Snow walk through Dunham Massey

After the snow fall at the end of November 2021 I walked around the National Trust’s Dunham Massey estate in Cheshire, mostly in the oak woodland of the deer park. I made this video using a new iPhone Pro 13. We see fallen and decaying trees, fallow deer, the old brick slaughterhouse tower, ducks in the moat in front of the House.

Off Grid Toilet at Century Wood

The toilet shed was the first building I put up at the wood, way back in 2009. This post talks through the original design with photos I took at the time. All before it was ever used in case you’re worried 🙂 In short, it’s an off grid composting toilet set up with separate chambers and seats for liquids vs solids+liquids.

I based the building on a shed kit from Tiger Sheds. It’s an 8ft by 6ft apex shed which cost ÂŁ248 in 2009. Since 2009 the average price rise across the economy has only been about 30%, but timber has sky rocketed. The equivalent shed now costs over ÂŁ700!

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The Drying Barn

The Drying Barn at Century Wood has made a big difference since I put it up in 2018. This post shows how the barn was built and then some pictures from September after another good tidy up of the stuff it “accumulates” – like garden sheds do, almost by themselves.

These two pictures show the Barn as it is now and one of the sketches I drew in January 2018 before I started. It’s next to the Log Cabin in the Glade at the centre of the wood.

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Red squirrels at Allan Bank video

A few years ago I wrote a post about visiting the National Trust’s Allan Bank in the Lake District and photographing its red squirrels. In August I went back and made a video showing more of the squirrels and the interior of the house. Making this video gave me a chance to try out my new iSteady Mobile+ gimbal in a demanding location with a lot of rough ground and steps, and I intend to use it for more videos at Century Wood itself.

Summer firewood at Century Wood

One of the attractive features of coppice selection is that you can do it at any time of the year. It’s even less seasonal than traditional “simple coppicing” where you fell a whole coup at a time, since you’re leaving the smaller stems, and their leaves, in place to thicken up in future years. In either case, checking for birds nests in spring and summer is a lot more reliable with these smaller trees than when felling big mature standards.

This photo shows some logs from a small elm that I’m about to cart off to the Barn for splitting and stacking. In the background, on the left is the base of a hazel that I’d harvested already. On the right you can see a rotten, shaded out plantation poplar that I took down for safety as it was right on the edge of the ride, but I left the trunk on the ground as deadwood.

Visiting Northdown Plantation

Last month I attended the RFS “intermediate level silviculture” one day course run by Julian Evans at his wood, Northdown Plantation, near Overton in Hampshire. I read his book “A wood of our own” in October 2007 before I bought Century Wood, and it was part of my decision to buy a wood. I’ve said before that it’s “the book I compare other woodland owners’ books against”. So it was very special to finally visit the wood itself.

There were two dozen of us there on the day: a mixture of small woodland owners like me; staff of wildlife trusts, the National Trust, and Windsor Great Park; and independent forestry consultants. The RFS helpfully provide Continuing Professional Development certificates for courses like this to people who need them.

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The Duke’s woodland

Century Wood is called Century Wood because it was first planted up as woodland by the Duke of Sutherland around 1900. The Leveson-Gower family gradually accumulated land in Shropshire, Staffordshire, and Cheshire over several centuries. Their stewardship ultimately affected the pattern of land ownership today and even what the land looks like.

There were a lot of Leveson-Gowers, but I’m only going to pick out three that made the most difference to how Century Wood looks today.

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