News Blog 2009

weather Summary for December 2009:   

Max = 11°C (52°F?), Min = -8°C (18°F). Actual at 09.30 hours on the 1st of the month = -2°C (30°F). Total Rainfall 25 mm (1 inch) but the gauge froze. About 4 inches of lying snow. The coldest December in 14 years, according to the Met Office. A cool month with several inches of snow over Christmas, then a thaw and then more snow for New Year.

30 Dec 2009    BC and I sawed some more cordwood into firelogs and stacked them in the woodshed. We also carried lots of cord lengths from the East cord into the pole barn so that we would have something to do if the weather turned wet or snowy. The snow is melting and there is now more green grass in the dale than white snow, but it will still be the other way ’round on higher ground.

Happy New Year to You.

28 Dec 2009    Still a fair bit of snow and ice about, but after a late morning swim BC and I sawed a few more firelogs and stacked them in the woodshed. BC’s Ash logs from the Mulgrave Estate forester are stacked in my pole barn and are proving to burn far hotter than the average logs bought locally. JW the local woodturner popped in for a coffee and a nice chat.

26 Dec 2009    Our first new style Christmas was a good one, with several close friends invited for lunch and later.

The 4 inches of snow which arrived on Fri 18 Dec has just begun to melt a little, but BC and I had a frantic couple of hours chipping the compacted snow / ice off my drive so that cars could get up and down for the first time since mid-December. We made it just in time, but it was far too much like hard work! Note to self: Next time it snows, just roll a snowball down each side of the drive to create 2 wheel tracks in the fresh snow (and 2 huge snowballs) – it will be far, far easier than waiting until it is all compacted into ice and then trying to chip it off with spades!

The dog’s plastic drinking bucket is solid ice, so I smashed through the ice on my pond to find that it was a good 3 inches thick.

23 Dec 2009    SA and I had a lovely stroll up to the Oak Path (christened this morning, since it runs between the Major Oak and the Corporal Oak). We admired all the clearing that had gone on in the Corporal Oak Cant, paced out the 5 cants (each about 25 paces across, which is perfect) which lie below the Oak Path, and even made plans for another 5 cants on the uphill side of the path. Ten new cants in all, together with the 4 existing Hazel cants and a previously self-sown area of well grown young Ash, would give 15 cants. Coppicing one cant every year on a 15-year rotation should produce a useful (and perpetual) supply of firelogs without too much splitting.

But will we be here in 15 years time? That’s not the point – the wood will still be here, even if we are not – and that is what sustainable woodland management is all about.


Happy Christmas everyone and Best Wishes for a low carbon 2010!

21 Dec 2009    SA and I enjoyed a catching-up coffee in front of the woodburner, then he sorted out more firelogs from the woodshed while I wrapped Chrissy pressies for the Countryside Jobs Service annual Christmas do. Goathland is nestling in about 6 or 8 inches of snow, the main road through is black over, but all the side roads are still white over and passable with care.

20 Dec 2009    Returned from another lovely week’s holiday in the Lake District. Less damp than last month, but this time with frost and snow. The journey home took twice as long as normal, with about 4 inches of snow in Cumbria, the Pennines and Yorkshire. Completed the A66 entirely in 3rd gear and arrived home in late afternoon sunshine with Whitby and the whole landscape bathed in the reflected pink glow of a high bank of offshore cloud in the setting sun. Magical!

While we had been away, SA and MD carried on working in Groves Coppice: Clearing the Corporal Oak Cant one day, tidying-up a neighbour’s old Medlar tree (just wait for the magical Medlar woodturning results) and trimming the Wild Cherry in the Oak Laund to let more sunlight get to the young Oaks another day, brash clearing in the Corporal Oak Cant until rained off on a third, then the snow arrived on the 17th and it was a case of turning outhouse heaters on, watching 2 Roe Deer and chatting to the neighbour about future woodland plans.

11 Dec 2009    SA and MD carried on clearing the scrub from the Corporal Cant, while my job today was to persuade BC to take it easy for a change. Successfully, too.

09 Dec 2009    While I spent most of the day in Filey at a fascinating transport meeting, SA and MD carried on doing something useful by clearing scrub from the Corporal Cant.

07 Dec 2009    I did get to help SA and MD in the Corporal Cant for a little while today and it was very enjoyable. Note to self: I should do this more often.

06 Dec 2009    Heavy rain last night so a look at Falling Foss was required. I don’t think I have ever seen it so spectacular, with so much water coming over the fall. Then on to Robin Hood’s Bay for their Victorian Weekend. I arrived at the Dock in time for the end of the Duck Race which, according to the Village Cryer, was completed this year ‘in record time’, thanks to the volume of water in the normally sedate little beck running through the village.

04 Dec 2009     We watched a male Sparrowhawk try not once, not twice but three times to find his breakfast at my feeding station this morning – unsuccessfully. SA built a wigwam of lop and top over the freshly cut Ash stump to keep the deer off long enough for the first coppice shoots to become established. After lunch (soup again) we discussed the fact that us Bank Vols had recently been referred to as the Last of the Summer Wine bunch. Now, I resemble that remark, so first we tried to assign the various characters (I’m sayin’ nothin’) and then we decided we were actually the Last of the Winter Soup. Possibly with aspirations to become the First of the Autumn Cider…

After lunch BC and SA and I pollarded the split Ash just before the Cherry Picnic Sight. We had seen the wonderful old and gnarled Ash pollards which dot the landscape in Langdale where they act as landmarks or boundary markers. After taking off all the big branches, up to 6 inch diameter in just 6 or 7 years, we tidied up the stump at head height to let it regrow. Given a year or two, it will become a Yorkshire Knotty Ash, or possibly (since the original Ash should not have split) a Naughty Ash. Then we sawed a bit more of the 1-year old East Cord into firelogs and stacked them in the woodshed.

03 Dec 2009     The cooler weather has brought more birds to my feeding station. Great Tit 3, Blue Tit 2, Coal Tit 2, Dunnock 2, Marsh Tit 2, Blackbird 1, Nuthatch 1, Pheasant 1, Robin 1 (09.20 – 09.35, 8/8 cloud cover, cool, damp, calm).

02 Dec 2009     SA and MD winched down a felled Ash which had remained almost upright by snagging itself on its neighbours. BC and I split some of the big Sycamore drums and stacked the billets on site.

Weather Summary for November 2009:   

Max = 15°C (60°F?), Min = -3°C (28°F). Actual at 09.30 hours on the 1st of the month = 4°C (40°F). Total Rainfall 125+ mm (5+ inch) but the gauge overflowed! The wettest November ever recorded in the UK, with 217mm (8¼ inches) of rain. Mild and pleasant weather later gave way to much wetter conditions, but still fairly mild.

30 Nov 2009    We had a lovely time in the wettest National Park in England (the Lake District) immediately after they had the highest rainfall ever recorded in England (12 inches in 24 hours on 19 Nov, following 3 weeks of heavy rain, but we were there for the 4 inches in one day on 22 Nov). We did see many 5, 10 and 20 yard lengths of dry stone wall just toppled sideways by the weight of water trying to get away downhill. Lake Windermere was 10 feet higher than normal, at Ambleside the Brathay Bridge and its approach roads were surrounded by deep water as the Lake advanced across 2 or 3 fields. The towns of Cockermouth and Workington were badly damaged, with 1000 homes flooded and 26 bridges washed away or declared unsafe. The inshore lifeboat from Staithes was driven across and used to rescue people from their upstairs windows. It was all very spectacular but walking around Langdale in the rain was still very enjoyable. Blackwell and Brantwood (Coppicing: harvesting the wood without killing the tree. Just 8 words. Brilliantly succinct.) were both well worth visiting, and Purdy’s and Lucy’s are as tasty as ever.

Meanwhile, here in the driest National Park in England (the North York Moors) SA and MD beavered away in Groves Coppice. They trimmed back the young Ash trees overhanging the phone wires and carried the poles to the woodyard, chain-sawed, split  and stacked another half dozen 16 inch drums off the long dead fallen Sycamore in the SW corner, tidied up the cracked Crack Willow limb, MD chain-sawed a very nice seat out of a tree stump (a Hawthorn tree stump…), they cleared the Hawthorn shading BC’s young Rowan, sawed up and carried down more dead Ash from the top fenceline, felled the biggest of the coppiced Ash in Beck Cant and probably more besides.

This morning they were solving the problem of an overgrown Medlar tree in a friend’s garden nearby, while BC and I abandoned all hope of getting last night’s heavy rain back into the 2 small pipes under the stone seat in my garden and dug a channel for it to flow overground, under the stone seat and then back into the beck. Then we sawed the Ash poles and added then to the West cord, before starting to saw the East cord into firelogs and stacking them in the woodshed. By the time it was dark we had built up the waxing cord and cut down the waning cord until they were both the same size – just over 1.5 cords each. Is this the firewood equivalent of the Winter Equinox?

SA and MD arrived back in time for a late 3 o’clocks, having almost completed the task and they were shown lots of interesting photos from the Lakes, just to inspire our next year of creative woodland management…

18 Nov 2009    A lovely day yesterday and I strimmed almost all the lawns, hopefully for the last time this year. This morning was wet again, so SA sorted out yet more cardboard and lit another bonfire to get rid of the surplus. After lunch SR (and then BC+) arrived and we began to rack the first batch of Groves Cider in the kitchen, transferring each gallon (minus the gunge at the bottom) into a freshly sterilised demijohn and adding sugar syrup to some (more fermentation and thus more alcoholic) and not to others (thus sweeter and less alcoholic). The 5 gallons all seem to taste somewhere between fresh Apple juice and cider, and certainly not the rancid apple juice I feared). The semi-demijohn, however, was very sour and may well become our first excursion into the unknown world of ‘cider vinegar’.

16 Nov 2009    It poured all morning, so SA and I had a nice long coffee break and discussed my memory of the past few days. The corrections and additions (below) are in red. After drawing up a To Do List we unstacked one half bay of Cherry firelogs in the pole barn and restacked them on the other side, on top of the other half bay of Cherry logs. Then BC arrived and we all added another diagonal strut to another bay, ready for even more firelogs…

What this site really needs are more TLAs. TLAs? Three Letter Acronyms, of course!

After lunch the rain stopped and the sun came out, so we all had an OPM (Onsite Planning Meeting), otherwise known as a NLS (Nice Little Stroll) in the wood, looking at the list of TTDs (Things To Do). Then we had a SMM (Spontaneous Management Meeting) and sorted out the remaining cardboard stack in the pole barn and lit a bonfire.

My computer problems seem to be solved now, so let’s see if I can remember the past week or so…

13 Nov 2009    SA and MD split and sawed (wood) this morning. After lunch, BC and I split what was left of the big awkward Silver Birch log and carried it down to the pole barn, then joined in with the others for the sawing of yet more cordwood.

11 Nov 2009    SA and MD continued to sort out the lop and top and the 4 foot lengths of sawn Ash from the multi-stemmed tree they felled a few weeks ago.

10 Nov 2009    A Walk on the West Side with T&C, from the marina car park in Whitby to the very end of the West Pier, looking for Purple Sandpipers. We found c30 Redshank on a marina pontoon, c25 Turnstone on Tate Hill Pier and just 4 Purps roosting out the high tide (only a 4.3 metres one) on the stone ledges almost under the bridge to the West Pier Extension and on the sheltered bulge facing the Battery. SA and MD continued to sort out the lop and top.

09 Nov 2009    With T&C to Filey for a birding day, while SA and BC sort out the lop and top from the Ash. They saw lots of lop and top, we saw lots of nice birds, especially on Filey Brigg (3 Snow Buntings, 120 Pink Feet Geese, etc) and at Filey Dams (Dabchick, Barn Owl, Snipe, etc).

08 Nov 2009    With T&C to Saltholme RSPB reserve on the North Tees Marshes. From the hides we saw Little Egret, Black Tailed Godwit and bungee jumpers on (off?) the middle of the distant Transporter Bridge.

07 Nov 2009    A walk on the beach at Sandsend in the sun, followed by a lovely outdoor lunch at the Bridge Cottage Cafe (still a few midges about) and then a stroll in Falling Foss woods followed by delicious home made cream scones at the Tea Garden. Lovely autumn colours and better views across the dale as the leaves drift down. Then a little rest followed by a wonderful evening meal at The Estbeck at Sandsend.

06 Nov 2009    We all did something in the wood today but can’t remember what, and then T&C arrived in time for 3 o’clocks.

My computer problems seem to be solved now, so let’s see if I can remember the past week or so…

05 Nov 2009    A fine, dry sunny morning, so I rebuilt the TimeTree installation on the patio, picked some still-ripening tomatoes from the veranda wall, and set off for a stroll around Sandsend. Now that Falling Foss Tea Gardens are only open at weekends, I must find another nice outdoor sticky bun cafe. And I did! Bridge Cottage Cafe, on East Row Beck, is still open Wed to Sundays inclusive and their Full English Brunch (with wonderful scrambled egg) is just right after a stroll on the beach. Most of their outside tables were occupied, the sun shone and the midges still managed to be just a little bit annoying. Early November? Very odd!

This evening is the annual Night of Terrified Pets, but for the first time in the last 8 years of having Flag, and the previous 10 years of having Corrie, I will have a more restful night than usual as the fireworks wreck the p&q of the dale, and no terrified dog tries to crawl under my chair. That will be a bit of a plus, at least.

NB: Problems sending some emails as I swop to my nice new laptop… if you don’t get a reply, please contact me again. Thanks.

04 Nov 2009    SA stacked the heavier bits of newly felled and sawn Ash logs into a temporary cord on site, which will keep them off the damp ground, reduce rot and aid drying. Once they begin to split, we’ll help them along with a bit of wedge and sledge hammering, until they are thin enough and light enough to carry down the steep slope to the waxing cord in the woodyard.

After lunch BC and I helped to sort out the lop and top, and add still further to the very impressive heap of cord wood to be carried down the hill.

02 Nov 2009    I trimmed the hedge by Groves Dyke conservatory, first making it thin enough for me to reach the top, then making the top low enough for me to reach next year. SA tidied-up the felling site and after lunch we both re-fenced the top corner of Bankside, where a couple of pats of cow dung showed that at least one beast had jumped (or been pushed over) into the wood – probably during the gale in the early hours of Sunday morning, when the young heifers were likely to be a bit more skittish than usual. We removed all the staples, tapped half a dozen posts further into the now softer ground, and stapled the wire back on. If this fails, we may have to add a top strand of barbed wire after all to stop the cattle rubbing the wire and loosening the posts (but with Flag buried nearby, I’d rather not).

01 Nov 2009    Gales overnight, with patio chairs scattered across the garden and the neatly symmetrical prototype Time Tree statue now twisted into a 3-D parallelogram.

Weather Summary for October 2009:   

Max = 17°C (62°F?), Min = -1°C (30°F). Actual at 09.30 hours on the 1st of the month = 10°C (50°F). Total Rainfall 60 mm (2¼ inch). The Indian Summer continued, if a little cooler. My outdoor tomatoes are still ripening nicely. Two really wet days accounted for most of the rain, one mid-month and the other on All Hallows Eve, which was very wet and very, very windy.

