One thing that I like about working in the woods is that it does take me to some interesting places, many of which are just around the corner but otherwise you wouldn’t have a reason to go there. I had the usual busy day planned yesterday until Frank rang and my plans changed. He needed a hand, or more accurately a landrover, hauling some long chestnut poles from a coppice on the side of the Devil’s Punchbowl over a mile from the nearest access point to the waiting truck.
Chestnut coppice is cut on a long cycle, typically between 12 and 20years and the regrowth shoots from the stumps, known as stools, so that the cycle can begin again. This coppice is ready to be cut again though only a small area has been cleared so far. This cycle of clearing, removing and allowing wildflowers to pop up whilst the regrowth starts again is important in managing the woods, not just for providing sustainable timber products but also in providing an excellent habitat in the woods for plenty of wildlife.
It’s the first time I’ve been in the punchbowl since the A3 was rerouted and it has changed enormously since the tunnel opened last year. You can still see the route of the old road on the other side of the valley but the matting it’s clad in to prevent erosion will soon disappear under new growth and it will be hard to remember what it used to be like. Strange to be there without the ever present drone of traffic in the background, it makes the birdsong seem unnaturally load.
The Devil’s Punchbowl is an amazing local feature, a steep sided natural amphitheature which cuts into the side of the adjoining Hindhead common. Easy to forget you are still on the borders of Surrey when you are lost in the bottom of the valley and more understandable when you learn that Hindhead common reaches 900feet in altitude. If you do get lost you’ll be in good company as William Cobbett hired a guide and still managed to get lost in the Punchbowl.
On the steep sides of the Punchbowl the Bell Heather is starting to flower and there will be a continuous display on the local heaths through to mid September another reminder that the seasons are changing relentlessly even if the weather we are experiencing this week makes it hard to rememeber just where we are. Only a week ago it was still pouring with rain and now we have a mini-heatwave.
The main poles Frank was extracting are for a roundwood workshop build he is planning – I think they’ll be just the job and I look forward to seeing how he gets on with the build. Not huge loads, more of a challenge to balance the 16ft lengths for the haul up the track to the top of the Punchbowl.
Puff the Magic Landrover coped well with the +30 degrees C temperatures and the long climb, and after a bigger load of shorted poles we’d filled the truck and finished the job. Great to be able to visit the punchbowl again and a pleasure to help out. Frank has given me some ideas for working with roundwood chestnut on my own shedbuild which is only 3 years behind schedule now.