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Woodyard Wonderings - the big build part 1

Well the title maybe sounds far more grand than it is, but after we designed and hand built from scratch, what we thought was a sizeable woodshed for all our winter fuel needs, we found out a year later that it just about holds enough seasoned wood for one winter only. Definitely no room for next year's wood to be seasoned, or even the year after that. So with a glampsite on the way, and 3 more hungry stove "mouths" to feed, it seemed prudent to think about getting all the various stock piles of dead wood we have stashed around the Coppice under cover to dry out and season. The problem was... Where?

Well in the spring of 2018, our first spring at School House, we trekked to the bottom of the garden, and tried to have a peak behind the 8ft sandstone garden wall. Still part of our property, but a part that hadn't been seen in a number of years, as it had historically been used as a tree cuttings dumping ground.

Caroline with chainsaw
Caroline attacking the dead wood

So armed with chainsaws, loppers, brush cutters and a hearty dose of "can-do" attitude, we and my cousin's family (kids as well, although we kept them well away from sharp implements) set forth on challenging this huge pile of dead wood, nettles and brambles. And the first "Gwespyr Tree Fest" was born. We cut our way through David Bellamy style, finding very little life, but revealing a very pretty stream, and just as much of a surprise, a patch of bare land almost as big as our last house's main garden!! But aside from keeping our composting bays down there, it's taken until this year to finally work out what to do with it.

So as the winter of 2020 marched on towards 2021, and with a completely full woodshed (for the first time) dwindling down rapidly, it finally dawned on us that the lost scrap of land was a perfect place for our woodyard. A combination store, undercover logging/splitting area, and carpentry (maybe a bit strong a term for my level of woodwork) workshop. It was a big ask, but we never back down from a challenge. So with no real skills, no fixed plans, we just dug right in..... literally. Oh and neither of us had been furloughed (still not sure if that's good or bad) so this has been an evenings and weekend build. on for a sneaky short break discount code.


First job was to level the ground, as being near the bank of our stream, it all slopes that way. Didn't bother me, but it's something Caroline said we had to do, and as I have a spine injury and she'd be doing the majority of the actual digging, I didn't argue! This job surprised us actually. We are so used to saying "oh we'll do that in x hours", and then the job in question taking 3 days. So when we started, we didn't even bother to consider an end time. But in a first for jobs at School House, it did not comply to our families adopted motto, "Nihil est semper facilis"... or "Nothing's ever easy" for those of us who don't actually speak latin and were searching for the google translate tool.

levelled area
A good start... flat ground

Digging in on the uphill side, and offloading on the downhill, made quick work of balancing out the ground, and whilst I wouldn't suggest bothering with a spirit level, we now had a roughly even floor space of 7m x 3m. As well as some aching backs and shoulders (talk about #farmfit).

But that was only the start, if you want to lose weight and tone up your upper body, don't waste your money on gym's, I can heartily recommend the patented "Emlyn's Coppice Farm Fit" programme... I'll send out sign up sheets :)

Now for materials! The one thing we have an abundance of is wood, Dead wood, live wood, young, old, we have literal tonnes of it, mostly Alder. Our coppice is actually classified as 'Ancient semi natural woodland' having had persistent tree cover since at least 1600 ad. I believe it has been worked as a coppice for much of its life due to its growth patterns.

Coppicing is the act of cutting down certain types of tree's, (Alder being one), that when cut at a certain height above the ground, will regrow from the stump, producing suckers that if managed can become healthy new tree's. Coppiced wood is often used for things like building timber, fuel & charcoal.

The problem with the woods however, is that it has been mismanaged in recent decades, and left to go un-naturally wild. As a result, it was getting unhealthy, overgrowth of the formerly coppiced trees, has left dead and dying trees littering the woodland, and the excess ivy was in the process of strangling a lot more. I'm normally one for leaving nature to nature, but in this case we felt it needed a helping hand. There was no understory left except for brambles, So once again, chainsaw in hand, we went for a walk in the woods to cut up and drag out the trees brought down by the winter storms. But we've left plenty on the ground to rot down and provide habitat for our wildlife neighbours. We've actually been doing this for a couple of years now little bit by little bit and the change in the woodland floor is amazing. It's now full of Marsh Marigold, Flag Iris and Bluebells as well as Campion and wild primrose coming up around the edges. There are still bramble patches, but everything's good in moderation (especially chocolate!!).

So with a bit of grunting, swearing and sweating, we've so far pulled out 8 good length logs (amongst a lot of much smaller wood which has either been stored for firewood, piled into habitats or put on the bonfire pile) ready for stripping and treating. Now did I mention I'm new to this? I'm figuring things out as I go, so for the first log I went for my 'go to' tool, the hand axe. Hours later, and with a forearm like popeye, I had a roughly hewn bare log. Not perfect, but serviceable and ready for action. But "Not Perfect" wasn't good enough for me (I'm a virgo, it's a burden), so my neighbour suggested a different route. Lockdown furloughing had him sat watching hours of "Extreme DIY" TV, (Alright for some ;) ) something to do with US woodsmen building log cabins and the like. So he introduced me to the wonders of the draw knife (Thanks Russ!), a great little two handled curved blade to strip back and smooth the log. It worked a treat and as a bonus, gives me a great upper body workout.... But its hell on the old saddle area sitting astride those logs for hours on end.... I'm still bruised now. Just call me John Wayne! So here's another tip.... Steal the foam pad out of your dogs bed - Voila! no more aching buttocks.

It's taken time, sweat, a whole load of swearing, but 6 logs have been stripped, dried, treated and now after some more digging by her ladyship, are now firmly planted in the ground. It seems one of our posts may have had woodworm as woody woodpecker has been having a go, but we'll treat it and monitor it, I think it's still in good enough order.

Loads more to do though, side braces to fit, roof trusses (not looking forward to that one), roofing out, and then on to the experimental.... well more experimental stuff. I'm going full tudor on it (I'm a Shrewsbury lad, so I grew up surrounded by Black and whites) and putting in a wattle and daub wall, so keep an eye out for more posts where I'll either be writing from a bed after trying to lift a roof truss or up to my elbows in Clay and cow dung.... mmm mmmm! All locally sourced of course, no need for your fandangled bricks round 'ere!

And finally as a little easter egg for all those (Hi Dad) who have read this far, then how about making use of my new woodyard when it's finished, by booking yourselves in for an autumn break? As a reward for being a subscriber and persevering while I learn how to write blogs in a more interesting fashion how about 15% off for an autumn break in October? The pods are underfloor heated and of course have the woodburning stove, so I'll throw in a bag of firewood from the woodyard too. Book 2 nights or more throughout October and enter the promo code "Woodyard15".

Feel free to give me tips if anyone has them in the comments, but remember to be kind! we all have to learn sometime, and hopefully my mistakes can help to inform anyone else who is as mad as us.

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