31 Oct 2009    As the Goths gather in Whitby for their big weekend, All Hallows Eve seems a good time to thank everyone, near and far, for all your kind comments and fond memories of poor old Flag. He now lies at the top of the wood with all the other dogs and I feel inspired to write:

Flag Flies Free

Mr Happy-Go-Lucky dog, we are happy we were lucky too
Always a Free Spirit, now you are completely free
To dig and run and jump and fly
So dream your happy dreams
And wag your golden Flag

30 Oct 2009    SA and MD continued, removing the final awkward stem, plus another Ash, plus logging-up what they had felled earlier into 4 foot lengths for cordwood. BC and I continued at Pickering swimming pool, returning in time for a little bit of tidying-up. Not to mention 3 o’clocks. Once peace and quiet had returned to the wood, we were all rewarded by the sight of 3 Roe Deer strolling across the woodyard and back to their rightful home.

The mild, dry, sunny weather continues, with a Comma butterfly investigating my still-ripening tomatoes on the veranda wall. Ladybirds seeking a comfortable winter den use my open windows to get into the house and cluster in the corners of the frames. Up to a dozen common 6-Spot and a couple of less common 2-Spot Ladybirds were evicted to the veranda.

28 Oct 2009    SA and MD used their chainsaws, ropes and a winch to remove the other Ash stems (which were all as awkward as possible), while BC and I kept at a safe distance (ie Pickering swimming pool)!

26 Oct 2009    Unusually mild, as SA, BC and I (and a host of biting midges) take down a multi-stemmed Ash from just beyond the Major Oak. This ‘firebreak’ along the bottom edge of the field / wood was cleared in 1981, before we started planting the wood in 1982, so what we are taking down today is 27 years old. There are now 7 stems, and SA with his chainsaw removed the three uphill ones, from 11 inch diameter downwards. The lower stems lean towards the phone wires, so they will have to be roped, winched and cut another day.

KV fitted the new light on the steps and replaced the old, fixed grille (which let the heat leak out continuously) on the shower room extractor fan with a new grille with flaps to keep the heat in, when the fan is not in use.

23 Oct 2009    SA and BC placed the two pairs of posts for the upper ends of the 3rd cords, both East and west, while I took delivery of Sparky G, the black Labrador from Grosmont. Don’t worry, he’s only having a long weekend with me while his owners do the same in Hampshire.

Went to see ‘The Age of Stupid’ film about Climate Change, which was showing at Whitby Coliseum. If you ever get the chance to see it, do. It could be important.

22 Oct 2009    Almost dry again, after the wettest day for months. Only another inch of rain in my rain gauge, but I did notice 2 anglers carrying big fish at Sleights Bridge today, so the Salmon trapped in the pool below the weir by the low river flow must have appreciated the resulting  ‘fresh’ to swim / jump over the Salmon Leap weir and carry on upstream to spawn.

21 Oct 2009    A Woodcock flew up from the top of the wood as I walked around this morning and later I watched a Roebuck and his hind tiptoe down through the woodyard and across the lawn, as I had breakfast.

SA sorted out the droopy gate and after lunch we three walked the dog in the pouring rain, and then pressed the grapes from BC’s vineyard (ok, just the 2 vines on the wall). By concentrating very hard, we managed to boost it up to a gallon of red, which began to ferment and bubble through the airlock before the afternoon was out. The rest of the very wet afternoon was spent watching the excellent new DVD about Danby Court Leet, produced by the Whitby Lit and Phil at Whitby Museum

19 Oct 2009    I cut the grass for the first time in 2 or 3 weeks, while SA and Bruno took some rusty barbed wire to the Recycling Centre. By clearing the roof of the woodshed, we hope to rig up a temporary tarp roof for showery day like this, so that we can still saw logs just outside the woodshed. BC joined us after and we rigged up our tarp, before sawing-up all the Silver Birch and Cherry poles and adding them to the West Cord. Then we tidied up the last of the Cherry lop and top in the wood and declared it 3 o’clocks.

16 Oct 2009    The fine, dry weather continues and so does the cider-making. With SA, BC, MD, LG (& Sparky) and me, we managed another 6 or 7 gallons. The 5-gallon plastic barrel is full, plus another gallon plus of fresh juice in the freezer, as well as several bottles in the fridge. Enough, already! I think we are really getting the hang of it now and get more juice per apple with less effort per person than our first attempt.

A Red Admiral butterfly flew past as we worked and a Frog or Toad croaked from the pond.

14 Oct 2009    Cider-making Day Again. With 5 or 6 friends and relations we produced another 5 gallons (or more) of freshly pressed apple juice, in far less time than before. Most of it was kept as fresh unpasteurised juice and variously bottled for immediate drinking, or otherwise contained for the freezer. Once every available container was pressed into service (no pun intended on this occasion), we still had about 3 gallons left over, so another 3 demijohns of cider were started. After packing up and drinking a toast to Flag and Absent Pets (he really enjoyed our first Cider-making Day) we still (no pun intended either) had another sack of pulled Apples unused – so we are going to do it all over again in a couple of days.

While all this has been going on, KV has spent most of a week working on the roof of both houses. He stripped about a third of Groves Dyke laundry roof to repair a couple of broken pantiles and make good the damage the rain had done to the laths and felt beneath. From the ground we had seen about 16 cracked pantiles on the whole roof and bought-in 24 ‘Boroughbridge’ pantiles from Fenby’s Reclaimation near Robin Hood’s Bay, but these were soon all used and another 12 had to be bought and used as well. He also lifted some ridge tiles and re-cemented them, not to mention fitting a new gas cowl onto the only Groves Dyke chimney still in use. Today KV carried on installing a small (2nd hand) woodburner in the Stickery, together with a proper chimney. This means an end to kippering the Unique Walking Sticks and just seasoning them in the rafters as always intended. Only some finishing work to do on the Stickery chimney, an outside light to fit and one small shelf indoors.

In addition, SA has also picked more apples, and we all carried Silver Birch logs down to stack by the pole barn in anticipation of a rainy day – something we haven’t really had for over a month. Not to mention the move from the ancient ex-CJS PC (with Windows Antique) to a nice new laptop with Windows XP, bells and whistles. If there should be another hiatus, this transfer may be the cause of it…

13 Oct 2009    Flag the Wag, Mr Happy-go-Lucky, the Yella Fella, the Playboy of the Whitby Woods, has now joined the rest of the pack at the top of the wood. Then I went on a pilgrimage to Falling Foss Tea Gardens (his favourite walk) and enjoyed their full works of bacon butty and crisps (his favourite snack) followed by cream scone, not to mention real coffee. He was a loveable but daft dog for the first few years I had him, and had many adventures as a result, but they all ended happily. Then he settled down and became sensible, but always with an irrepressible attitude that ‘I love everybody and I assume that everybody loves me.’ Which we did.

Another dog? Certainly. Who knows what Whitby Dog Rescue may have in stock just after Christmas..?

12 Oct 2009    Flag at Half Mast. Several days seem to have gone missing, but quite a lot has happened. Poor old Flag was flagging more than usual recently and spent a couple of nights on a drip at the vets. Failing kidneys, then failing pancreas, etc. Then he was home again for a few days, possibly on the mend, but then flagged again. After a long discussion with the vet we agreed it was best to end it, rather than keep him hanging on in the hope of a possible recovery.

07 Oct 2009    SA cleared away the last of the Cherry brash. After lunch BC and I joined in and we all sorted and sawed everything we’ve propped up on the rack in the woodyard over the past month. This needs some reorganisation. No point on having all the different species and all the different ages all stacked separately all around the wood, if we then carry everything down to the woodyard and mix them all up on one rack, while they wait to be added to this cord or that cord, or even sawn into firelogs and stacked directly in the woodshed…

Flag seems to be feeling his age, or more likely the results of eating too many windfall apples over the past few weeks. No, they are NOT apple-flavoured tennis balls! Not even when they drop off the trees and roll down the drive in a most provocative manner. Poor old fellow.

06 Oct 2009    Wet, wet, wet, so I went to Scarborough for more cider-making airlocks, etc.

05 Oct 2009    Boring ole office work when I should be out cutting the grass – but luckily Kev arrived to investigate the leak in the laundry outhouse roof, before I could get the strimmer out. With a third of the pantiles removed, there was a new bit of felt to be patched on, new laths to go onto that and then the best of the old plus some brand new ‘Boroughbridge’ red clay pantiles to be put back on top.

Another Gabble Ratchet flew over, this time visibly, with about 140 wild geese heading south high over the house. I think this means that there were technically in my airspace, so I should be able to add them to my Species List – if only I knew which species they were (which I don’t).

03 Oct 2009    Wild and windy, but still mild and dry. Strong Westerly gales gave the new Groves Dyke duvet covers a real thrashing on the washing line today, as well as keeping 150 fire fighters (yes, that’s 30 fire engines) busy on the moor tops. The traditional heather swiddening season starts on 1st October, but sparks from some of the ‘safely extinguished’ fires were fanned back into life by the dry winds and then just kept on going across the moor.

02 Oct 2009    We were mob-handed today for a tree felling / birthday party. SA had some family to help, as well as MD joining us and this morning they dropped a young Silver Birch which was beginning to crowd its sisters. By taking the middle one out of a line of three, the remaining two will have a bit more space to grow.

By the time BC and I joined them for lunch, the Silver Birch was neatly cut into cord lengths and stacked up off the ground. Then the 4 of us watched as SA dropped the big, 4-stemmed Wild Cherry neatly into the gap between the neighbouring Oak, Silver Birch, Alder and Hazels. MD helped him to chainsaw it up into cord lengths, as we all carried and stacked and cleared the path.

Three o’clocks were a little bit late, but involved a birthday cake with 70 candles (ok, we cheated and used just 7), cards, presents, some Centenary cider and lots of teasing. What a super day!

Firewood Poem:

Beechwood fires are bright and clear,
If the logs are kept a year.
Chestnut’s only good, they say,
If for long it’s laid away.
Birch and Fir logs burn too fast,
Blaze up bright and do not last.
Elmwood burns like a churchyard mould,
Even the very flames are cold.
Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke.
Applewood will scent your room
With an incense-like perfume.
Oak and Maple, if dry and old,
Keep away the winter cold,
But Ashwood wet and Ashwood dry,
A King shall warm his slippers by!


Weather Summary for September 2009:   

Max = 27°C (80°F?), Min = 4°C (39°F). Actual at 09.30 hours on the 1st of the month = 16°C (62°F). Total Rainfall 27mm (1⅛ inch). A very warm, very dry month with a near perfect Indian Summer.

30 Sept 2009    The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness continues, with more of the latter than the former, which is nice. SA continued high pruning the trees to be felled this morning, then BC and I stacked or carried the brashings before sawing firelogs in the woodyard.

28 Sept 2009    Cider Making Day! It’s taken me nearly a year to get all the vital bits and bobs organised, but today was the day for the very first production of the Groves Cider Factory. Nephew SR, his 2 mates, and us Bank Vols all had a very busy day picking, wash, quartering,  pulping, pressing and decanting all 5½ gallons of Groves Cider.

You need 3 people to hold all 4 corners of the tarp under each Apple tree, then the person with 3 hands uses the extending pole and hook to shake down as many apples as possible. If they are not ready to fall, then they are just not ripe and should be left a week or two longer. Then washing in clean dustbins full of water, before quartering with sharp knives (or even hatchets). The pulping began with the metal blade on the end of an electric drill whirling around inside a bucketful of quartered apples, then moved on to the new garden shredder, before reverting to the tried and tested pounding in a big bucket with a small tree trunk like a giant mortar and pestle (which is bloody hard work).

Then the pressing in what seemed like a big enough fruit press, but which had to be filled, pressed, topped-up, pressed and then emptied far too often. The remarkable sweet apple juice was then decanted into 5½ demijohns, plugged with cotton wool and left in the study to work themselves into a frenzy.

By 5ish we had all had enough and went our different ways to contemplate how best to perfect our techniques…

26 Sept 2009    Walking Flag up the drive after lunch I could hear the first Gabble Ratchet of the autumn, but could I see them? Either they were so very high that I could only just hear them, or somehow they were flying beyond the treeline, but either way – we all know what that means…

25 Sept 2009    SA carried on with more brashing and after lunch we all 3 removed a few more lower branches from the big (for a 25 year old) Wild Cherry (Gean) which is due for felling next week.

One Enchanted Evening: After an early finish we got ready for this evening’s Yurt Night at Falling Foss Tea Gardens. A dozen of us booked an evening meal in the middle of the yurt, in the middle of the wood, next to the sounds of Falling Foss, accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (on CD), in the middle of no where. I was expecting something rather special but it was far, far better than that! Candles lined the table, the wood burner was on, Midge Hall spring water was provided, and we began with pitta bread and dips. Then the most wonderful slow cooked Middle Eastern lamb stew with cous cous (even better when mixed with a squeeze of lemon and a splash of mint sauce) and vegetable skewers. The conversation flowed, as did the wine and the Little Beck, and we all relaxed over a really delicious meal with good friends in a very special place. Not content with all that, Team Foss then produced the most chocolaty chocolate pudding: a chocolate brownie, a chocolate mousse and a scoop of chocolate ice cream from nearby Beacon Farm. Then coffee to bring us slowly back to reality before we left the magic of the woods and drove home just after ten. What an unforgettable evening!

23 Sept 2009    SA carried down more wood from brashing-up the trees we selected for felling. After lunch we all felled the dead young Willow in Groves Dyke garden. It was a left over sett from the Somerset Willows which form the Twigwam, so I planted it near the Daffodil triangle. While the Twigwam has prospered, this one lone Willow did very well until early this year when it just upped and died for no apparent reason, apart from some minor bark stripping by the Grey Squirrels (Tree Rats!).

Once down, it produced half a car boot load of stove-ready firelogs for BC, several weaving rods for the nearby wickerwork fence, a goodly heap of twigs for the bonfire and a several useful lengths of up-to-6-inch-diameter firewood ready to burn in my stove.

For our 3 o’clocks we finished off my birthday cake with a very nice bit of vintage Norton Fitzwarren Parish Council’s centenary cider (1894 – 1994). Slainte!

21 Sept 2009    This morning a young Roe Deer panicked as Flag trotted past and it dashed back and forth, throwing itself repeatedly against the fence around the wood. Eventually it calmed down enough to realise that it only had to run alongside the fence, to soon out pace poor old Flaggy. Roadrunner! Later SA, BC and I sawed up more of the East Cord and stacked it in the Woodshed.

20 Sept 2009    A new species for Groves Bank this morning, when a Redstart appeared by the feeding station, only to be chased off by a Robin. It flitted about the woodyard for a few minutes, with lots of characteristic tail flicking, and was seen no more. Most probably a migrant newly arrived from Europe as this great wodge of high pressure continues to dominate most of the British Isles. The North East coast is slightly cooler than elsewhere thanks to a cool North Easterly breeze – which may have carried with it a few Scandinavian birds heading South for the winter.

18 Sept 2009    A leisurely morning supping coffee and deciding which trees we would fell when the felling season arrives. The ones to go are mostly Wild Cherry, which is out-growing the other planted species, especially Oak. When BC and HB arrived we set off for a free swim in Pickering’s lovely pool, while SA decided to stay and split the last 2 bits of the Ash we felled in the spring.

