As I’m coming to the end of my traineeship this will be my final blog entry! Over the past 17 months I have had such a fantastic time here at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse and I can’t put a figure on the amount of brilliant moments and opportunities that I have been part of. Everything that I have done and all the wonderful people that I have met will always stay with me.
Out of all of the experiences and projects I have been part of the one that I am most proud of is the Centenary Wood Rejuvenation Project. The woodland, located behind the main building at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, was planted in 1989 to celebrate the Centenary of the County Council. But since then not much has been done to it in terms of management, and so it was far too linear and close together to be of any use to people or even wildlife. As part of mine and the other landscape management trainees’ roles here at Gressenhall we were tasked with sorting the woodland out. Over the summer we spent time devising a management plan capable of addressing the woodland’s issues and bringing its management up to scratch. The whole plan is quite long but the main management aims drawn up are as follows:
• To reduce the amount of trees in the woodland and remove the majority of the poor form specimens to allow the remaining trees to establish themselves fully.
• To create greater structural and age diversity within both the Lower and Top Wood which will benefit a greater range of wildlife.
• To increase ground flora and understory to optimise habitats in the woodland for wildlife.
• Create new hazel coppice areas and reintroduce rotation plan.
• The management work needs to be capable of being sustained over time and be cost-effective.
With these aims in mind we are now undertaking practical habitat management within the woodland. Eventually the whole of Centenary Wood will be a much healthier habitat with a greater diversity in terms of structure, age and species present. It will also be a much more accessible and effective resource that the museum can make use of.
A fantastic benefit of undertaking this woodland project is the creation of a new volunteer group, the Gressenhall Conservation Volunteers. They are helping us with the practical management of Centenary Wood and other conservation tasks that need doing. They have already been a tremendous help to us and every week they keep coming back smiling; we must be doing something right! They are a fantastic group and we wouldn’t be able to achieve the results that we have without them!
We are finding as many uses as possible for the trees that we are felling, as we aim to waste as little as possible. A big proportion of the larger pieces of wood are being processed into firewood to fuel the farmhouse stove and washing copper. Lots of the brash from the trees has been used to dead hedge the boundary of the wood and the newly created education glade. Some of the wood is being left on the ground as dead wood or heaped into piles, both of which are fantastic habitat for all sorts of creatures. We have even managed to harvest some ash and oak to be made into wooded hurdles for use on the farm. The photo below shows the bodgers camp that we built to do some greenwood working in down on the farm. You can see some finished hurdles as well as some of our volunteers in the process of making more.
To help us in the extraction of our felled trees we decided to enlist the help of the farm’s Suffolk Punch Horses. In the photo you can see Bowler all geared up and ready to pull the log into position. Horse logging is a fantastic method for timber removal as they are far more manoeuvrable than a tractor and have much less of an impact on the woodland in terms of compaction or ground disturbance. It has been a real pleasure working along side the horses in the woodland as it is something the Farm staff have been wanted to try for many years.Progress has been very good with the aid of our volunteer group and with almost all of the work done in the Lower Woodland everything is on track and going according to plan. Although I sadly will not be able to see the completion of the woodland rejuvenation plan I can leave it safely in the hands of Lee, Daniel and the Gressenhall Conservation Volunteer Group.
I look forward to my final few months and what ever the future may hold!
Heritage Landscape Management Trainee