It would be difficult to list all of the numerous tasks we have undertaken in the arboretum this year, still I will try… deep breath… Doing regular site safety checks, dealing with fallen trees, removing old stakes from trees, identifying different species, creating a new species list, maintaining the main camp area and fire pit, repairing canvas shelters, sharpening and repairing tools, collecting and processing firewood, lots of firewood, maintaining pathways and improving access, building steps, scything, expanding into new areas, keeping control of existing areas, keeping the drainage stream unblocked and free of debris, winching out old rhododendron roots, photographing tree species, planting new trees, the list goes on..
Part of the joy of going to the woods so regularly is you start to notice the small changes and surprises that greet you as you walk the site, the subtle variations in growth, plants coming into flower, tracks from animals and occasionally deer darting by, and the pleasure of watching the seasons slowly change.
In terms of management we have a plan, a lot of which admittedly is in our heads, but we also have a calendar which we write down management tasks for the year, this gets revisited and added to as we work out new tactics and discover what works best for particular management tasks. This helps remind us when the waterway and road is due for clearance, times to weed the hedge, scythe the event area and also considerations like the nesting and hibernation seasons, which affect when we do large scale pruning work and have bonfires.
As to be expected, tools are often a topic of conversation. We have enjoyed a few new additions, most prominently an Austrian scythe and a two person cross cutting saw. The scythe has been an instant hit, we already want another one, proving itself very effective along the sides of the paths and main clearings in early summer, easily dealing everything it comes up against. The cross cutting saw is hard work, and very dependant on creating a rhythm between the two operators, but I’m sure after some more use it will become a go-to for larger pieces of wood.
Being in the woods so regularly enables us to be better in tune with what management tasks are most pressing, and gives us the opportunity to quickly react to unexpected challenges. We can also discuss how to make best use of the group energy and enthusiasm the Sunday Volunteer days offer, often setting aside larger tasks to make best use of the available energy.
We have casually estimated that it would be a full time job trying to manage the arboretum, though in the short term we are just happy to keep on top of and retain the areas we have already cleared. We hope we are able to carry on these management days into the future, slowly getting better at responding to the challenges, and enjoying every minute of being in the woods working towards a common vision.