The main job this last week was the repair of a heck. A heck* is like a swinging vertical gate across a river or stream that is designed to open when the stream is in full spate but otherwise is closed and acts as a stock barrier. We needed to replace the top beam of a heck and this meant shifting the wood across the river. The wood we used was larch that I had felled in Trust woodland. The bark was then stripped off as this means it will last longer. We moved it over the river using a tensioned high-line (guiding line) and pulley system. There were five hefty sections of wood the largest being 5.3 metres in length but, once we had the tension and angles right, it made the job a lot easier.
Just to give you a sense of the weather conditions – we found that the water was freezing on the ropes which meant that knot-tying was a bit tricky at times. I placed my watch on the Landrover roof at lunch-time and it read - 4C! But, my regular volunteers don’t give up easily and they did another splendid job.
Later in the week, I spent some time out with Joe (Ranger colleague) and we cleared some fallen trees with chainsaws. This is part of our routine maintenance. We respond immediately to any reports of potentially dangerous tree damage or blocked footpaths. The cut timber is stacked to one side to act as eco-heaps. These are habitats for insects, small mammals, fungi and also to encourage birds. It all contributes to increasing and improving the bio-mass of the woods.
As we seem to have had the snow across most of the country, I hope many of you have been finding interesting animal tracks. Even in urban gardens, a fresh fall of snow is ideal for revealing what visitors you might have in the quiet of the night. And, no matter where you live, it is always a good idea to put out bird food and some water each day. If you are still and quiet, hungry birds will approach quite closely to feed and you will be helping them to survive.
|Red Squirrel tracks|
* Heck is a term used in a number of place names. It has several possible uses relating to grids or racks. It emerged from the language of the region south of the Forth/Clyde line to the northern modern English counties between the 7th and 12th centuries.