We had a lovely time, but the Ash splitting proved to be hard work and required extra wedges before it would all surrender.

16 Sept 2009    SA transported and carried some complimentary gravel from up in the village to the top of the new veg patch, to widen the path. After lunch BC and I added a token bucketful and then we all set off to Whitby to remove a small conifer from too near somebody’s conservatory. It had already been polled several years ago, so it looked easy – but proved to be more sticky sappy than than the bowsaw liked and a fair bit of energy was required. Job done and 2 bits of Cupresses taken away for 2 wood turners to play with.

14 Sept 2009    I cut the grass (last time this year?) while SA prepared a route through the jungle behind the pole barn to make a clearing to plant the new Cupresses in. After lunch BC arrived and we all sawed the split Ash cord wood from the East cord and stacked it into the last available space in the woodshed. This way we will have some wood seasoned for 1 year, to slow down the shedful of lovely long dead Sycamore from the top of the wood. Then we planted the young tree behind the pole barn and watered it well in.

13 Sept 2009    A works outing with the Bank Vols to Castle Howard for a ‘Wild about Wood’ day at the arboretum. Lots of demonstrations (swill basket making, pole lathe wood turning, etc), storytelling, have a go sessions (tree climbing, but we tried archery) as well as sales tents for wood carvers, furniture makers, log cabin manufacturers, etc, etc. Lots of people and lots going on, so we will have to have another day just to look around the arboretum itself.

11 Sept 2009    A day of preparation with the Bank Vols, getting ready for the Last of the Summer Wine BBQ this evening at Groves Bank. A lovely warm evening around the bbq with friends and neighbours eventually became a bit chilly and we all retired indoors to the woodburner and the gas fire.

09 Sept 2009    Yesterday’s windy spell brought down lots of not quite ripe apples. BC and I went to Whitby pool, SA organised the woodyard and after lunch a new woodturner arrived for his first tour of the wood (and a few samples), then we all went off to a neighbour’s garden to prune their Apple trees with the telescopic pruner.

07 Sept 2009    SA carried down and sawed up the last of the big dead Sycamore branches, and re-set the teeth on the other bow saws, while BC and I were in Scarborough.

04 Sept 2009    Too wet to swimming out of doors, so we missed our last chance for an outdoor swim at Helmsley Pool before it closes for a £3m refurbishment, and we tried Pickering indoor pool instead. Another great discovery! Far, far nicer that Whitby pool (lighter, airier and cleaner) not to mention free to Over 60s. Well done Ryedale District Council!

While we gadded about, SA split all the Ash drums and the woodshed is now 5/6 ths full.

02 Sept 2009    A sociable morning with lots of very welcome visitors, including our local wood-turner. He and his wife will be taking over The Institute at Sandsend this Saturday and Sunday, for an exhibition and sale. His own superb work (possible including some bits turned from trees in Groves Coppice) as well as his wife’s beautifully intricate beadwork, are well worth admiring (and buying)! Entry is free, open both days 10 – 4 pm and a percentage of proceeds goes to charity (CAFOD).

SA sawed and carried down more of the freshly fallen Ash limb to the woodyard. After lunch BC and I joined in, using first the 2-person crosscut saw to cut the 10 inch diameter limb into 16 inch drums. Hard work. Then we tried the bowsaw, with the newly re-set teeth, and the phrase ‘like a hot knife through butter’ sprang to our lips. Wow! Far easier than the big crosscut! With the big logs on the sawhorse, he reminded us to saw halfway through the log and then rotate it through 90° before continuing to saw. This means that the saw is now working on just half the length of cut, making it twice as efficient. The proof of the pudding was clearly seen in the freshly severed log end, with barely a step where the two cuts met and no sign of any curve in the cut face. Very impressive. By afternoon-ies we had all the dead Ash safely cut to length and stacked out of the rain in the woodshed. No point in letting it get wet after it has been dead and seasoning on the tree for several years!

01 Sept 2009    This weekend’s Guardian has listed Falling Foss Tea Gardens in its top 7 Afternoon Tea places, alongside the Victoria and Albert Museum cafe, Yew Tree Farm cafe near Coniston, etc. And which one of them got Top Centre position on the page? And which one of them was given the only photo in the whole article? Falling Foss Tea Garden, of course. See – I was right all along!

Yesterday’s windy weather has brought down some of the big long-dead branch on the leaning Ash, so I cleared most of it off the path. Maybe the rest of the dead limb will come down in another 3 weeks with the (fairly) predictable gales of the Autumn Equinox, ’round about the 21st of the month.

Q: What should you do if a big tree is about to fall on your head?

A: Cross your ankles just before it hits you.

Q: How will that save me?

A: It won’t – but it does make it easier for the rest of us to unscrew you out of the ground afterwards.

(It must be true ‘cos I was told this by a Head Forester).

Weather Summary for August 2009:   

Max = 26°C (80°F?), Min = 7°C (42°F). Actual at 09.30 hours on the 1st of the month = 17°C (65°F). Total Rainfall 25mm (1 inch). A warm, dry month with not enough rain to dampen the soil properly.

31 Aug 2009    Hot, dry and sunny for SA and BC to explore the North Western Frontier (and find a bit more seasoned firewood) while I cut half the grass. After lunch we all attached my front garden, SA doing some moorland scrub clearance (ie removing young self seeded Cherry, Elm and Sycamore treelets from the middle of the Heather bed), while BC and I weeded the Spatio shrubbery. Once we had removed the treelets,  Nettles, Comfrey, Thistles and assorted grasses we then had the problem of ‘What to do with them all?’ Compost them, of course! Not in the kitchen compost bin next to the holiday cottage, but in the only-just-created-this-afternoon pignet cylinder compost heap at the top corner of my new veg plot. What new veg plot, you ask? Why, the one which used to be the top half of the dog lawn, just between the woodyard and the house. No veg planted yet, but at least we have now started the new compost heap to feed the non-existent veg (which will go in next spring).

SA demonstrated his brand new plier-like tooth setting gauge for bow saws, with a highly accurate setting of anything between 0 to 15 degrees. Last week he re-set every little tooth on a couple of the bow saws and now we might never need to buy another bow saw blade again!

30 Aug 2009    A restful morning in the conservatory. Bird Count: Blue Tit 3, Dunnock 3, Great Tit 3, Robin 2, Chaffinch 1, Coal Tit 1, Marsh Tit 1 (10.30 – 10.45 am. Mild, dry, sunny, ½ Cloud cover NB: 4/8ths not available! Force 3 South Westerly).

29 Aug 2009    Oh dear! It’s been a lovely week and I’ve been doing lots of lovely things… I wonder which was when? Don’t worry, I’ll fill the gaps in later when I’ve defrosted the freezer to make way for the masses of plums I haven’t picked yet, once I’ve cleaned out the laundry ready for the about to be re-discovered hobby of wine making. Not to mention the new hobby of cider making, now that the apples are almost ready even though I haven’t finished identifying which tree is which variety and Apple Day at Roger’s Plant Nursery in Pickering isn’t for another 3 weeks. Good thing it doesn’t really matter, just chuck them all in and then blend to taste…

Recent events with IJ and DT include a great Purple Picnic on Danby Beacon followed by a visit to the National Park Moors Centre at Danby, then the Red Arrows display for Whitby Regatta and then to Falling Foss Tea Garden for 3 o’clocks (what a super day!), afternoon tea at Raven Hall Hotel, a trip to Helmsley, lunch in the Walled Garden and home again via a very purple Blakey Rigg and Castleton and then a super meal at The Stables restaurant just outside Whitby. Otherwise there was a lovely dog walk on Lealholm Rigg, followed by lunch at The Board inn at Lealholm and then an afternoon purple walk on Glaisdale Rigg. Not to mention another swim at Helmsley Pool (I think that was on Friday).

21 Aug 2009    SA and I carried down some more of that lovely big well seasoned Sycamore branch, some 10 inches in butt diameter. SA carried on, while BC and I (plus another refugee from Whitby Pool’s school holiday’s timetable) went to Helmsley Open Air Pool for a swim. Thunderhead clouds were gathering in the sky as we drove there and eventually the heavens opened just as we were finishing our open air swim – so luckily we didn’t get wet. By the time we got back SA had carried down every last bit of the Sycamore and sawn or split and stacked nearly all of them in the woodshed.

19 Aug 2009    Back online again, at last! The whole point of having an Internet Service Provider (ISP) is that you pay them to Provide an Internet Service (as the name suggests). When they suddenly cease to do so, for no apparent reason, it can be very annoying. No web access and no email for about a week, and only an Error Page that advises you to ‘go online for assistance’. British Telecom (BT) is my ISP, but its IS failed about a week ago. No amount of common sense would prevail. Is BT a P of a reliable IS or is it a Non ISP ie a NISP? If BT’s IS is not P is this OK? No! C u BT, ur IS is NBG, which makes u a v v poor NISP, innit? RSVP.

Today SA got the chainsaw kit ready at the top of the wood to log the big and well seasoned Sycamore branch which he uncovered during the recent boundary fencing. After lunch BC & I joined in and it is now all sawn into manageable chunks and most of them are safely under cover in the woodshed. Then we collapsed under the raftings to recover from the heat (27.4°C about 85°F) with lots of squash and ice cream.

17 Aug 2009    SA prepared the top fence and removed some long dead Sycamore branches. After lunch BC & I joined in and we managed to nail another strand of plain wire along the top to keep the herd of young heifers out.

14 Aug 2009    SA worked on the top fenceline while BC & I swanned off to Helmsley open air (heated) pool again, before discovering a vast area of previously unknown purple heather (to me at least) just a couple of miles North of Helmsley. Back via Rosedale Chimney Bank and the Hamer road over the ‘Purple Mountain’ via Egton Bridge. Purr purr…

12 Aug 2009    We all did something but its now about a week later and I can’t remember what. It might have been sawing more Apple logs in the pole barn, if this was the wet day.

10 Aug 2009    It had to rain sooner or later and it choose today. We retreated to the pole barn, where I rolled cardboard logs, BC sawed the fallen Apple branches and SA split the bigger lumps of Cherry. It’s always a good idea to keep a few bits in reserve for a rainy day…

07 Aug 2009    Rain overnight but the sun was shining as BC and I set off for Helmsley open air heated swimming pool. We avoided Pickering and its Traction Engine Rally by using the Guisborough road until the Danby turn-off, then to Castleton, over Blakey Rigg to Hutton-le-Hole and on to Helmsley. On the moor top the Ling is just beginning to show purple. On the return trip we could just see in the distance that the hill farm hedge we laid last winter is looking green rather than brown (which is always a relief).

06 Aug 2009    Off to York today (avoiding Pickering via the Fox and Rabbit pub and Thornton-le-Dale) to deliver the overflowing collecting tin (now that I can’t get any more money into it) to Macmillan Cancer Relief at their nearest office. Safely delivered and then off to find lunch. Failed to find the National Trust restaurant (not the cafe beside the NT shop, but the restaurant that used to be in a cellar somewhere near the NT Treasurer’s House), but stumbled across the newly opened (3 weeks ago) Grays Court Tearoom & Garden just a few yards further. Had a lovely lunch under a big sun shade in a beautiful garden between the old house and the city walls. Admired the ancient oak-panelled Long Gallery en route to the loos (long way, as the name suggests) and then discovered their own private steps up from the tea garden onto the city walls, walked 150 yards, down within Monk Gate to street level and then 150 yards back along Lord Mayor’s Walk to where the car was parked – just the other side of the tea garden! I was really impressed at how a few mature trees, a big earth bank and a solid stone wall can absorb / deflect all the traffic noise of a busy inner ring road from the utter tranquillity of the tea gardens just a few yards away.

05 Aug 2009    SA started work on adding another top strand of plain wire (ie no barbs) to the top boundary fence but was rained off. After lunch BC & I sawed the last of the Hazel pollarding and added it to the West Cord, and then sawed a bit of the East Cord into firelogs and stacked them in the woodshed. Restocked Dunsley Hall Hotel with more of my Unique Walking Sticks from Groves Coppice (they sell more of my sticks than anyone else, including me!) and also collected all the money they had taken for Macmillan Cancer Relief.

03 Aug 2009    I cut the grass while SA trimmed the Beech Hedge by the car park. After lunch & joined by BC, we all trimmed the hedge down on the drive (1 trimming, 2 on traffic duty) and then went to the shady top of the wood to remove a sagging Crack Willow branch across the path. It did exactly what it said on the tree, and cracked, making it difficult to do a tidy job. Then a bit of exploring in the inaccessible bits of the wood top see just how many Cherry trees need to be thinned this winter.


Weather Summary for July 2009:   

Max = 29°C (86°F?), Min = 7°C (42°F). Actual at 09.30 hours on the 1st of the month = 18°C (64°F). Total Rainfall 90mm (3½ inches). Hot to begin with, them mild with one very wet day (2 inches of rain) and then warm and pleasant again.

31 July 2009    SA continued to split, carry and stack Cherry logs while BC and I went off to Helmsley Open Air (Heated) Swimming Pool again for a free swim. The men in suits were there, complete with clipboards, planning the £3m upgrade to the pool, the heating (air source heat pump & wood burner), the pavilion and the cricket pavilion, which will all be upgraded for next year. Woopee! As we swam up and down to the song of Blackbird from the Silver Birch trees alongside, Swallows swooped to drink from the pool – much nicer that all that blaring, distorted Yorkshire Coast Radio from the tinny tannoy at Whitby indoor pool, not to mention the mass of screaming kids in the small pool alongside, nor even the £2.80p per swim for Over 50s since Scarborough Borough Council decided not to join the Government scheme for Over 60s.

Then lunch at Helmsley Walled Garden cafe, followed by sticky buns from Pern’s of Helmsley, a local Sleights lad made good.

30 July 2009    Being school holidays, I took Flag off for a Beckhole stroll along part of the Rail Trail and back into the village for lunch. En route we came across a family with two very friendly Bernese Mountain Dogs (but they wouldn’t swop). Then up into the Birch Hall Inn Tea Garden for a pint and a Birch Hall Butty, followed by a Birch Hall Scone. On the bar is a collecting tin for their local Beckhole Woodland and Heritage Foundation which buys up odd plots of ancient woodland (ie pre-1600 AD) to conserve them. Alongside the Rail Trail is another of the BWHF projects, a lovely new orchard, with each little tree planted by one of the children in the local primary school. What a lovely way to connect the next generation of woodlanders to their heritage.

29 July 2009    SA and I split some Cherry drums into firelogs, which are much easier to carry down to the woodshed. I dashed off for a late swim, while SA carried on splitting until he was rained off for the rest of the day.

28 July 2009    I cut the path around the wood this morning, then off to Falling Foss to get Flag his lunch before I had an afternoon meeting followed by an evening meeting.

27 July 2009    SA added an upper strand of plain wire to the top fence as there is now a herd of young heifers in the field above and they look a bit flighty. I cut half the grass (almost) and after lunch we added a bit more Hazel to the West Cord. Flag managed to pounce on something in the long grass next to the drive and reappeared with a Mole in his mouth. A quick snap and a flick of his head and it lay dead on the drive with a broken neck. Wow! So he’s got a bit of rat catching terrier in him as well, has he? Usually Moles stay underground and out of reach, so this one was either about to walk across the tarmac drive in broad daylight (how would it know?), or else it was forced above ground in search of food because it’s been so dry that the Earthworms it normally lives on have gone too deep for it to reach. Then off to nearby Briggswath to size up a very nice little orchard in a superb garden, with a couple of Apple trees needing a few top shoots pruned.

