Time is flying again, my efforts to keep up to date are just not good enough so this year I have a resolution to do better! At least we have details of our Holt Wood Programme in 2014 arranged. Our first visit to Holt Wood in 2014 coincided with brilliant blue skies between fierce squalls of wind and rain. The River Torridge nearby was within inches of the top of the bank and, by now, is probably washing over the neighbouring meadow. It has been even higher as we can see by the debris which has collected on the deer fence. There is plenty of standing water around so clearing away blockages in water channels and courses becomes important as not many of the trees (perhaps the exception is Alder) like to stand too long in water. A ditch runs all the way downhill along one border of Holt Wood and this needs regular checking to make sure it is feeding down to a stream and into the river.

Standing water at field level in Holt Wood, 2nd January 2014

Saving water!

Of course we do not want to lose all of the water arriving at Holt Wood and it is wonderful to see our newly dug pond filling up steadily. It has been puddled with clay found on site and, once this has firmed up, it should hold water. It is called ‘Anne’s last pond’ because for years I have been digging small ‘ponds’ or holes in various places in the Wood to try to work out the best location. We finally realised that the best place is near the shed where we can appreciate the ensuing wildlife, ensure that some water is piped in and out, use as an emergency water source, and readily rake out leaves and blanket weed.

Anne’s last pond, 2nd January 2014

What is sprouting

It does not feel like winter has truly arrived here, and many plants are still green if not growing – there are leaf buds already sprouting on the elder (Sambucus nigra) trees. It is interesting to see the seed pods that have formed on the Virginian Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), after flowering these stay on for a full year and then they dehisce or burst open to eject the seeds.

Seed pod of Virginian Witch Hazel at Holt Wood

Herbal Harvest Weekend Course

This course is planned for Saturday 7–Sunday 8 June 2014. Ideal if you want to immerse yourself in a herbal haven in beautiful Devon. You will spend several days learning about growing herbs sustainably, harvesting herbs and preparing herbal products for health and beauty uses. The weekend is based at Holt Wood near Great Torrington in Devon, our project on cultivating and harvesting medicinal trees and shrubs sustainably. Your guide will be Anne Stobart, MNIMH, PhD, an experienced medical herbalist, herbal lecturer, herb grower and researcher.

The cost of this weekend is £120.00. This covers daytime refreshments at Holt Wood, all talks and demonstrations, course materials and handouts. Places are limited and must be booked in advance. For further details, download the course description or email herbaid@herbaid.co.uk.