An eventful week

The conifer woods at Lake Vyrnwy

We deserved a break, and what a wonderful break we had, looking at beautiful trees, but trees that weren’t our own at Lake Vyrnwy in Wales.  It is very refreshing to look at different woods as when you return you are able to see your own in a different light.  It is possible to get very hung up on the imperfections, or little jobs that you really should have done but haven’t had time to complete.  Then you see that there are other woodlands with different structures, different types of trees, and different issues – but still those little jobs to be done!

Little beech tree under the conifer canopy
Lake Vyrnwy

I had always been a bit disappointed in conifer woodlands – a bleak understorey and a tiny canopy many metres up on a straight trunk without any side branches.  However the conifer woodlands around Lake Vyrnwy took on a real beauty in the spring sunshine, and are not devoid of understory either – there is enough light coming through for little saplings to grow, and catch the light, and flourish.  We also managed to visit Gaer Fawr near Welshpool, an ancient woodland with overstood coppice flourishing on the site of an Iron Age hillfort with spectacular views across the River Severn – worth the rather steep uphill walk to see the views.

Lake Vyrnwy is spectacular too, and we were really lucky with the weather – unlike when we were planting our own woodlands – with flat water and beautiful reflections in the sunshine.

Perfect reflection Lake Vrynwy

On our return, we hoped for the relaxation to continue, but that was not to be.  One major outstanding job was our breeding bird survey to be completed – ideally we should have done this at the start of March, but there was no time with all the planting and coppicing to be completed.  So I really needed to get on with this before it all gets more complicated with the arrival of the spring migrants – chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps.

What a superb day it was too – the sun came out in fits and starts, and I noted 28 species of birds during my two-hour wander.  Particularly exciting was the finding of TWO pairs of mallard – one on our upper ponds and one on our lower ponds.  And the sight of a yellowhammer feeding under one of our feeders – we had heard one while planting, but this was the first sight.  We also definitely have at least two calling green woodpeckers. The fieldfares have not yet departed and were visible in large numbers in our trees, and the buzzards are choosing their nest site – either our wood or the copse adjacent to Betty’s Wood, which they will probably choose as it is slightly less well visited by humans.  We are really looking forward to camping there in our newer, slightly more luxurious tent, and listening for owls and bats and the dawn chorus – once the weather gets a little bit warmer.

Blue tit at Alvecote Wood

Other signs of spring abound:  we have shoots coming on the ash, birch, hawthorn, rose and spindle in the hedge and main compartment at Betty’s Wood, despite some of these only having been in the ground for 5 or 6 weeks.  We have shoots coming on the wild garlic and our patches of fritillaria (re-established with some difficulty after they were disturbed while making our paths and building).  The wild daffs and the patches of naturalised daffs are flowering and the bluebells are promising a fantastic show again this year.

But of course it can’t all be good:  While we were away, somebody cut through our new fence at Betty’s Wood and stole a fence post (why, I have no idea).  This means instead of doing productive stuff this weekend, we’ll be having to repair the fence and make it secure again, as our bodged repair will only be OK for a little while.  Why people do such damage I can’t think – well, unfortunately I can, because it makes access for poaching and harming wildlife much easier.  That can be the only motivation – there is nothing there to steal!

We have also had a visitation from two red deer stags:  they have been in the field adjacent to our woods, having been previously spotted in Tamworth earlier in the week.  Where they have come from, I have no idea, but we have alerted the authorities to their whereabouts:  The last thing we want to happen is for the nice weather and weekend to bring out men with guns at night-time, and for these magnificent creatures to be killed.  We hope they can be relocated to a safe home if their original home cannot be found.  There is no way that these are native to this area and much as they are beautiful, they would also be very destructive to our new wood and our lovely ancient trees so it is better that they are located somewhere else.

An eventful week indeed!  Roll on another week and our first Open Day on Sunday 27th March – let’s hope the fine weather holds and everybody comes to enjoy the woods and appreciate what it has to offer.

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