How to document a wood?
We keep records of every visit and note down any work carried out and any significant observations. These written notes are really useful for putting together a biannual newsletter about Holt Wood. This ‘wood diary’ also provides a great opportunity to compare activity year-on-year. A year ago, on 3rd May 2012, I wrote:
-weeded around the Echinacea plants, put organic slug pellets and plastic guards, much slug damage
-harvested 2 Salix daphnoides and 2 Viburnum opulus
-lots of bluebells, apples flowering
-cleared more blanket weed from small pond
Having last year’s notes enables us to compare the effects of the cold spring this year. Now, in early May 2013, we are seeing bluebells just beginning to show, but other growth is still slow. Although we don’t keep timesheets, the ‘wood diary’ gives us a rough idea of the number of hours of labour needed.
The photo trail
My favourite way of recording things in the wood is a monthly photo trail. I have marked up about 15 locations with bamboo poles and string, so that I can walk round and snap the same set of trees and shrubs from the same locations. At each marker I try to get an overall portrait for size and appearance, and a close-up of a feature such as a bud, or leaves. This provides a real opportunity to see month-by- month development, and there is often much more to see when you get close up. The bamboo markers remind me to take snaps of the following trees and shrubs:
Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium), Virginian Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana), Prickly Ash Bark (Zanthoxylum americanum), Common Oak (Quercus robur), Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha), Lime (Tilia x europea), Elder (Sambucus nigra), Yew (Taxus baccata), Purging Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), Alder Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula), Cramp bark (Viburnum opulus), Violet Willow (Salix daphnoides), White willow (Salix alba), Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
|Photo trail and Yew (Taxus baccata) 4th May 2013|
|Close up of Yew (Taxus baccata) 4th May 2013|
Harvest and other records
We keep a set of records which includes an ongoing list of plant material harvested including date, location, species, amount and processing. This information is coded so it can be placed on a label with the plant material and we can track backwards if we want to know where materials came from. And we also log all visitors and volunteers coming to Holt Wood, this is part of our link with the Permaculture Association as a LAND project. Finally, we have records of expenditure which include costs of materials, equipment and repairs, insurance, training and other essentials. We have not tried to keep detailed weather records apart from monitoring a rain water gauge
An ongoing audit
All of the above records (written notes, photos, harvest and other records) provide us with material for an ongoing audit of the project at Holt Wood, which is a kind of evaluation of how things are going. It does take a little time and commitment but the build up of detail is very worthwhile. Above all, having an accurate description of what we do and achieve is essential to be able to compare with our Holt Wood Management Plan which we update from time to time. As we gain experience, some of these findings may be useful to others!