A beautiful cold day, ideal for working in the wood. I wanted to fell a tree for both firewood for next winter, and milling for useful timber. It needed to be done soon, before the rising of the sap put more moisture into the wood, and I had decided to cut a stem with a slight lean which I hoped would guarantee the direction in which it would fall. However, I was due for a surprise.
It was difficult to see exactly what direction gravity would pull the stem, but I made the directional cut to point in a convenient direction which I expected gravity to agree with. However, as I made the felling cut, shortly before I expected the tree to topple on its hinge, there was a loud crack and the tree fell about 45 degrees leftwards, leaving about 6 feet of standing wood where the trunk had split.
Ah well, a bit less timber to mill, but a bit more firewood for next winter ..
In the bank behind the felled tree, primroses were flowering, and while I was preparing to fell the tree, I heard a woodpecker drumming for the first time this year. Later, as we sat eating our lunch, my eye was caught by a tiny movement near the ivy on a tree. I went over to see what it was, and there, basking in the sunshine falling on an ivy leaf, was a Red Admiral butterfly – and this on February 23rd!
From Hilbre Island, the winter sun reflects from the water or sand – depending on the state of the tide – of the Dee estuary, dazzling the eye and casting the line of Welsh hills along the far side into shadow.
One of the foothills rising from the shore of the estuary on the other side is topped by several fields surrounded by woodland. In the valley to the south of the hill, a small river runs down to the sea, past the ruins of a great house called the Downing, built in 1626, in which the writer and traveller, Thomas Pennant, was born and lived. The side of the hill which faced the mansion, cloaked in its ancient woodland, is creased by a couple of small valleys, one of which contains Coed Mostyn, ours since April 2013.
This is a part of the 1899 OS map, with our wood outlined in red. It remains surprisingly accurate, with only one additional track. Access is through a gate at the southwestern end of the track running the length of the wood, and at this point the track is at the bottom of a steep-sided valley. About half way up, the track levels out and enters a level glade on its left near the top.
Two problems were immediately evident. The first was the quantity of laurel covering the slopes at the western end – probably planted in Victorian times to line the paths leading up the slope to the northeastern corner where there is a fine view over the estuary. It is now completely covering the ground, and the mature broadleaf trees which emerge through and above it have no chance of reproducing themselves in its dense shade. On taking over the wood, the first task was to clear several laurel trees which had been brought down by the weight of snow in March, and were sprawling over the paths. The laurel will have to go!
The second problem appeared when we got the keys and drove through the gate in the Landrover. A few yards up the steep track, and we came to a halt with the wheels turning ineffectually. The ruts in the track is the drainage path for the wooded valley, and they were filled with a soft damp mud which gave very little traction. The track will need a lot of work to make it driveable, and this is important because we need to get up to the level glade at the top of the valley.