24 July 2009    A Works Outing for Banks Vols +1 to Helmsley, where 3 of us enjoyed the wonderful Helmsley Open Air (Heated) Swimming Pool. It’s about as big as Whitby indoor Pool (run by Scarborough Borough Council) but the Helmsley one is warmer (heated by a wood-fired boiler), deeper, free to Over 60s (SBC charge us £2.80 per swim) and altogether far, far better. In need of some capital monies to upgrade everything from its last upgrade (1960s?) but this is expected in the next year. Part of the new look will be to add solar hot water panels to the wood boiler. All in all, this makes Helmsley Pool ‘Discovery of the Year 2009’!

NB: Last year’s ‘Discovery of the Year 2008’ was, of course, Falling Foss Tea Garden.

23 July 2009    Off to Goathland this afternoon for a lovely 15th Birthday Party for the Countryside Jobs Service. Flag & I enjoyed meeting everyone again and Flag was delighted to play with The Girls again (Juno, Maia, Hebe and Cara). It’s almost 3 years since I retired as Editor and I’m delighted to see that it is going from strength to strength. See or its Blog at

22 July 2009    SA returns, suitable enlightened. He and then with BC, sawed the recently felled Hazel into cordwood and added it neatly to the West cord, which is now 1/3 full. I spent the entire afternoon (longer than intended) at meetings. On the way back from Staithes I did enjoy the Hinderwell and Port Mulgrave Scarecrow Festival, with a weird and wonderful selection of life-sized figures in front gardens, on the pavement, up walls and gateways: a couple of Police Officers to slow the passing traffic, Dr Who and his Tardus in the main street; a giant spider with a 1 tonne big bale in black plastic wrap for a body and 8 lengths of black hosepipe for legs, an MP milking a cash cow, President Obama giving a press conference, etc, etc. It’s on all week, so do have a look and a laugh.

20 July 2009    SA is still at home, still awaiting enlightenment. I cut half of the grass this morning and when BC arrived we sawed the last of the cone of 2007/8 wood into firelogs and stacked them in the woodshed. Then we tidied-up the last of the 2008/9 logs, sawing them into cordwood and adding them to the East Cord. It still wasn’t time for 3 o’clocks, so we sorted out the beginnings of the West Cord, sawing the just pollarded Hazel logs into proper 4 foot long lengths of cordwood and re-stacked the West Cord more neatly. It’s ‘bonny face’ (ie the pretty side) is facing the car park and the path where most people will see it.

It still wasn’t time for 3 o’clocks, so we carried the Hazel weaving rods down the drive and beefed-up the wicker fence alongside the drive. Then it was time for very well-earned cold squash and choccy buns.

19 July 2009    A short drive over Sleights Moor to look at the first signs of purple from the Bell Heather. It will be another 2 or 3 weeks before the Ling, our most widespread species of Heather, comes into flower.

18 July 2009    Morning coffee at Falling Foss, where the waterfall was really spectacular after yesterday’s rain.

17 July 2009    It rained all last night and all this morning and well into the afternoon. By 2.30 pm BC and I managed to saw a few more token bits of wood cut in 2007/8 and we stacked them in the lower end of the woodshed. SA is at home, waiting for the delivery of a projector bulb, which is being delivered by courier…

15 July 2009    SA completed the binder twine fence alongside the path through the East Coppice. After lunch BC and I joined in and we all  strolled around the wood to check on progress. After the months of frantic fencing and the weeks of pollarding and layering, today was our first chance to take stock of everything else in the wood. Then we carried down some of the recently cut Hazel and sawed the last of the cut wood from 2 years ago in the woodyard into firelogs and stacked them in the lower end of the woodshed. Very satisfying.

14 July 2009    What a lovely relaxing morning stroll through the woods at Falling Foss, with bacon butty and coffee to follow.

13 July 2009    This morning I cut half of the lawns while SA fenced the path through the East Coppice with (reused again) binder twine. This should avoid anyone tripping over the pegged down layered Hazel rods and hurting themselves – not to mention ripping up the newly rooted stems. After lunch we were joined by BC and together we layered the last 4 rods and cut one surplus one off as a weaving rod for the wattle fence. We carried down some of the cut Hazel trunks for cordwood and built a little frame just below the bonfire to lean them on, keeping them up off the ground.

10 July 2009    SA topped a few more Hazels and carried the cordwood and the excess weaving rods down to the woodyard. After lunch BC and I joined in, topping a few more of the singled Hazel stems, adding the lop and top to the habitat pile nearby, and the cordwood to the pile to be carried down, pegging out the best of the long thin Hazel stems, scraping the bark on the underside where we hope they will send out roots, burying that section in a shallow scrape and pegging it down. Only one Hazel left to top and its 5 long stems will have to be layered down the hill, as all the other directions are already accounted for. If all of the past week’s layering ‘takes’ then we will have doubled the area of the East Coppice.

Flag disappeared for a while, returning just too late for his titbit of 3 o’clocks ice cream. But when he did come back he was so pleased and excited with himself, with muddy face and soil caked front paws that we reckon he has been digging a very, very big hole somewhere up in the wood. I must go and check on the size and the shape of this new hole, just in case a certain lifeboat is reported missing…

09 July 2009    Flag had never chased a Lifeboat before, at least not in the 8 years I’ve had him. In my time he has chased lots of other things like Cats, Rabbits, Roe Deer, Squirrels, other dogs, etc. Once he chased a jet ski but that was years ago when he was young and daft, and fit enough to race it at top speed just off Whitby golf course. That golf course must be a mile long, and I did have to rugby tackle him as he passed me on his third lap, but now that he’s old, grey and sensible we were just strolling upstream from Whitby marina and I though nothing of it when the Mary Anne Hepworth chugged past. She’s also retired from active duty as Whitby’s Lifeboat and now just runs pleasure trips out into the bay and back, so I wasn’t expecting her to be exploring up river with a full compliment on board. Nor was I expecting Flag to take off along the bank in hot pursuit, at a full 5 knots, trying to catch her irresistible bow wave. She went out of sight beyond the old gasworks and so did he, leaving me still walking along the cinder path by the railway line. I was whistling furiously by now but with the tide just far enough out to expose a bit of shore, he was able to get around the ends of the boundary fences. I struggled in the shallows to get past the first fence, but I could still hear the captain’s running commentary drifting back ‘He can whistle as much as he likes, I’m having a lovely time!’ The Mary Ann came slowly about by the old gas works and I waited for her to come back downstream, with Flag in tow. As she approached I could hear ‘It’s alright, he’s standing there waiting for his dog’. As she passed by I put him on his lead, gave the Mary Ann a thankful wave and shouted back ‘It’s a good thing he can’t swim, or he’d have had you!’ They all cheered as they puttered off downstream, leaving me to walk my daft and now soggy dog back to the marina – but I had to keep him on the lead until they were well out of sight, for he was still keen to have another go.

08 Jul 2009    SA carried down some of the Hazel we’ve been cutting, including a very respectable length of Hazel as long as 2 cords. It could have been a runner for a double cord, but we already have runners so perhaps it will be best to saw it into cordwood. BC joined him after lunch and they polled several more Hazels in the East Coppice. I wasted the day in meetings and joined them just in time for 3 o’clocks.

06 Jul 2009    I cut half the grass while SA carried on preparing for more pollarding with BC and me after lunch.

03 Jul 2009    SA removed more anti-Roe Deer binder twine fence and carried out some high pruning with the pole saw on the Scots Pine overhanging the East Hazel Coppice. After lunch BC and I helped to pollard a few more singled Hazels, make a few more pegs and peg out a few more ‘octopuses’ of layered Hazel rods. By 3 o’clocks we were able to carry down some more cordwood to add to the West Cord, for burning in the winter of 2010/11. Hey ho, another season is underway.

02 Jul 2009    Afternoon tea at Falling Foss Tea Gardens, if only to cool the poor panting dog in the beck. As I left the car park, my car was showing a temperature of 28°C, even on the open road. Phew, wot a scorcher!

01 Jul 2009    The heat wave continues but SA not only moved all the redundant posts and wire, collected just west of the top bridge, to the path – but then carried them all down to the temporary ‘depot’ by Bruno’s Banisters. After lunch and joined by BC (freshly returned from Tuscany which wasn’t as hot as Whitby) we removed the binder twine from part of the East Hazel Coppice and pollarded a couple of the Hazels which we singled earlier this year.

Now that we are into July and a new woodcutting season, we started a brand new ancient tradition which we had just invented of adding the first piece of cordwood to the empty (west) cord frame in the woodyard. The lop and top provided enough natural pegs to layer the Hazel rods from around the polled Hazels, creating another couple of ‘octopuses’ which will hopefully grow into yet more Hazel stools and extend the coppice. Next time we will also examine the Hazel octopuses created this spring in the West Coppice, to see if each tentacle is ready to be severed to create new Hazel plants. The short lengths of salvaged Pignet fencing from the redundant fence will be used to create little independent ring fences for each new Hazel.

Gallons of cool squash and Magnums to help us all recover, and then I was off to Homebase to buy some more subsidised rolls of loft insulation to ensure even warmer and cheaper winters to come.

Weather Summary for June 2009:   

Max = 90°C? (32°F?), Min = 2°C (35°F). Actual at 09.30 hours on the 1st of the month = 20°C (68°F). Total Rainfall 57mm (2¼ inches). An odd assortment of wet and dry, cool and warm, ending with a very impressive (and oppressive) heat wave. The max temperatures are suspect as the late evening sun in mid-summer actually falls on the North facing thermometer.

29 Jun 2009    The grey overcast mizzly weather suddenly cleared this morning and the sun shone and the temperature rose and rose. Just right for SA to carry a few more redundant fence posts towards the path, and for me to cut the other half of the grass. SA measured it all out and we have just completed 125 yards of fencing in the past couple of months. After lunch BC, just returned from cool Italy, joined in and we carried everything either down to Bruno’s Depot, or down to the East Coppice. Including even more bits of nasty, rusty old barbed wire.  Hot! Strawberries and cream, followed by Magnums.

27 Jun 2009    Decided to pull the wasps’ nest down from the ceiling of the pole barn, once they were all safely asleep. This took several attempts with a torch in one hand and a hook on the end of a very long pole, and a lot of high speed sprinting in the pitch dark. After every attempt the wasps seemed to get very annoyed (can’t imagine why, I only wanted to kill them) so I would retreat to watch a bit more of Bruce Springsteen live at Glastonbury until they calmed down again. Excellent. Eventually, well after midnight, I got the nest down on the ground, out from under the barn and set alight. That really annoyed them! But Bruce Springsteen was excellent.

26 Jun 2009    The wet drizzle began in earnest as SA finished digging out the lower strands of the last bit of redundant fence. By the time he had removed the staples and lifted the final final final posts and strainer to the side of the path, it was raining had enough to stop play. Still, it is Glastonbury this weekend, so what can we expect? After lunch we walked the dogs and then packed up. I took a car load of very old and very rusty and very nasty barbed wire to the recycling centre in Whitby, and then called it a day.

Popped into Homebase next to the recycling centre and discovered their special offer on big rolls of loft insulation made from old plastic bottles, at a subsidised price of £5 per rolls (8 sq m each). Only until 06 July and they may restrict the number of rolls per customer. I think I might invest in enough to double the 6 inches already in both lofts. The current recommendation is loft insulation 10 inches deep, but then it was only 4 inches when I put down the 6 inches ‘way back in 1990ish. Energy prices are only going to rise, so you can be sure that in another few years the government will be recommending far more than the current 10 inches. NB: Before you spend your own money, track down your nearest government funded Energy Efficiency Centre in your Phone Book and check if you can get a grant to have it fitted for you, hopefully for free. Also check your gas / leccy supplier, as they may have a free scheme. I don’t qualify for anything, so I’m prepared to DIY it. Again.

24 Jun 2009    SA carried on removing staples from the redundant fence just NW of the top bridge. His big tub of thrice re-used staples was quite depleted by all the new fencing we put up over the last couple of months, but now that that is all complete, and the redundant fence is coming down, the big tub of staples is almost full again!

Still hot and sunny, but at least we were were working under the mature hedgerow trees so we were in the shade. Several more creosoted posts were removed and stacked nearer the path, as well as a big creosoted strainer post and its long prop. We reckon we now have enough ex-fence posts to extend both the east and the west cords, by another cord each. That should cope with my woodburner, BC’s woodburner and  SA’s new woodburning stove which he plans to install this autumn.

23 Jun 2009    A perfect hot and sunny morning to enjoy a cool walk in the woods and then read the Whitby Gazette over a very leisurely coffee and scone at Falling Foss Tea Garden – followed by lunch there, too.

An appeal: Some strange person has made an official complaint against Falling Foss Tea Garden to the Planning Department of the North York Moors National Park, who are now obliged to take the whole thing through all the official channels and decide if the wood and canvas yurt and the small wooden roof over 2 picnic tables ‘should be given planning permission’. If, like me, you think they should be, then please email me your Letters of Support for Falling Foss Tea Gardens. Just use the Contact button above and I will print them all off and give them to the nice couple with the young family who live there, who run the Tea Gardens so well and who have brought that delightful beauty spot back to life so lovingly. Thank-you.

After lunch and in the full burning sun, I decided to catch up with half of the lawns. Daft idea, but I dunnit!

22 Jun 2009    Office morning and 2 meetings in the afternoon. SA got on with something useful, removing more staples from the redundant fence ready to take it all away and re-use the strainers and posts to extend both the east and west cord frames by yet another cord.

19 Jun 2009    SA dismantled still more of the redundant fence and added more staples to the new one. After lunch I joined in and we added a strand of plain (bull) wire along the top of the entire length of our new fence (some 120 yards in all). Showery.

18 Jun 2009    Spent the morning with T&C and Flag at Runswick Bay. We all had a great time on the beach (especially Flag) but we cut short his mad galloping and went for a coffee before he overdid himself. Or us.

T dedicated himself to sorting out the electronic magic of my new weather station and had a far more successful time than I did. We now know the indoor and outdoor temperature and relative humidity, the atmospheric pressure and its trending, the wind speed and the rainfall. Wow! Is that why my brain hurts? But it is very hypnotic!

17 Jun 2009    SA worked on the old fence, while T&C and I sloped off to discover the RSPB’s new nature reserve at Saltholme on the North Tees marshes. Just an hour away, through Middlesbrough, across the famous Transporter Bridge, turn right at the main road and there it is: superb new eco building, with a rammed earth heatsink as its core, glass walls overlooking the scrape and a very nice cafe upstairs. The paths encircle the main lake, with 2 superb hides and a schools’ Wildlife Watch Point (ie a hide). Lots of Swift, Gadwall, Greylag and Canada Geese (hope they add Goose to the menu soon), etc – not to mention 3 Little Egrets, 1 Greenshank and 1 very still Hare just beside the path. Well done to the RSPB!

