficiently in hence the uprooting of hedgerows. We lost not only most of this natural resource but acre upon acre of meadowland, woodland etc in this pursuit of more food. Damn thing is that it has since been proven that pre war the food grown was far healthier and that the old fashioned methods of farming such as crop rotation, leaving land fallow for a season or two was for more effective than modern methods in producing healthy food but also would produce more than enough to sustain the country especially if we reverted to seasonal foods.
      I had my eider down 'big' coat on but the bloody zip failed during the day hence colder than expected.

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  7. The other option I have is to get a tractor in to flail cut the hedge before the start of spring. There are a number of reasons why I prefer not to take this option - the tractor will cut up the ground (assuming it can actually get on in the first place) that is by now rather soggy and therefore delicate in structure, it doesnt look as tidy and finally its a bit like pruning but on a slightly bigger scale. Using John's practised eye, he is effectively pruning the trees back for me to give the plants a beneficial trim but also in a way that is less likely to be stressful for the plants. John cuts it back to the trunks from the ground up to about 8 feet where he can. This gives my livestock shelter in the summer months but still allows them to browse on the hedge if the want to.

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    1. Thank you boss ;-) I had neglected to mention these points. But also I must give a thank you to you for having the foresight and allowing me some leeway when it comes to improving the natural environment upon your land.

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  8. Seems everybody above has already stated what I was going to say, so just be careful and don't overdo.

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    1. Cheers Mark, tis getting the balance right between earning money to pay the never ending bills and not killing myself so that I am unable to work....the curse of the self employed I guess!

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  9. Are you aching all over today?

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    1. Hell yes Cherie, aches where I have not ached before!

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  11. Very interesting to see your work John, I love a dead hedge. Look forward to seeing how it progresses. Go steady on the joints :)

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    1. Hi Lulu, it is a long term project but should prove a boost the native flora and fauna m'thinks. As for me joints, they were shot at years ago m'dear ;)

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