Autumn Activities

It hardly feels like autumn, what with the great weather we’ve had for most of September and October. It hardly feels as though I’ve been a Skills For the Future trainee for over a year now; it has passed so quickly. Now we are well into our seasonal work and are back hedge laying and picking apples for the upcoming ‘Apple Day’ event, and the leaves are beginning to turn their golden yellows, reds and browns I am reminded of all that I’ve done over the last twelve months and the experiences I have had. It’s been a heck of a ride!

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I’ve picked up a range of new skills in practical conservation such as fen and meadow cutting, reed bed restoration work, coppice work and fencing; not to mention the opportunities to get experience with different tools and machinery, and also some great individual projects like beekeeping and species’ monitoring work around the farm. The work I was able to do what the ‘nature watch’ cameras during the nesting season will be especially remembered by me; being able to watch our resident Barn Owl pair successfully raise a brood was a real treat- this year hasn’t really felt like ‘work’ at all!!

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Right now the focus is on preparation for ‘Apple Day’. I have been getting the materials ready for a demonstration of traditional hedge laying and will be preparing a hedge in the Orchard for the event this weekend. In addition, we have been out picking apples from the many old and indigenous varieties we have at the site. These have been carefully boxed and displayed in the Roots Building down on the farm, ahead of the event on Sunday where they’ll be shown to our local experts in attendance; who’ll try to name any unknown varieties before the apples are taken for use in ‘scrumping’. This is where the apples are crushed in presses to make juice for sale during the day. Everyone will get the chance to taste the produce from our trees including some very old varieties that have originated in the county.

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Apple Day has fond memories for me. Last year was my first, and also the first time I’d ever attempted hedge laying. This year I will have had a whole season behind me in which I’ve (hopefully!) improved somewhat in the art. I hope to be able to demonstrate each stage in the process, from cutting and clearing a section ready for laying, through making the correct cut in the chosen stem to be laid (known as a ‘pleacher’), and also the structural work such as preparing posts and ‘heatherings’; long, decorative stems of hazel that are woven between each post and act to bind the structure together.

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It’s shaping up to be another great day. I have a busy week ahead of me to get everything ready whilst I’m still on work placements and keeping up with my NPTC diploma coursework. I hope the glorious autumn weather returns in time for Sunday and we have plenty of visitors to make the day even better than last year!

Daniel Johnson
Landscape Conservation Trainee
Skills For the Future

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