16 Jun 2009    Off to Runswick Bay for Flag’s first walk on a beach for well over a year. We kept it short to make sure he didn’t wear out his newly recovered joints. After a coffee in the sun, we explored the lovely old village – which left the camera-less T&C very frustrated. I think we will be coming again soon…

15 Jun 2009    This morning SA and I dug the tannalised (reused) strainer post into the beck, ready to complete the new fence today. After lunch we were joined by BC and we all worked long and hard. By late afternoon the new fence along the original boundary was complete (just a few more staples needed here and there. and a top strand of bull wire). Phew!

T&C went to the RSPB reserve at Bempton (c40 miles south) and came back with some superb photos of Puffin and Gannet.

14 Jun 2009    T&C staying this week, so we had a lovely stroll to Falling Foss Tea Gardens for a coffee and scone. I think they have been convinced!

12 Jun 2009    Today the summer weather has returned again, for the 4th attempt so far this year. Lovely warm, dry and sunny day. SA prepared a small and perfectly square hole some 2 feet deep, ready for the new tannalised post for the new electronic met station on my dog lawn. Before we plant it, he suggested that it might be wise to check the range for the wireless read-out station, just in case…

After lunch BC and I joined in and we spent all afternoon sealing off the Eastern end of the Gaza Strip with a 48 foot length of spare pignet, leaving a 6 foot gap to infill with another remnant. We also started to un-nail and roll up the redundant pignet fence, giving us the opportunity to lift and reuse the 8 foot tannalised strainer post as well, all some 25 years old. How to life a 8 inch diameter, 8 foot long strainer post straight out of the ground, when over 2 feet of it have been buried for over 2 decades? Simple: swing a pick to fix one end into the strainer just above ground level, then lever it up and out of the ground (several bites required). And it works – brilliant!

We carried the strainer and its 2 props across to the boundary fence line, as we will need to set it into the bed of the beck which runs down through the wood and across my garden. With the orange tree marker aerosol (for marking orange trees?) we circled all the bits of ancient and rusty barbed wire which have since grown deep into the tree trunks along the boundary line, just to highlight their existence should a boundary dispute ever arise, and also to warn any future chainsaw user that danger lies within.

10 Jun 2009     The forecast was to be ‘dry this morning and showery this afternoon’. Unfortunately, it was correct. In the morning SA drilled the new post for the met station and removed staples from several more posts in the soon to be redundant Northern fence line. After lunch BC and I joined in by securing the Eastern end of the Gaza Strip with a few more fence posts, ready to swing the old pignet across to the boundary line. Also a few more posts at the Western end, ready for the next stretch of boundary fence.

08 Jun 2009    We all spent the afternoon in the conservatory helping to create a new voluntary organisation to maintain all the local footpaths.

05 Jun 2009    SA patrolled the wood this morning. Wet afternoon, so not much else today.

03 Jun 2009    Cooler today, so after lunch BC and I moved the string along to set the line for the next section of North boundary fence, and then used the big iron bar to put in half a dozen or more post holes ready for next time.

02 Jun 2009    Morning coffee in the coolth of Falling Foss woods. Whitby in the afternoon. Penny Hedge still standing. Church Street still very hot and busy. Discovered ‘Marie Antoinette – let them eat cake’ teashop and I obediently followed her instructions. Lovely!

01 Jun 2009    Still TDH, so I cut half the grass while BC was on another Strenuous Walk. We spent the afternoon at a nearby Open Garden, enjoying strawberry tarts and coffee.

Weather Summary for May 2009:   

Max = 25°C (78°F), Min = 1°C (33°F). Actual at 09.30 hours on the 1st of the month = 11°C (52°F). Total Rainfall 50mm (2 inches). We all thought that summer had arrived when the temperatures soared in mid-month, but then they fell again and the rains returned.

29 May 2009    TDH, for the first time this year. After a late swim (that silly school holiday timetable is still operating) and a late lunch and a late dog walk, BC and I agreed it was TDH for any fencing, so we gave the Twigwam a bit of a trim instead. For those who may have forgotten what summer weather is like, TDH means Too Damn Hot!

28 May 09    A lovely summery walk with Flag at Falling Foss Woods, complete with elevenses at the tea gardens. Yes, morning coffee and freshly home baked scone and real butter and jam. Then back to Groves Bank for lunch and a full afternoon of office work. Interrupted only by Flag’s barking from the back yard, where a fine young Roe buck strolled out of the wood, down the path, paused dramatically under the Willow archway and then strolled casually across the woodyard and away. The poor frustrated staghound just stood and watched and barked, but it was a very welcome break for the computer operative.

27 May 2009    BC and I worked after lunch to clear the sides of a couple of Hazel trees growing on the boundary line, made 3 more post holes and hammered in 3 more 25-year old tannalised posts to continue the boundary fence. Showery this morning, but dry again by afternoon.

25 May 2009    Today we three Bank Voles (SA, BC and I) had a full day’s fencing, completed 50 metres of brand new pignet (now called Rylock) fence on 10 brand new tannalised posts as well as 2 of the original boundary line posts (8 x 4 inch), all using already twice-reused Quantock staples and my ancient monkey tightner. On the hottest, sunniest day of the year we hammered 10 big stobs into previously barred holes along the line of a very tumbled-down dry stone wall and trimmed-up the lower branches of occasional hedge-line Hawthorns and Elders, all done by lunch time.

After lunch we rolled out the pignet, trampled flat the original and long useless pignet (as evidence of the original top boundary line, if ever required), put our new pignet on top, nailed one end to the top neighbour’s new bottom strainer and wrapped the far end around the North side of the big Ash tree and strained it to the next Hawthorn. It’s been 25 years since I used the ancient monkey strainer and it seems to have forgotten what it’s supposed to do and how to do it. After a bit of messing about, we all got the hang of it again, tightened the new fence very respectably and nailed it home. Not a loose monkey in sight!

Then for the last half hour we unrolled a goodly length of redundant pignet taken from the NW corner job last week, and used it to make a temporary cross fence from the big Ash tree to the strainer on the soon-to-be-redundant shortcut fence which Anthea and I had put in about 1984/5. A couple of 25-year old fence stobs were borrowed from this fence to hold up the new temp one, thus keeping the wood stockproof on our next fencing day when we finally remove the 25-year old fence and reuse it to extend today’s new 50 metre fence further along the Northern boundary to the beck and across it to join up with the fence on the other side. Follow?

Back to the conservatory for very well earned 4 o’clocks of ice cream and lots and lots of cold drinks. It had to be ice cream because the mini-Battenbergs had melted in the heat.

22 May 2009    I think I’ve missed a day… I wonder what we did and where it went?

20 May 2009    Warm & sunny again. SA prepared more fencing. After lunch BC & I joined in and made lots of post holes for the next length of fencing. Heavens opened after we got back for half past three o’clocks, but only briefly.

18 May 2009    While BC was having a day out at the Breezy Knees garden (what a wonderful name!), SA prepared more fencing while I mowed half the grass. After lunch we nailed the re-used pignet to the line of re-used posts, using re-used staples, and completed the top of the western boundary fence. Once back in the conservatory for well-earned half past 3 o’clocks, the heavens opened for a downpour that not even the big old Holly tree would have protected us from! Now that we have sorted out the Western boundary fence, all we have to do is put the Northern fence back onto it’s proper boundary line, as well…

15 May 2009    Wet, wet, wet this morning so nothing happened. This is the first proper rain for many weeks and the cracked ground is drinking it up. After lunch we walked the dogs and then BC suggested it was ideal for low fire risk bonfires. Brilliant! We all burned away the one in the woodyard, and then the same again with the newest one in Dyke orchard. The other, older, bigger one will need even more rain than this.

14 May 2009    First House Martin back at the usual nest site on Groves Dyke. Looks like just one pair again this year.

13 May 2009    After a late lunch SA and I showed BC our recent bit of mountaineering and the resulting steep, diagonal fencing, then we all went to look at the next section of fencing after this one is completed. After making a plan of attack (‘This is my plan of attack.’ ‘It looks like a nail.’ ‘No, it’s a tack!’ Goons, 1950s), we set off to Victoria Farm Garden Centre for 3 o’clocks, followed by buying a nice, new 8 foot long, 4 x 4 inch tannalised fence post for my new met station on my back lawn. It will be delivered later today, together with the dismantled ‘goal posts’ from the feeding station which they kindly allowed us to put up a couple of years ago. Bird numbers have always been low as their new hedge becomes established, so we took down the hanging feeders but left the feeding shelves on the top fence rail and also a mesh feeding tray on top of a fence post.

First Swallow this morning, sitting on the phone wire above the woodyard. Others have been in the area for several weeks, but this is the first one in my garden and airspace.

11 May 2009    SR called and helped SA and me sort out Parliament and its greedy inhabitants. So that’s the bankers, the regulators and the MPs who are all involved in reckless greed and getting themselves even richer at our expense. So where will youngsters find a decent role model these days? Football, perhaps? No, I don’t think so. As we sat in the conservatory and put the world to rights, a male Sparrowhawk dashed into the bush below the feeding station, grabbed a small bird and flew off with it, all over and done with in less than 2 seconds. Is that what the fat cats in The City call a ‘dawn raid’?

After lunch SA and I got stuck into the most tricky bit of the new fence, the steep slope down from the Northern boundary fence to the first half-strainer which we dug in downslope. It took a couple of long fencing rails set horizontally between them (from the bottom of the upper post to near the top of the lower post), as well as a 6 foot length of pignet nailed almost diagonally between them, and an awful lot of bad language on my part, to get the job done.

09 May 2009    More dusting, hoovering and touching up the paintwork ready for this afternoon’s arrivals.

08 May 2009    SA used the untangled binder twine to set up a line from the uppermost end strainer post on the 1983/4 Western fence, up along the newly cleared Blackthorn spiney, to an existing post on the recently erected Northern boundary fence. After lunch BC and I helped him carry the recovered tannalised posts (now c25 years old) across from the redundant fence line. Then we hammered them into the soft ground (a ditch?) leaving room to lay the Western boundary ‘hedge’ at the back end of this year. By 3 o’clocks we had got nearly 20 posts all ready in a straight line, while SA freed the c25 year old galvanised pig netting ready to be reused as the Western boundary fence next time.

Windy but warm, dry and sunny. The nice new shower door has been fitted and tidying up has begin in the hall as well. Furniture has been reassembled, paintings re-hung in their proper places and yet more hoovering and dusting, with just a little more painting here and there.

07 May 2009    The new dining room carpet went down today, now that the extra under floor pipework for the new radiator is in and the now redundant hearth slab is out. Lots more hoovering, dusting, painting and replacing furniture in the right rooms. The old fawlty door of the shower has gone and the inside panels properly cleaned down.

06 May 2009    While SA has a day off (!), BC and I spent the afternoon dismantling the fallen Apple tree. We used the 2-wo/man cross-cut saw and it was all done, dusted and carried to the pole barn by 3 o’clocks.

05 May 2009    Hoovering with Tyson the Dyson this morning, followed by dusting and painting. The gas inspector came and approved all the new central heating arrangements. The gas back boiler (c60% efficient) and open gas fire (c50% efficient) in the dining room have been removed (making the room seem much larger) and replaced with a brand new gas condensing boiler (97% efficient) in the loft. This now runs the full gas central heating and also the hot water, but all still preheated by the solar panels. The two medium sized hot tanks in the loft have been removed and replaced with a single, much bigger and more energy efficient hot tank with solar coil, new gas boiler coil and immersion heater all built in. An extra radiator has been fitted in the dining room, on the other side of the brick kitchen divider so that several cubic feet of solid brick is warmed on either side by the 2 radiators and will act as a long term storage heater, continuing to radiate heat for many hours after the central heating has stopped.

04 May 2009    SA continued working his way up along the missing hedge / fence line to the very top, where the top neighbour’s new fence runs across the top of my wood (Western half only, so far). There is even a bundle of ancient split chestnut paling lying in the ditch where the hedge ought to be. I cut just over half the grass, the first time in 2 weeks.

After lunch and joined by BC we all carried on working our way along the missing fence line, getting a clear and straight run from the last straining post (from 1983/4) right the way up to the new top fence. Just a bit more rusty barbed wire to remove for safety, leaving about 3 inches sticking out either side of any tree trunk that has grown around it. That way, anyone using a chainsaw in years to come will know to be careful of barbed wire within the tree. Cool, cloudy, NW wind and rain forecast for later.

02 May 2009    Spent this morning cleaning Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage and got two loads of laundry on the lines. Lovely lunch at Falling Foss followed by a short walk, and poor Flag is flaked-out. More pottering about and treating the exposed floorboards in the dining room. A Goldfinch paused briefly at the feeding station, the first I’ve seen here for many a month. So how come some lucky people have them all the time, huh? No, it’s not feeding Niger seed, ‘cos I did and nobody ate it!

01 May 2009    SA continued removing rusty barbed wire, etc from the old fence line, once a way through had been achieved. After lunch BC and I joined in, creating a couple of future bonfire heaps as we cleared a line through the Blackthorn spiney. Any trees growing along the proper hedge line have been left, so that this winter we can do some proper hedge laying within the new fence.

Solarec Ltd all finished and cleared away this afternoon. Just the gas safety check planned for early next week, the new shower door, etc – not to mention lots more dusting, some painting and the new dining room carpet laying. Then more dusting before preparing for the next guests in a week’s time.

Weather Summary for April 2009:   

Max = 20°C (69°F), Min = -1°C (30°F). Actual at 09.30 hours 01 Apr 2009 = 12°C (52°F). Total Rainfall 37mm (1½ inches). A cool beginning then cooler still with over a week of grey sea fret (sea roke), before warming up considerably and finally ending cool again.

30 April 2009    Warm, dry and very pleasant day with some rain forecast for late afternoon. SA measured up the missing length of fence in the NW corner, and found that the redundant fence we have just removed is more than adequate. By carefully removing the staples from the tannalised posts, and the posts from the ground, we have no need to buy any more fencing..

After lunch BC and I joined in, removing very rusty barbed wire and netting from the Blackthorn spinney which is now the missing link fence line, as well as much of the Blackthorn itself. This is certainly not the best time of year for jungle bashing, but with the top neighbour having completed the western end of the Northern boundary fence, it’s an opportunity not to be delayed until winter. We are leaving a fringe of Blackthorn along the inside of the new western fence line, ready for proper seasonal hedge laying at the back end of this year.

By late afternoon the Solarec team had completed their work in upgrading Groves Dyke, with the solar panels recovered in new clear plastic sheets, the new condensing gas boiler running in the loft, the new radiator in the dining room, thermostatic radiator valves all round and the central heating in full working order again. Only the gas checks to complete next week, the new shower door and the new dining room carpet to fit and then it’ll be all ready for the next family at the weekend.

29 April 2009    Saw my first Swallow at Grosmont, flying low across a grass field. This afternoon an elderly Apple tree suddenly fell in the Groves Dyke orchard. It was just coming into leaf and keeled over for no apparent reason, on a calm, dry day. The base looks rotten but we’ll have a proper look when we cut it up for woodturning:

J&GW (from Sleights) are holding an Exhibition and Sale of Woodturning and Beaded Jewellery this Bank Holiday weekend at Sandsend Institute, 10 -4 Sat, Sun and Mon. Admission is free and a percentage of the proceeds is donated to CAFOD.

