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We were down at our land at Middle Bleansley this week with the volunteers. Not as wet as last week, but still some sharp showers. It really is the most lovely site, a mixture of inbye grazing fields with some amazing veteran trees, and a developing native woodland on the valley sides. It is just so quiet and unspoilt down there, a tranquil heaven.

Pictured: Views across to the bay

What is not so heavenly is shifting the hundreds of old tree tubes. We spent our morning bagging them up so they can be removed off site. We hope we have broken the back of it now, but there are still quite a few to move.

Pictured: Tube stash to go

We found another new challenge – the previous owner who gifted us the land had put in some circular metal cages in the fields, each with a tree in. Sadly a lot of the trees have not survived, so we are hoping that early next year we can replant to begin the creation of a wood pasture. Some of the guards did have trees in, but just how do you get off metal guards as tall as a person off a tree double that height when the guard has no opening mechanism? Hmmm, short of an angle grinder we concluded they may have to stay…

Pictured: Inspecting old metal guards

Wood pasture is a very interesting habitat, you get the benefits of trees in the landscape and all that they provide (food, carbon, shelter), but can also have grazing animals. Traditionally the trees may have been cut  for fuel and/or for additional fodder for the livestock. The trees were often cut and managed as pollards so that the new growth develops above the reach of the browsing animals. Wood pasture is recorded in the Domesday Book and wood pasture is a priority habitat.

Pictured: Mossy oak

Wood pastures contain some of the oldest trees in the UK, mostly open crowned and hollowing. The dung from the grazing animals also contributes to invertebrate and fungal diversity; while grazing controls young trees and shrubs, maintaining a semi-open habitat.

We found a beautiful old oak growing out of a rock, a bit battered and bruised, with a holly growing out of the crown! They do say trees talk to each other, so these two must be close friends!

Pictured: Holly growing in oak 

Whilst we were there we met up with our grazier Robert. We have been talking about the option of putting some cows in the wood, possibly using GPS cow collars to control where they go. The hope is that the cows will trample the bracken and break up the bracken monoculture allowing other plants to flourish. We have now had some wall gaps fixed, so Robert is now comfortable with letting the cows in and out of the woods as they wish with no collars. Another experiment, and all very exciting!

Pictured: A view from the top