New Opportunities and New Discoveries

Hello! My name is Lee, myself and Daniel recently began our 18 month placement at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse as ‘heritage landscape management trainees’. It’s been a hectic first few weeks, though I already feel as though I’ve learnt so much and the first month isn’t even over yet!

Our experiences so far have been extremely varied, from felling a tree with an axe (as mentioned in Tom’s recent blog post) to a visit to the Weald and Downland museum in Sussex to see how they manage their land and their livestock. Richard, the farm officer at Gressenhall,  also took the time to teach a few of us new trainees about the maths behind ploughing with horses, I have to admit that it’s a lot more complicated than I ever imagined!

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View from the top of the Weald and Downland Museum site in West Sussex

I was also involved in the recent apple day at Gressenhall; Gressenhall’s annual celebration of apple varieties from the local area. Tom and I manned a green woodworking stall during the day; this was a great opportunity for us to display the traditional techniques of working with wood whilst it’s still green (wood is known as green whilst it still has a high moisture content). The great thing about green woodworking is that you don’t need any power tools, everything made is usually created using just hand tools and leg power!

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In times gone by green woodworking was known as ‘bodging’. This title described the way in which the woodsman would use whatever species of trees were ready to be coppiced during that season.

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The pole lathe is a great way to speed up the carving of wood. Here, my leg is providing the power and the ash pole above is providing the spring to spin the piece of wood around.

Not only am I new to Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse but I’m also new to Norfolk, I’ve been enjoying getting to know my way around Gressenhall and its surrounding villages; much of this discovery has been during mine and Daniel’s time on placement with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Whilst on placement we’ve been able to assist the woods and heath team with the management of a traditional coppice within Foxley wood as well as the rounding up and checking of the Norfolk Wildlife Trusts grazing ponies at Buxton heath. This placement is a great learning opportunity as we’re able to work closely with, and learn from, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust wardens. Gaining practical experience with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust is proving to be a great way to learn about nature reserve management and the many skills required for the conservation of biodiversity.

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Grazing ponies at the Buxton Heath Norfolk Wildlife Trust nature reserve

One of the main aims for us heritage landscape management trainees over the next few months is to develop and initiate a management plan for Centenary wood, primarily to ensure that its value for biodiversity is maximised. We were fortunate to have a visit from Helen Baczkowska of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust who kindly came to give us some advice on how we can go about improving the woodland for wildlife. Helen’s visit gave me an opportunity to properly explore Centenary wood for the first time; I was amazed at the diversity of fungi in the woods and actually saw my first fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria).

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The first fly agaric mushroom I’ve EVER seen!

In addition to implementing the management plan of Centenary wood ourselves we’re also hoping to set up a volunteer group who will be able to assist in the management of the woodland. If you or anyone you know would like some more information about our new volunteer team please feel free to get in touch. We’ll be meeting once a week and will be carrying out a diversity of management tasks within the woodland.

In summary, it’s been an amazing first few weeks and I can’t wait to get stuck in to the many opportunities to come!

Lee Bassett

Heritage Landscape Management Trainee

Lee.Bassett@norfolk.gov.uk

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