The Northwood trees are starting to green up now despite the very dry weather we’ve been having. Some of our planted saplings are already reaching four years of age and can be seen poking their leaves up above the weed canopy. The natural regeneration is also catching up quickly.
Just walking through the fields today, it’s difficult not to step on any of the tiny trees. Willow and silver birch is spreading fast and occasionally I stumble upon a little gem of a beech or oak. In a few weeks, the leaves will be fully out and the natural regeneration will be a lot easier to see. For those saplings outside of our deer fencing, we’ll protect them from browsing animals with tree tubes.
For our tree tubes to stay upright, we stake them to the ground using chestnut. We usually buy in our stakes from a local company but this year we have other ideas…..
Last winter, on another site on the Estate there had been chestnut coppicing taking place. The larger chestnut will be used for building material but the smaller stuff is perfect for what we want.
After making a riving break on the coppiced site, we are now able to split our own chestnut and make our own tree stakes. Riving is the splitting of wood in the direction of the long fibres inside. You use a tool called a froe to make the split. For a froe to do its job properly, you need a riving brake to wedge the chestnut in place. This allows effecting levering whilst splitting. Smaller chestnut can be split in halves and the larger bits can be quartered. To finish it off you use an axe to point one of the ends (to help hammer into the ground easier) and cut the stakes down to 4ft. Easy peasy!
The South Downs National Park Friday volunteers and regular National Trust volunteer Dominic joined us for the day to try out this technique and after a bit of a refresher and a few failed splits we soon picked it up and were riving experts by the end of the day!