Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Hammocking in the woods

Wintertime is a fine time to go hammocking in the woods! Back in November I took to the woods after a great weekend at a bird conference in the Scottish Highlands. It was proper cold, at around -8°C, with great fingers of hoar frost everywhere. It was also incredibly dry and crisp as I hiked out into the forest in the last rays of the day. The sunset sky was cloudless and sharp and full of Scot's pine silhouettes and in the fading light I made a dump of my kit while I hunted out my site for the night. I settled on a duo of birch and pine and quickly set up the hammock tapes, the tarp with ridgeline and pegged guys, and then set up all the warm stuff - two sleeping bags, a thermarest and a pillow (hey, why not be super comfortable!). The hammock is a DD Camping Hammock and while a little heavier than their cool Superlight design, it is a great buy. I love the double zipped layer which is where I stick the thermarest. I then climbed into my winter bag in the hammock, and zipped up a 3/4 season bag up on the outside of the hammock - properly toasty!

Trouble was, it warmed up a huge amount in the night, to a balmy 0°C, with snow and sleet and drizzle. At some unearthly hour I did have to climb out of my cosy nest to adjust the tarp, closing up one end to a narrow gap. This definitely helped but the tarp could have been tighter and anyhow, my outer sleep bag poked out some and got a bit damp. Under the tarp it was fine and I had my things hanging up in easy reach - headtorch, waterbottle, extra warm things, snacks. Come the morning, as I had prepped for deep freeze, I woke up totally boiling, far too hot!! De-rigging quickly I headed out on a now very icy path and under one heck of a louring sky and I made it back to the car just in time before the heavens opened and then opened some more!! Was still a top night and I especially loved listening to the crossbills calling in the treetops above my hammock. And the hot tea and chocolate croissants for brekkers, in the hammock, were pretty good too!

Friday, 27 January 2017

Moving house

Barn owl boxes are a great way of helping this fantastic bird by providing them with a safe and secure place to nest and roost. Barn owls are also only one of the animals that love to live in these big boxes; tawny owls, stock doves, jackdaws and grey squirrels are all frequent tenants. And where the box is sited can make it much more likely who moves in - a lone tree is best for owls whereas locating a box on a woodland edge is gifting a cosy home for squirrels. One of ours was put up on the corner of a small wood. It does overlook some great habitat however it has only only ever had squirrels in and so it was time to move the box to a better place.

The box was rigged to an anchored, releasable lowering system (see below) and then unbolted from the tree. We use a socket set with a big extension so that all leverage can be exerted outside the box which makes life so much easier. The bolts were pretty darn tight but soon came loose.

 Hi-strength bowline with a forward facing bight around Scot's pine bole and with a grigri tied off.

The box is in fine fettle after 5 years out in the weather. We hiked the box across two fields and drove it to a nearby part of the farm where a lone ash tree is the perfect spot. I forgot to take a pic so here is one we put up a few weeks ago using the same false-crotch pulley system for easy hoisting. We'd forgotten the box template for marking the holes but managed just fine anyhow. Fingers crossed the newly sited box will be occupied soon!


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Trees on islands

On a crisp, frosty day, we struck out for the bonny islands out in the River Ness. Bonny leaves fringed with frost covered the river bank. We walked upriver and crossed over onto one of the Ness Islands. It felt like we were in a mini wildness, far from the city of Inverness, which was really all around us. But the multitude of trees hid all from sight. Hanging low on a tree we found a sweet little card, and then a bit further on, another, and then another; intriguing and delightful!

As well as these messages from a mysterious well-wisher, the Ness islands have big beeches (see Tree Climbing Scotland if you'd like to climb one!!), a line of tall firs and by a fine suspension bridge, a very fine Sequoiadendron. All too soon we crossed the final bridge and headed back downstream for coffee and cake at the cosy Eden Court Theatre.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Beeches in the mist

There is always time for a climb and the other day Nic and I managed to nip up this lovely beech on a misty, damp morning. The beech and oak forest floor was thick with deep coppery leaves and I say you're never to old to swish through them! The beech was modest and note to self, not all trees have to be giants or loom up out of the forest; we had lots of fun!

Going up - Nic heading for the top
A fine oak and the view from the beech


Monday, 16 January 2017

Beauty of a beech

With it's toes tickling the banks of the River Tweed,  a beauty of a beech stands in a clump of sycamore, poplar and beech, quietly growing so tall and fine that it has taken me nearly four decades to notice it. As a kid I had sausage sizzles and swam in the river here, and as an adult I've hiked the river trails and watched kingfishers zip past and goosanders do their thing. Back in the autumn I was drawn into the wood by a great gnarled beech. It was then I noticed it's neighbour, so straight and towering above me. Determined to see exactly how big it is I made plans to come back and climb it...

Back in November with leaves on....and below, a few months later in January. So tall and straight, the first limb is not until nearly halfway up and took a few throws to get the throwline in!

Superb view from the top! Dropped the tape measure line down a clear run to the ground and then, where it was too skinny for me to climb to, I used a cunning extension kit (aka an old Quasar tent pole) to reach up to the king twig. Adding these two figures together gave a very respectable height of 32.32m!


At 26m: tea anyone?!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Roots of Arran Community Woodland

A dark, louring sky heavy with cloud hid the great mountains at the heart of the island. Rain flecked the outside of my waterproofs but inside I was both cosy, and excited to be exploring a very special place. South of Brodick on the bonny island of Arran is a woodland new in the growing. Formed in 2002, the Roots of Arran Community Woodland is converting an area of clear felled commercial forestry back to wild, native woodland. The area, known as the Fairy Glen or Lag a Bheith, now contains oodles of fine young  beech, hazel, willow, oak, alder, blackthorn and even some fruit trees in a specially enclosed orchard area.  There is also a great grove of good-sized beech where you can also find funky art pieces and signs of the woodland-friendly community. A few old oaks are covered in thick moss and lots of that distinctive fern. The fern is a native called the Resurrection fern and is an epiphyte that lives on the branches and trunks of trees, especially live oaks. The rain made the colours even richer and the droplets on the tips of the Scot's pine needles glistened like beads of silver. And then I found the fruits, bright as Christmas decorations, treasure indeed! Check out recent news and go visit the magical Roots of Arran Community Woodland!