Rides and deadwood

One of Century Wood’s best features is the kilometre of rides that I established in the first few years. I really neglected them in 2017/18 though, largely due to extending the central Glade and putting up the Drying Barn. But this spring I’m doing ride maintenance before it gets much harder in summer. In the wood, a big part of this work is with dead and dying branches from the plantation poplar trees which have fallen across the rides, and there is also some unstable standing deadwood here and there which isn’t ok beside the rides.

This first photo shows part of one of the rides from yesterday after clearing. You can see where I cut off some small overhanging branches, and on the extreme left where I dragged them to the ride side. Unless branches are thick enough to cut up for firewood, I always drag them to the side or off into the undergrowth to rot down over time and provide cover and habitats.

At this time of year, areas like this in the wood are still very open and you can’t tell what is ride and what is just gaps between trees at first glance. Only by walking the route and looking up at the open view of the sky and down at the cleared ground can you tell. Fallen and overhanging branches start to blur this distinction. If the ride isn’t mowed or at least trampled by the time the nettles are back in high summer, 6ft high in places, it’s easy to get “lost” and beat a new path that leads you into a tangle.

Yesterday was also the day I said goodbye to this dead poplar that was standing next to the roadway through the wood. The plantation poplars are a non-native strain which get diseased and lose their upper branches. In the winter of 2014/5 this one lost the last of its branches, and began to be shaded out by the surrounding hazel trees which are regenerating naturally. In June 2017 I noticed that it had sprouted these Dryad’s Saddle fungal fruiting bodies, and had therefore died.

Later in 2017 the Dryad’s Saddle had matured and withered a bit. I’ve kept an eye on the tree trunk because it was within falling distance of the roadway. This winter the stumps of the branches began to fall off and I decided to fell what’s left of it now, after checking for signs of birds nesting. It split up into several pieces as it came down, and raised a cloud of powdered wood when it hit the ground. You can see in the second picture how soft and decayed the trunk had become from the section through the stump.

Next time I’m going to be tackling an area where there’s a large poplar branch with a lot of side branches that has come down along the line of the ride and then had two years to be overwhelmed by brambles. I’ve been skirting further and further around it, and it will take a mix of a new hedgetrimmer and my chainsaw to pick it all apart and clear the original path of the ride.

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