28 April 2009    Yesterday Tony’s chimney sweep arrived, closely followed by SA and then by Solarec Ltd. They installed the solar hot water system some 20 years ago and now it is finally ready for some maintenance. SA got busy on the top fence, while Solarec removed the carpet and the very inefficient gas fire and gas back boiler from the dinning room and started to seal the chimney, ready for the nice new 95% efficient gas condensing boiler (which will still be pre-heated by the solar panels, as before).

By this afternoon the new dinning room radiator was plumbed in, the pipe work altered, the two hot tanks removed from the loft, the chimney sealed and the scaffolding tower erected. Wow! NB: It rained nearly all day, the first decent rain in almost 2 months.

25 Apr 2009    Flag and I had a lovely walk along the newly improved Forest Enterprise paths to Falling Foss Tea Gardens, with a very artistic ham salad for lunch. A hot, dry, sunny and almost perfect day!

24 Apr 2009    SA finished clearing the Blackthorn and after lunch BC and I helped to drag out the last of the cut invaders. Then a quick chat with my top neighbour before arranging a proper site meeting for 6.30 this evening. By 3 o’clocks SA and BC had completely cleared the redundant fence line, SA ceremoniously snipped the end of the pig netting and we all rolled the fence back to the midway point. Woopee!

22 Apr 2009    SA got on with making a way through the invading Blackthorn again, to clear the redundant fence line and was later joined by BC, while I sloped off for another little dental trip. My top neighbour, by sheer coincidence, has started fencing in the fields above the wood again, so he may fence the other half of my Northern boundary as well. He is currently using at least 5 persons, 2 tractors, 2 JCBs and a quad bike, so his fencing may be a mite quicker than ours…

21 Apr 2009    I let the hot sun work its magic and then strimmed half the lawns and all of the path around the wood. Hot!

20 Apr 2009    Rotary morning and dental afternoon, while SA got on with clearing the now redundant fence line through the Blackthorn.

19 Apr 2009    The sun finally reappeared (after a week of cool, grey sea roke) at 11.45am, just in time to brighten up the Spirit of the 40s Event in Whitby. Ah! Summer has returned and it’s wonderful!

17 Apr 2009    SA started removing the staples from the now-redundant top fence on Bankside while BC and I tackled the encroaching Blackthorn spiney which had invaded through the fence. After lunch SA and BC continued (I had more meetings)

15 Apr 2009    SA kept busy planning the next stage and after lunch BC and I joined in to examine the details.

Whitby had a very busy Easter weekend, with over 2 miles of standing traffic backed-up out of the town centre by midday on Sunday, out past Four Lane Ends roundabout (1 mile out), all the way up the main road to Sleights roundabout (2 miles out), and past the first Aislaby turnoff (c2¼ miles), which at c350 nose to tail cars per mile = c800 cars all hoping there will be one vacant parking place by the time they finally arrive in the town centre! But if you think that is bad…

At Scarborough the cars were backed up from the town centre all the way down the coast to the Filey bypass – some 10 miles of standing traffic, or c3500 cars! So just how big will the park and ride car parks have to be, exactly?? And that was on a cool, dull Easter weekend – just as well the weather wasn’t any better, or there would have been several times as many cars!! Answer: come to Whitby by Network Rail train…

13 Apr 2009    SA checked the redundant fence line while I cut half the grass of both gardens, plus the lowest stretch of the path around the wood. After lunch we walked the top boundary line again and decided how best to approach the job. But first, some diplomatic consultation with my top neighbour…

First Red Campion is now in flower in Bank orchard, and it looks like the Major Oak will be out before the big leaning Ash…

12 Apr 2009    There may be 2 mile queues of traffic trying to get into Whitby this weekend, but I had Glaisdale High Moor almost to myself. Male Red Grouse stood proudly by the roadside, refusing to surrender their territory to anyone. Down Caper Hill, I paused to check the 18th Century carving on a stone gatepost ‘Francis Hartus to repair this yat and yat stead’, a clear indication of an ancient argument about exactly whose responsibility it was to keep that particular gate and gateway in good repair!

10 Apr 2008    SA exercised Bruno around the wood this morning, counting up how many fence posts we can remove from the now-redundant top fence on Bank side, and reuse on the actual boundary line on Dyke side. After lunch we all walked up the drive, noting the first Peacock butterflies ‘dancing’ in the sunlight, not to mention the first Early Purple Orchid in Bank orchard. Also the first Cowslips in the wildflower bank by the steps – all 4 of them.

Then we showed BC the fence to be removed, before tidying-up the young Sycamore which is too close to the woodshed, adding a little bit more to the East Cord. Followed by cold drinks in the conservatory and the first Magnum ice creams of the year. A Yaffle yaffled from the wood and a steam train steamed from the railway line below, as road traffic streamed into Whitby.

08 Apr 2009    RD called in for a chat in the conservatory, while SA and I were still on our 10 o’clocks. All is not well with the National Trust for Scotland (nor indeed any other conservation charity) now that the credit crunch is beginning to hurt. While BC, SA and RD prepared lunch, I collected IJ from ‘the Royal on the hill’ [Lewis Carroll] and we all had lunch together.

A doggy stroll up the drive before RD set off for Inverness, DJ and Flag and I set off for a Falling Foss stroll and cream scone (each!), while SA showed BC our latest discoveries about the fencing at the top of the wood and how we might spend this summer removing the duplicate length and using it to fence the missing length along the real boundary line – before the original fence posts rot away.

Then a lovely meal with IJ at The Stables Restaurant at Cross Butts, Whitby. I can thoroughly recommend the lamb shank (locally produced) on garlic mash (locally produced) with 3 veg (all locally produced, of course). The cream for the Stable’s Swan Lake Profiterole may have been local, but the beautifully shaped pastry ‘swans’ gliding across a lake of chocolate sauce was probably more exotic – and absolutely delicious!

06 Apr 2009    SA continued to work on the West cord, replacing one of the lower uprights with a more reliable one. Then he and BC turned the bottom runners from the cord into yet more firelogs, before replacing them with nice tannalised ones. While this was going on, JM and assistant S and I located 3 suitable sites for nest boxes: one on the lowest weir on the beck (Grey Wagtails, perhaps?), one on the back of the pole barn and one just behind the Y2K statue. Then cold drinks and warm hot cross buns with runny butter for 3 o’clocks.

Then, with so many hands available, I decided to move a large Irish Oak from one end of the house to the other. Two people to one side, another two on the other side and a fifth in Reserve, we manoeuvred it two-legs-first out of the old dining room with the woodburner in (which now becomes the snug) around the front of the house and in the other door two-legs-first into what used to be the lounge and has just become the new dining room. Excellent job, all I have to do now is lay it, bring the chairs in and rearrange the rest of the furniture accordingly…

04 Apr 2009    First Marsh Marigold out in my pond. SA did a lot of useful things this morning. I, on the other hand, was in another meeting. After lunch with BC and JM, we all went up the hill to split a stack of Cherry drums and logs. BC showed JM how to do properly.

Weather Summary for March 2009:   

Max = 18°C (64°F), Min = -4°C (24°F). Actual at 09.30 hours 01 Apr 2009 = 5°C (40°F). Total Rainfall 15mm (½ inches). A backward March, coming in like a lamb and almost leaving like a lion. Very dry throughout, calm, mild and sunny for the first several weeks, then turning very windy from the North, before returning to mild, dry & sunny at the end.

31 Mar 2009    My car says it is 16°C (61°F) today, so as far as I’m concerned, anything above 15 (60) is the first day of summer. Flag and I had a lovely walk around Grosmont woods, after dropping off several boxes of the 2009 Whitby Guidebook (see ) with the steam trains. Then SA and NH arrived for lunch and a quick tour of the wood. It was NH’s hedge which we laid above Danby a few months ago and he reports that it is alive and well, and ready for a few dozen Hawthorn quicks to beef it up a bit. He is editor of , a community website created to help the local community after it was devastated by Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in 2000.

30 Mar 2009    I cut half the grass while SA completed the sawing-up and stacking of the West Cord, which is now empty. After lunch, with BC, we noticed the first Violets flowering in Bank orchard, not to mention the first Broomrape further up the drive. We snipped lots of young Hawthorn shoots from a coppiced stump, ready for NH to add as quicks to the hedge we laid near Danby. Then back up the wood to the Ash logs to split each of the two halves into thirds, before doing something similar to the Cherry logs. A Chiffchaff ‘sang’ throughout and Flag set about digging another hole. Calm and warm enough for cold drinks all round afterwards, so it must be nearly summer.

28 Mar 2009    Still a bit wild and windy but Flag and I had a very nice walk at Falling Foss, including a great bacon butty lunch.

27 Mar 2009    Still overcast and very windy, with a very ‘bracing’ blast from the North making it noticeably cooler but still dry. SA carried the sawn Oak logs (from the split fork) out of the brambles just below the Deserted Orchid patch, out onto the path. Also while the good weather lasts, he sawed still more Cherry to add to the (almost complete) double East Cord and started putting up a token deer fence around part of the East Hazel Coppice. Roe Deer have already started to flay the young Hazel rods, which we hope to layer in another few weeks, so they need some protection.

After lunch BC and I joined in and added yet more token deer fences around the rest of this coppice, using the bright orange binder twine given to us as a tangled mass after a sheep had got stuck under the parked baler on the hill farm near Danby. Having used this Charlie Band (the local name for binder twine) we admired our Andy Goldsworthy-esk creation (I’m not sure he would be proud of this one) which now sub-divides the East Hazel Coppice into 3 small blocks, each too small to let a Roe Deer browse comfortably knowing that it has very little room to get up enough speed to jump out again in a hurry. Its a good theory, we’ll see if it works…

Then we split two more of the big Ash logs into quarters and stacked them nearby to dry out a bit before trying to carry them down to add to the East Cord. If the fencing was a bit cool, the splitting soon warmed us up again!

26 Mar 2009    First Chiffchaff singing (?) in the wood this morning. Cooler, windy and had rained overnight but now dry again.

25 Mar 2009    SA carried on with sawing the West Cord. After lunch BC and I joined in and we all sawed the split Oak limb, which we had worked on weeks ago, into manageable chunks. There is now a goodly sized bucketful of Frog Spawn in my pond.

23 Mar 2009    SA cut cordwood while I cut grass. BC arrived and we all set off for the next village of Grosmont to have a guided tour of somebody else’s super little wood.

22 Mar 2009    Flag and I had a lovely walk around Falling Foss, including a nice lunch in the Tea Gardens, where much work has gone on in recent weeks to improve the paths and tables in the gardens. Of the 9 or 10 tables now available, every single table was occupied by happy, smiling people enjoying the lovely homemade food, the friendly service and the unique surroundings – certainly this is one of Whitby’s hidden gems!

Yet more Frogspawn and yet more lustful Frogs, with about a bucketful of spawn by late afternoon.

21 Mar 2009    The first Frogspawn in my pond appeared this morning, under a heaving mass of 20 or more Frogs.

20 Mar 2009    Cold overnight, misty this morning but then the sun burned it all away by late morning. Still only a trace of rain in the rain gauge this month. SA sawed and stacked lots of cordwood into the woodshed this morning, so only half of half a cord remains. This afternoon we all took the club hammer, wedges and safety goggles up to the felled Ash logs and set about splitting them into respectable cordwood. BC started with the thinnest log, which was supposed to be the easiest, but was also the knottiest, so turned out to be the most difficult after all. Then we all split a log each and restacked them up off the ground to dry out and lose weight for a month or two before we try to carry them down to the woodyard. Lots of cold drinks and mini Battenburgs were required to restore out equilibriums.

OffDafT (the Office of Daffodil Targets) will be pleased that 90% of the small ‘wild’ Daffs are now flowering in Bank Orchard, while over 50% of the big tame Daffs are also flowering in the big yellow triangle by the gate (NB: I must complete and return their Reporting Form before I get fined again). A couple of Smooth Newts were seen in the pond, the Green Woodpecker Yaffled, the first Wood Anemone are flowering in Bank orchard and all’s well with the world.

18 Mar 2009    The mild, dry sunny weather continues. A Grey Wagtail danced across the roof of the conservatory while I breakfasted within, then explored my pond – and it was joined by a mate! Still half a dozen Frogs in my pond, but no sign of any spawn – until CR arrived with a rescued half bucketful and tipped it in. SA carried lots of bramble and lop and top piles onto the bonfire heap in the woodyard. After lunch BC and I joined in, carrying the Hazel weaving rods around to Groves Dyke garden and weaving them into the beginnings of a dog-proof wattle fence just inside the thinnest bits of the laid hedge.

16 Mar 2009    A Sparrowhawk glided high over the wood, wheeled left a ¾ turn, glided across the lower edge of the wood, wheeled left another ¾ turn and glided back over the wood until lost behind the trees – a territorial display if ever I saw one.  Another mild, dry day and no good reason not to start cutting the grass for the first time this year. The grass cutter was as reluctant as I was, but by lunchtime we had cut every other lawn, while SA re-stacked the Cherry drums and logs up off the ground, to season. After lunch we all de-brambled the rest of Groves Dyke wildflower meadow and then hammered in Hazel posts to reinforce the laid hedge with a bit of wattle fence. After all that, BC split one of the Elm drums with a club hammer and wedges, and then graduated to the splitting axe for the other one. Whatever the knack is, she suddenly discovered it this afternoon and went home justifiably proud of her new skill and well supplied with beautifully split and seasoned Elm firelogs – the most difficult species to split.

During 3 o’clocks SB joined us clutching an ancient and newly discovered tome, which may yet save many of the hidden gems of Whitby…

14 Mar 09    The Inspector Calls

In the good old days the Yorkshire Tourist Board would send an Inspector every year to check that holiday cottages were up to standard, before issuing the appropriate number of Stars.

Today, however, the employee of G4S (Group 4 Security) called, by appointment, to inspect Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage and awarded it 3 Stars on behalf of QIT (Quality in Tourism, recently bought out by G4S), under contract for VB (Visit Britain, formerly the British Tourist Board), now that YTB (Yorkshire Tourist Board) is ceasing to exist at the end of this month, after failing to successfully devolve its responsibilities to the MCATP (Moors and Coast Area Tourism Partnership) which is also ceasing to exist, being replaced by the YCP (Yorkshire Coast Partnership) which is made up mainly of the disgruntled hoteliers who have abandoned all the new, expensive, official and (allegedly) incompetent bodies in favour of creating one of their own.

Confused? You will be, for all this has been masterminded (I use the word loosely) by YF (Yorkshire Forward, known to all its victims as Yorkshire Backwards), which is the government’s (ah-ha!) official RDA (Regional Development Agency), soon to be abandoned in favour of a new, bigger (God help us!) SRDA (Super-regional Development Agency) covering all of Yorkshire, the North East and Cumbria, to be called NW (Northern Way), to be led by (allegedly) the ex-head of one of the big Scottish Banks which was run into the ground, before he jumped ship and was (allegedly) appointed to the FSA (Financial Services Agency) which ‘regulated’ the Financial Industry so efficiently (nb sarcasm) that many big banks and building societies collapsed completely and had to be bailed out to the tune of £ millions, £ billions, £ trillions and, now £ squillions by – guess who? That’s right, you and me, the poor buggers who have just found that ‘the value of your life savings can fall, as well as plummet’ thanks to the reckless greed of all these fat cats, some of whom were (allegedly) persuaded to resign quietly with an obscenely large bonus and the promise of (allegedly) a nice, cushy, very well paid 2-days-a-month job in the North of England, for a year or two until all the fuss dies down…

Bitter? Who? Us? Never!

