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Woody Elements

Woody Elements

In his second instalment from Woodchip for Fertile Soils (WOOFS), Jack reports back on trial design and management plans. 

Since the first blog, the project has been moving along at a healthy pace. The three trial farms have been surveyed – in varying wintery weather conditions. Let’s just say examining the physical attributes of hedges in the biting East Anglian wind isn’t the most pleasurable experience!

So, here it is, what we’ve all been waiting for – the chance to hear all about those ‘woody elements’. The ‘woody elements’, i.e., hedges and woodland, were a variable bunch across the farms. As that old saying goes, ‘hedges come in all shapes and sizes’ and boy did they. We primarily focused on gathering hedge measurements, such as, length, height, width and gap percentage that would be analysed later. Appreciation must be given to the farms hosting our expeditionary endeavours and supplying us with tea and biscuits when energy levels ran low. Thank you, Iain, Martin and Robert at Tolhurst Organics, Wakelyns Agroforestry and Down Farm respectively.

After surveying the farms, the ‘fun’ of analysing the data and writing coherent management plans was upon us. Armed and ready with reams of survey sheets, the hedge measurements were entered into a magical mystery tool (AKA excel spreadsheet) that gave us estimated biomass volumes for the hedges in question. Time will tell if the tool’s predictions are right or not. After a good few days locked away in the office, the first drafts of the management plans were ready to go out for review from the trial farms. We are currently waiting for constructive criticisms to filter back our way.

Elsewhere, I understand that Sally Westaway has made good progress in establishing trial plots across the farms on which the woodchip will be spread. As these very words are being written, harvested hedge material across the farms is also being chipped ready for spreading. The excitement was rife amongst ‘some’ in the WOOFS project when the behemoth of all chippers (the Mus-Max WT11Z) turned up at Down Farm, Odiham to obliterate the harvested hedge material. Picture below.

 woodchipping with tractor

The literal wheels of the project are beginning to gather pace and we’re starting to get closer to answering that burning question this project has thrown forth – will this woodchip diet for the soils end up making them healthier? You’ll just have to keep reading these blogs to find out!