Welcome to the Blog of Cutler´s Wood, an Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland in the Kent North Downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

Cutler´s is 42 hectares (ca. 103 acres) of native broadleaf woodland managed primarily as wildlife and flora habitat but also to provide some timber from coppice rotation which is used for traditional fencing and woodfuel. Adjacent to Cutler´s Wood is Cutler´s Farm, made up of the farmyard with barns and 6 hectares (ca. 15 acres) of pasture land, which presently is used for sheep grazing.

Bordering onto the Forestry Commission´s Kings Wood to the south west, privately owned Stanner´s Wood to the north west, The Woodland Trust´s Park Wood to the north and the privately owned Ridge Wood and Felborough Wood to the east, this area makes up over 2000 acres of connected woodland and one of the largest woodlands in the South East of England. This whole area was once part of a royal hunting forest for deer and boar.

Edward Hasted´s map of Cutler´s area published 1798 but showing the area apparently around 1778. Cutler´s Farm seems not to have existed yet.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Easter 2011 at Cutler´s

Easter 2011 at Cutler´s turned out to be almost like high summer; temperatures were up to 26 degrees C for a few days, until an easterly wind brought lower temperatures but it stayed dry and rain was nowhere to be seen. The ground is now so dry that our woodland tracks are like concrete. In all of this I was attempting to plant 200 Nordmann Firs, as future Christmas trees. Luckily, they were rooted in Jiffy bags and not bare rooted. The ground in the paddock, where we were planting was so hard that we had to call Alex in with his tractor and rotovator to break up the top 25cm of earth. We watered the plants in well but I can only now hope that rain appears soon.

The warm weather had also brought the adders out to bask in the sun. One young adder, about 1 year old got ran over in our farmyard by someone and while watering in the Christmas trees another, this time fully adult adder appeared about 1 metre in front of me. After I stood up straight, he seemed to have second thoughts about me and disappeared into the long grass under a fence. We almost stepped on a third snake the next day in the woods.
The bluebells were in full bloom over Easter and the woods were carpeted by a sheet of blue. The area next to the A252, which we cut back earlier this year for logs, was particularly impressive and consequently was a big draw for people passing by car, many of whom stopped to walk through the area and take photographs.

There have been a couple of cases of poachers shooting deer in Cutler´s recently. In both cases the deer was left by the poacher - I can´t quite work out the draw of shooting deer only to leave the carcasses to the foxes. Anyway, any poachers which are caught will be prosecuted and have their weapons confiscated and destroyed.

We also managed a trip over to Wilderness Wood in East Sussex to meet Chris Yarrow who has been converting sweet chestnut coppice to high forest for some time now. The high forest will then be managed in future as continuous cover forestry. This is something that I am keen to follow at Cutler´s, as the market for coppiced sweet chestnut, other than for logs, is basically worth almost nothing. Sweet chestnut grows quite well at Cutler´s and we have discovered that the market for well grown sweet chestnut timber is specialized but can be very profitable, as not that much exists. Apart from local interest, there is a certain amount of interest from continental European markets for British sweet chestnut timber, as in the UK we have not had the same incidences of disease that have occured in warmer climatic zones. Anyway, to come back to Wilderness Wood, it is now run by Chris´s daughter Joanna Yarrow and it is an excellent example of what a multi-functional woodland can be. They get around 30,000 paying visitors per year for all manner of activities; childrens birthdays in the woods, barbeques, Christmas trees, walks and many other things. It took Chris 30 years to build up the business of Wilderness Wood but it is now a model of what can be done with enough initiative.

Apart from the above photos, please click on the "Images of Easter 2011" page in the right hand column to see more pictures.