13 Mar 09    Sunny this morning, cloudy this afternoon, but mild and dry throughout. SR noticed about a dozen individual eggs in individual jelly spheres, all resting on the underwater shelf around the edge of my pond – Toadspawn, I think. Massed eggs in jelly are Frogspawn and strings of eggs are Newtspawn – but only if my memory serves me well. Which it rarely does, so I may look this up later, just to check. If I remember…

SA used the bowsaw to turn more of the Ash cordwood into firelogs and stacked them in the woodshed. After lunch BC and I helped check that the small chainsaw was working properly and, having proved that it was, SA used it to take down most of the dead Elm trunk we had left for later some months ago. Then a friend arrived unexpectedly and we all showed them around the wood, before we all checked that the kettle was also working properly.

11 Mar 09    Lovely dry, sunny day – so we laid out the big reel of electric string up to the wood yard & used the leccy saw on the thickest bits of Ash cordwood. Sadly, the blustery wind blew all that sawdust into our faces, so we put away all the labour-saving high tech kit and just  carried on with the bow saw and the two-person saw. Now ⅔ of ½ the wood shed is full of firelogs.

10 Mar 09    Whodunnit on the Patio?

Flag was intrigued by the mysterious patch of blood and guts on the stones beside my pond. Not a lot of blood and fairly small guts, so who had done what to whom – and why? Later that evening I let Flag out and a startled Heron flew off from the edge of the patio, presumably carrying the most recent victim, while the surviving 3 or 4 Frogs carried on hopping towards the pond. Ah-ha! All has now been revealed.

09 Mar 09    The forecast said ‘showery’ but it wasn’t. If we had known this, SA and I would have laid out the big reel of electric string up to the woodyard and used the super leccy saw. Since we didn’t, we decided just to use the bowsaw to cut lots of the West Cord into firelogs and stack them in the woodshed. Joined by BC after lunch, we also used the 2-person crosscut saw and by 3 o’clocks we had reduced the cord by half of a half cord and increased the woodshed contents by half of a third of half a woodshed – which may not impress you, but it did us!

A few Frogs were purring in the pond, one pair (they were very definitely a pair) had to be lifted up into the water, more Primroses are flowering the Bank orchard, the first Dogs Mercury is flowering (very insignificantly) and the Hawthorn hedges are just beginning to bud. To our surprise, the Willow thumbstick which I cut about Christmas and stored in the conservatory to season, is also in leaf!

08 Mar 09    Spent a fascinating afternoon with the nice man from Solarec Solar Panels (Wakefield), who fitted their solar panels on both Groves Bank and Groves Dyke some 20 years ago. A week has been booked for them in late April to simplify the complicated 2 hot tanks in Groves Dyke loft (needed due to the open coal fire we had way back then, before the current gas fire went in) and combine them into just one, as well as rationalise the central heating controls, etc. They will also arrange for a nice, new high efficiency condensing gas boiler to replace the ancient, inefficient gas back boiler (4 inch diameter hole no longer required in the cavity wall insulated wall – woopee!), remove a highly inefficient open gas fire, fit a new radiator, clean out the whole central heating system, fit thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs, as we all call them) and anything else that may be required. Then another week to do any repainting, lay a new dining room carpet, put the house straight again – before getting back to normal.

06 Mar 09    Another hard frost last night  but in the sun the fine, mild  and dry weather continues. SA worked away until joined by LG and Sparky the Labrador from Grosmont and JM from Aislaby – and me. Between us, we cleared away the lop and top from the felled Ash, sorting it into cordwood or bonfire / habitat heap. SA pointed out that, with BC still off ‘on the sick’, we needed 2 extra men to make good her absence! Good point! Over 3 o’clocks in the conservatory we put the whole world to rights, so nothing to worry about now…

04 Mar 09    SA worked away unaided by BC (still poorly) or me (swimming, then meetings) and cleared away the recently felled Cherry tree top which was still snagged up in the Blackthorn spiney.

02 Mar 09    BC was at home nursing a cold, but the weather was warm and dry underfoot so SA and I dropped the 27 year old Ash tree at the corner of the West Hazel Coppice. Like its neighbour, it was reluctant to topple but SA’s chainsaw did the trick. We logged it up into either 4 foot lengths to split for cordwood, or into 16 inch drums for splitting into firelogs. Either way, they can stay up here in a neat stack all summer until they have lost half their weight of water, and then we’ll carry them down to the woodyard.

Weather Summary for February 2009:   

Max = 14°C (57°F), Min = -5°C (23°F). Actual at 09.30 hours 01 Mar 09 = 5°C (40°F). Total Rainfall 80mm (3⅛ inches). The first half of March was the coldest and had more snow than in the past 15+ years, but then the second half of the month was mild and sunny – the result is that overall Feb 2009 was ‘about average’!

27 Feb 09    Half a dozen Frogs purred in my pond this mild spring morning as SA and I admired my new Ecobase panel, bought yesterday on my way back from collecting the grass cutter from its annual overhaul. This 50 x 50 cm plastic grid is lightweight, interlockable and designed as a simple way to create a gravel base for a greenhouse of garden shed: just level off the site, lock enough Ecobase panels together as required, fill the spaces with a couple of inches of gravel and then plonk the shed on top. BUT… if you turn the panel upside-down, it should be possible to press it into soft ground until the flat under surface (now uppermost) is at ground level and provides a safe, secure and slip resistant path or area to walk or work on. We tried an upside-down one on the muddiest bit of path near the Major Oak bridge and we’ll monitor its progress over the next few weeks, before buying more to make the woodyard more usable in wet weather.

SA then carried up the winch and dragged free the torn-off and snagged-up stem of a 25 year old Oak at the top of Dyke Wood, before carrying up the chainsaws, fuel, ropes, etc to tackle the forked Cherry after lunch. By the time BC and I arrived we were all ready for SA to take off first one fork (which dropped neatly into place between the young Oaks we were trying to help), and then the other (which dropped neatly into the Blackthorn spiney). In fact, it came gently to rest against the pollarded Silver Birch which we had prepared earlier. A bit more chainsaw work to remove the bigger branches and then cut the 40 cm diameter trunks into manageable drums for splitting, and we were ready to replace Bruno’s Banisters and carry all the kit back down to the house.

25 Feb 09    SA completed cutting back the horseshoe hedge stumps this morning. The ground is drying out nicely now and after lunch SA and BC carried down all the remaining hedge-laying produce (cordwood, stakes and weaving rods) from the top of Bank orchard and trimmed back the flopped Willow from on top of the young Oak, while I had a lovely time in yet another meeting. Not!

23 Feb 09    Mild and overcast, SA & I cut back the remaining stems of the now removed horseshoe hedge, to make any unwanted regrowth easily strim-able. Half done, half to go. After lunch we strolled up the drive, noticing the first Daffodils in flower, about 6 of them in Bank orchard. With BC we trimmed back the toppled Willow from on top of the young Oak just over the top bridge, using the bowsaw to cut through the snagged Willow branches. The tension in the branch was more than expected and suddenly the blade of the bowsaw leapt from the bow and flashed, somersaulting, through the air. I’ve never seen that before – and I don’t want to see it again! Nobody hit and nobody hurt, but beware all stressed branches in future.

Then we planted the 2 young Rowan trees, SA’s just five yards West of Cherrygate and BC’s just South of the Dog Snout Apple tree at the top of Chimney Bank.

21 Feb 09    A lovely mild, dry, calm and sunny day so once the washing was on the line I set off to Malton to have the strimmer serviced before the season begins. On the way home again, Flag and I stopped for our first patio lunch of the year at the Cedar Barn near Pickering. Excellent! Then a nice walk from the Hole of Horcum car park heading towards Blakey Topping, that little known oval hill which is the handful of earth which the giant Wade scooped out to throw at his wife – well, she had just dropped his hammer! And the hole where he scooped it out of? Why, that’s the Hole of Horcum, of course!

20 Feb 09    After lunch we all lit the bonfire in the woodyard and then spent the afternoon cutting, carrying and burning the rest of the horseshoe hedge around the stone seat. Hard, hot work and we all enjoyed our first cold drink for the year with our 4 o’clocks. Now that this Lynicera / Lanicera / Lenicera hedge has gone, that will be a lot less garden hedge trimming to do this summer, and the chance to redesign the course and the nature of the beck as it flows around, or even under, the stone seat…

19 Feb 09    After digging 3 holes in Briggswath and another 3 in the main drive, Yorkshire Water did finally find and repair the leak – at 4 o’clock this morning. Normal water supply was restored almost immediately and now life continues as normal again. It’s true – you don’t miss the water until your rising main runs dry… Visit

18 Feb 09    First Frog song in my pond this morning.

A misty morning after overnight rain, making the path around the wood even more difficult. While Yorkshire Water plc dug up Briggswath to look for my missing tap water, SA searched the silt pond behind the stone seat for the lost inlet pipe to my pond. After lunch, with BC, we all tried, poking the mud and silt where the silt pond used to be with big poker from my woodburning stove until the clunk of a plastic pipe was heard. (I’d hate to be looking for landmines the same way – still, never mind, just as long as our UK arms industry is keeping busy). So  radically modified was the whole topography of my now-completely-silted-up silt pond after the recent thaw that everything was just unrecognisable. We eventually located the pipe some 4 feet away from where we’d been digging! This whole silt pond and the plastic pipes under my stone seat will just have to go and we started removing the Lynicera hedge before anyone starts nesting in it.

NB: Yorkshire Water are still digging holes in Briggswath, still trying to find the leak in their pipe…

16 Feb 09    SA searched for the missing inlet to my pond, completely hidden by debris brought down by the flood which followed the last thaw. Later joined by BC, they carried several stakes and weaving rods (cut from the hedge laying above Bank Orchard) down to beef up the bottom hedge of Groves Dyke front garden. They also closed off Flag’s unofficial exit from my front lawn onto the main drive.

It was mild today and the ground is beginning to dry out. Both washing lines were full of fresh laundry which dried quite well in a slight breeze. Lots of Snowdrops are out now and another Lesser Celandine. Several Hazel trees now carry catkins, the Green Woodpecker is yaffling in the wood and a very smart looking Nuthatch showed up well on the feeding station.

15 Feb 09    Took a drive up out of the now green Esk Valley and over Sleights Moor. The roads are completely clear of snow, but on either side the brown Heather is now poking through an ever thinning blanket of snow. Goathland is still white (apart from the roads) so I carried on past the early warning station at RAF Fylingdales, past the legendary Saltersgate Inn (currently being re-built) and up to the car park on the A169 overlooking the still all white Hole of Horcum. My car may say it is + 9°C today, but all the white snow reflects enough of the sun’s heat to remain intact up here. On the way home and looking far across the North York Moors, the higher ground beyond Glaisdale and Danby is still completely white over.

14 Feb 09    I was delighted to find that the snowplough had got as far as the Forest Enterprise car park above Falling Foss, even though the car park itself was still covered in 3 or 4 inches of snow. Or perhaps the local farmer had ploughed his way out to the main road? Flag and I had a lovely walk through the snowy woods and admired the extra snowmelt coming over the waterfall itself – very spectacular! Then we warmed up in the Falling Foss Tea Garden yurt, next to the wood burning stove. Very welcome! Their hot chocolate and bacon butty was just what was required, thank-you.

13 Feb 09    Yesterday’s surprise snowfall (another 2 inches in my garden) was now melting away again, but the moortops are even more snow covered than before and the muddy paths are even more tricky. We all started after lunch, sawing most of the remaining Cherry branches in the pole barn sawing brakes. These have now been given even better grips with the addition of a couple of lengths of reject Gripper Strip from the local carpet warehouse, which only begs the question: How did medieval woodspersons manage in the centuries before fitted carpets were available?

11 Feb 09    The second, left-handed sawing brake was added to the pole barn by SA this morning, so now he won’t have to stand outside in the rain any more to use the original right-handed one. After lunch BC and I joined SA to de-bramble the steep grassy bank just outside Groves Dyke hedge, carrying all the brambles to the bonfire site. Having run out of things to do that did not involve climbing the steep, muddy and very slippery paths through the wood, the woodyard or the orchard, we ended up in the pole barn using both sawing brakes to saw the stacked branches (from the Cherry tree in Groves Dyke garden several weeks ago) into firelogs.

09 Feb 09    SA and I split a few more drums of Sycamore in the SW Hazel Coppice with the splitting axe, before admitting that we should have brought up the sledge and wedges as well. A bit of sawing in the woodyard emptied the Lower West Cord completely and helped to fill the woodshed with lots 16 inch long fire logs. BC arrived and we all had an early lunch before I abandoned them for a trip to Scarborough. The lower ground may be mostly green and all the main roads may be completely clear, but the moortops themselves are still covered with several inches of snow. And very pretty they look, too. In my absence BC & SA split the remainder of the Sycamore drums during the afternoon.

06 Feb 09    This morning a hen Pheasant made a dog’s dinner of the dog’s breakfast – that’ll teach him to eat it all up at one go! Later he barked frantically as a Roe doe strolled up the drive and across the woodyard. I gave it a 50 yard start before letting him out to fetch it. He came back shortly afterwards, but without any venison.

SA used the new super long pole saw to trim some branches off the forked Cherry which will be the next to come down. After lunch BC and I joined in and together we did some more high pruning & left the site neat and tidy. Then we lit the small bonfire at the back of Dyke orchard and, with a bit of flapping, cleared that site as well.

04 Feb 09    A hard frost last night covered my pond in ice and (thankfully) locked up much of the water in and on the ground, while the rest of it drains away. My morning walk around the wood included a bit of unintentional skating, since anything that isn’t icy is just plain muddy.

SA checked the top drain before sawing more of the Lower West Cord into firelogs. After lunch we all walked the dogs up the main drive, seeing the first Lesser Celandine in flower in Bank Orchard, before locating and clearing the drains as we went. The rest of the afternoon was spent sawing and stacking more of the Lower West Cord in anticipation of more cold weather, before retiring to the conservatory for coffee and sticky buns to the faint calls of the birds on the nearby feeding station.

03 Feb 09    Most of the snow thawed last night and today as I look across the Esk Valley I can see more green fields than white snow. The result of all the melt water, of course, is that the beck across my lawn blocked where it goes under the stone seat and was still flowing across the lawns as I walked past. My favourite game when I’m still not quite human on a muddy morning is to reach a nice warm dry arm up to the elbow in recently melted snow, mud and twigs to clear the mouth of a drain pipe. It took a good 10 minutes to restore the normal flow, by which time I wasn’t able to feel my fingers any more. Yes, I could have gone back to the house for an appropriate agricultural implement, but I did say that I wasn’t quite awake…

02 Feb 09    About 2 to 3 inches of snow fell overnight, with more falling during the day. SA walked here and we improved the bird feeding station and carried extra firewood from the woodshed to the house. A dozen Fieldfare perched briefly in the top of the big leaning Ash. The roads are open as normal, the trains are running between Middlesbrough to Whitby, but many local schools are closed (usually because the teachers are unable to commute from their more distant homes).

Weather Summary for January 2009.    Max 8°C (46°F), Min -5°C (23°F). Actual at 09.30 hours 01 Feb 09 0 C (32°F). Total Rainfall 50mm (2″ inches).

31 Jan 09    A lovely sunny day, so Flag and I went to Falling Foss Tea Garden for a nice stroll and a bacon butty (any excuse)! The spade by the gate sported a large label saying ‘Please carry 1 spade-full for 6 yards’, so I dug into the freshly delivered heap of woodchip and carried it into the garden to add it around the nearest picnic table – just to say that I had contributed to one of Whitby’s hidden gems. In fact, I got a bit carried away and tipped another 6 spade-fulls over the wall and onto the same spot, since this was only 1 yard away. Same difference!

30 Jan 09    Dry and sunny but with a cool Westerly wind which has dried the ground out enough to fell the smaller of the two Cherry trees today. SA had everything prepared by early afternoon when BC and I joined in. With a light rope for guidance and a chainsaw for encouragement, it dropped neatly between the two young Oaks we were seeking to encourage. By 2pm it was dismantled, the lop and top stacked, the bigger bits sawn into cordword or 16 inch drums and these also stacked up off the ground.

Then down to the far SW corner of the wood to take a few more 16 inch drums off the big, but long dead, Sycamore which fell onto the Hazel coppice a year ago. Half a dozen big drums were sliced off the trunk and stacked up off the ground to dry. These we can split in the next few days & carry down to the woodyard for immediate use. Judging by the weather forecast, with snow due along the East coast early next week, we might be glad of a few big clogs to add to the woodburners!

28 Jan 09    Mild, overcast but dry. SA checked the top drain and cleared a few leaves, to help it flow across the top of the wood and not down through it. After lunch we three Bank Voles de-brambled Dyke orchard, now that the Daffs and Snowdrop shoots are so well advanced that I daren’t use the strimmer. We piled up our bramble collections on top of the bonfire heap, adding considerably to its height.

26 Jan 09    Milder again, overcast and dry. I delivered some more Unique Walking Sticks to Dunsley Hall Hotel, while SA and Bruno had a walk around the wood. Joined by BC and after lunch, we took the two-wo/man cross-cut saw and the big bowsaw to the far end of Bank Orchard to turn the big fallen Oak limb (sudden limb drop several years ago, following a drought) into firelogs. This was achieved remarkably quickly (if not easily) so we walked back through the wood looking at other possible schemes.

One much needed improvement, following last week’s mud-gripped firelog sawing, is a new, improved, well-drained, level work area immediately uphill of the two cords, with a path from it running between the cords and another path to the woodshed. Timber or stone? Decking or gravel? Woodchip or concrete? Polythene sheet or weed-suppressing, semi-permeable, woven membrane? Yorkshire flagstones or composite paving slabs? Steps or a slope? More detailed plans are afoot…

SA noticed the first Primrose flower of the year, just above the woodyard near the Millennium Statue, then BC noticed the first Snowdrop in flower below the Cypresses in the lower corner of Bank orchard. Spring!

24 Jan 09    A cold clear night with ice back on my pond again, then a lovely clear, dry, calm and sunny day with a load of laundry out on the washing line. Off to Goathland for a little bit of genteel coppicing (1 young Hazel) and pollarding (1 young Willow) in the garden of friends, finishing just in time for a lovely lunch.

23 Jan 09    Too wet this morning but after lunch the sun came out as forecast and we all three stood as still as possible in the woodyard, unstacking more of the West cord, sawing more firelogs and stacking them in the woodshed. Any walking back and forth had to be reduced to a minimum because of the treacherous and slippery mud underfoot. Clearly, what we still need in the woodyard is a small, level, yet well drained area for the sawhorse, with a dry central path between the cords, and another to the woodshed… I think this could be our next big project, once the weather improves and the two Cherry trees up in the wood have been dropped.

21 Jan 09    A lovely day out with D and I from the Deep South (of England), this week staying 600 feet up at the Raven Hall Hotel, Ravenscar. We enjoyed the bird watchers’ car park at Forge Valley National Nature Reserve, just outside Scarborough. There must have been about 50 Chaffinches on the feeders, as well as Great, Blue, Coal, Marsh and Long Tail Tit, Nuthatch, Blackbird, Robin and the closest and longest view of a Treecreeper I’ve ever had. Not to mention a fleeting glimpse of a Sparrowhawk collecting up a drive-thru Chaffinch.

Then on to the new Cedarbarn Farm Shop and Cafe between Thornton-le-dale and Pickering, which we awarded 10 out of 10 on all aspects. I’ll be back! That kept us going for a nice drive up Rosedale and onto the moortop to say Hello to Fat Betty and the Lion on Blakey Rigg. I wasn’t expecting the 3 or 4 inches of snow up there, stretching mile after mile, but then we were 1,000 feet above sea level by then. A superb lunch (was that really a Child’s Portion I had?) and then we left Switzerland and dropped back down into the green, green Esk Valley and headed for Sleights.

Arriving in time for half-past-two-o’clocks with BC and SA (and half a Victoria Sponge from Cedarbarn), who had spent their time sawing the West cord into firelogs and stacking them in the woodshed.

20 Jan 09    Today Barak Obama replaces George W. Bush as President of the United States of America. It will be such a nice change to have the most powerful person in the world capable of pronouncing the word ‘nu-clear’ properly, able to string a whole sentence together, declaring that torture and detention without trial are both wrong and will be stopped, accepting from the outset that the world’s climate is changing due to human activity, that our present 6,500 million humans on the world may be more that the planet can support, and that foreign aid can once again include funding for family planning services. Quite good really! In fact, ‘things can only get better’.

Oh dear! Where have I heard that before?

19 Jan 09    The Southerly gale had blown itself out by 10 pm the other night, so no great problem here on the East coast. One 30-year old Ash has had its Grey Squirrel (Tree Rat!) damaged top snapped off, but it’s in such an inaccessible place that nobody will notice and, if they do, nobody can get to it to do anything about it anyway!

Driving home last night I disturbed a Badger trundling along the drive as I turned in. I stopped the car and watched as it trundled along in my headlights, ignoring everything, and carried on about its lawful business.

This morning it was pouring and my rain gauge (almost empty so far this month, until a couple of days ago) is now showing just over half an inch. SA repaired and sharpened tools in the Stickery while I went swimming (warm and wet is better than cold and wet!). After lunch SA lit the bonfire of branches cut from the Juniper tunnel, while I was at the first of 5 meetings throughout today and tomorrow. By the time I got back, the bonfire was burnt away and dying down nicely, thank-you.

17 Jan 09    A line full of fresh washing and Flag and I were off to Falling Foss for a nice muddy stroll to the Hermitage, then back to Falling Foss Tea Gardens for home made soup and a bacon butty. Once in the yurt the woodburner glowed warmly, the beck flowed past the window, I enjoyed my meal and Flag enjoyed his little jar of doggy biscuits (what a nice touch!). Everything was ready for a children’s birthday party lunch, but we escaped in good time and were leaving the car park just as the children started to arrive. Lucky things – at that age I would have loved a birthday party in a yurt lit by lanterns by a giant waterfall in a wood in the middle of nowhere. Never mind, I’m not bitter. Just jealous!

16 Jan 09    This morning it was dry with the sun burning its way through the high mist. SA (now complete with Bruno again after a few days on the sick) checked the path around the wood (ie gave Bruno a little gentle exercise) and then removed the now redundant strand of barbed wire from the extension of Hadrian’s Hedge towards the woodyard.

After lunch we had a walk and a great view of a female Roe Deer standing very still in the orchard and eating the last of the windfalls. When it realised we were watching it, she moved off slowly and disappeared into the wood. Then Bru went home to rest, SA returned and BC and I (and Flag, of course) all tidied up the remaining produce from the hedge-laying: weaving rods were propped up against an Apple tree, cordwood and posts were raised up off the damp ground, lop and top was carried to the bonfire site until the path along the top of the steep bank became too muddy and then we all retreated for 3 o’clocks. Everything should now be secure and ready for the gales forecast for tomorrow night. If there had been any hatches we would have battened them down as well.

A Woodmouse, the first I’ve seen for several weeks, scurried back and forth through the dry stone wall behind my pond, presumable laying-in stores of grain from my bird feeding station.

14 Jan 09    SA and BC carried on with the last few yards of the hedge laying, while I went back to sunny Scarborough for another meeting. They added a few yards of double wickerwork fence to protect the newly laid pleachers on the very steep and very gappy slope (Hadrian’s Hedge?). When I returned after lunch we all laid the very last Hawthorn and the very last Sycamore . This whole hedge along the top of Bank Orchard is now completely laid, so we celebrated with Chelsea Buns in the conservatory. All that is left to do with it now is a little bit more clearing up, with the lop and top going to the bonfire, the cordwood to the East Cord, and the remaining weaving rods to beef up the Groves Dyke / Woodlands Drive hedge (laid 8 years ago).

JW the wood turner arrived to give his latest creation to SA – a beautiful bottle-shaped table lamp in Teak (made from one of the scraps of Bournemouth pier which SA gave him a just a few days ago).

13 Jan 09    What a lovely dry, sunny afternoon – and almost warm, too. The green Daffodil shoots in Dyke Orchard are a couple of inches high now. In Bank Orchard Flag and I had a lovely time de-brambling Wasp Nest Corner by hand (or paw) before anything bursts into flower. All done now, just the bonfire to light after a few nice soggy days.

12 Jan 09    After a very windy night (no damage noticed, as yet) today dawned much milder but damp. My barometer has returned to the vertical (‘Change’) for the first time in about a month of ‘Fair’ or ‘Very Dry’. The rain cleared mid morning and the sun and showers began. SA and I cleared up a bit more of the bits and bobs from the hedge laying and after lunch BC arrived and I went to Scarborough, leaving them to finish clearing up before laying a bit more hedge (and creating a little bit more lop and top to clear up another day).

10 Jan 09    A hard frost again last night, which hardly lifted all day. At 2pm the trawler ‘Pleiades’ was lifted by a giant crane into Whitby harbour, the very latest launch of a Whitby-built boat in a tradition that stretches back for centuries.

09 Jan 09    A good frost last night and my pond is frozen over again. In fact, it was cold enough to freeze all the muddy bits of the path around the wood and I was able to walk the dog this morning without my wellies. Misty in the distance but the sun burned through eventually. SA started the big clear-up of the hedge laying, sorting the cut material into 4 foot cord lengths (for stacking into cords to season for a year or two before sawing each length into three 16 inch firelogs and then restacking these in the woodshed ready to burn), or weaving rods (these are no ordinary weaving rods, these are the the longest, and the straightest, and the thinnest, and the very finest weaving rods that traditional Yorkshire can provide, reserved for the only wickerwork fence in the world, to protect your favourite holiday cottage for your families’ personal safety and enjoyment, for years to come), or the occasional interesting stem (for a possible Unique Walking Stick), or just lop and top for the bonfire.

After lunch BC went solo for the first time, while I acted as assistant. Each and every stem in the hedge length had to be identified in turn and selected, some removed and some retained for laying, each and every pleacher to be planned, prepared and then cut with the most appropriate tool, then laid along the length of the hedge, woven between the posts for strength and then trimmed to fit neatly. This was no fast and straggly section of hedge laying with only one or two stems to choose from, this was a thickly grown section of young Hazel and some Holly. By late 3 o’clocks BC had completed a very presentable 4 or 5 yards of well laid hedge with up to 15 thin pleachers lying neatly on top of each other, in addition to a couple of much thicker ones still growing from when I last laid this hedge 10 years ago. Well earned mini-Battenburgs all round!

08 Jan 09    Took Flag for a walk by Whitby Marina, for a good view across the harbour to Parkol Marine’s brand new trawler ‘Pleiades’. She is now complete and will be lifted into the water by a giant crane on Saturday at 2pm. A couple of dozen Redshank roosted out the high tide on the pontoons below Alcatraz and it feels almost like a spring day. I celebrated this with a coffee and a very nice slice of homemade lemon drizzle cake at the Coliseum Community Cafe, alongside Whitby bus station.

07 Jan 09    Milder and still calm and dry. SA and I laid several more yards of Bank Orchard hedge, then after lunch BC and I laid yet more – 9 yards in total today and only another 6 to go…

New for 2009 at Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage:

1. Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage celebrates its 20th Anniversary

2. I am leaving the Yorkshire Tourist Board – as I feel it no longer provides good value for money

3. Instant online booking (and payment) is now on the Availability page on this website – via the same web shop still used by most Tourist Boards

4. Dogs are now welcome at Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage – provided they are well behaved, of course. Flag will love the company!

06 Jan 09    A hard frost hit most of the UK last night, getting down to -7°C according to my Max and Min Thermometer on the laundry window frame. My pond was well frozen and the feeding station was busier than ever. A 15-minute count revealed: Blackbird 5, Blue Tit 4, Great Tit 2, Long Tail Tit 2, Robin 2, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Marsh Tit 1. (0915 – 0930 hours, clear sky, calm, dry and sunny. Later 13 Long Tail Tits (the most I’ve seen all together this winter) clustered around the fat feeder.

05 Jan 09    Another cold day, mainly dry but with occasional light showers of almost snow down here (and real snow covering the ground around Goathland and Castleton). This morning SA and I laid another several yards of (mainly) Hazel hedge and after lunch BC and I laid several more, including a nice bit of back-laying to fill a gap. All in all, another 13 yards of hedge laid today. Then JW the local wood turner arrived to look at the drums of recently felled Cherry and Elm, as well as the off cuts of exotic planks rescued for him by BC, and the salvaged bits of Bournemouth (burnt down) Pier, which just happen to be of Jarra and of Teak, and were rescued for him by SA. His wood turning eyes positively gleamed with delight!

02 Jan 2009    SA sharpened his chainsaw while I sorted out the household insurance at the NFU Mutual office in Whitby. House with a home office and office equipment? No problem, every farm has one of those. Holiday Cottage with a wood and a woodland walk? No problem, lots of farms have those? A much better response than I ever got from any of the bog standard insurance company call centres when I first tried many years ago.

After lunch and with BC, but without the promised sun, we laid out the electric string from the laundry to the pole barn and spent a couple of hours with the plug-in reciprocating saw cutting the thicker Elm and Cherry logs into firelogs or lengths for further splitting. By 4 o’clocks it was still light (days are getting longer already!) and both trees were almost completely sorted and stacked for a year or more.

01 Jan 2009    A Happy New Year to you all! Flag was too tired last night to do more than accept a few squirts of Rescue Remedy just before the midnight hour, and then lie unhappily by my chair as not too many Sleights folk got their noisy pyrotechnics over and done with fairly quickly. Bah, humbug!

This morning I took him for a lovely walk in Grosmont woods and alongside the river, where we met 3 more Golden Retrievers and their owner. Chatting about our dogs and their particular foibles, she suggested that Flag had a fairly distinctive colour (and personality!) and may be from a well known breeder near York. Amazing what you can find out on a visit to Grosmont!

By lunchtime the sun was out (at last!) but the afternoon was spent working on the new website.