Posted by: lensweb | August 4, 2013

Paget Estate, Charnwood Forest visit-July 2013

July 29  Paget Estate, Charnwood Forest

Meet Home Farm car park (by arrangement only), Woodhouse Lane. (Turn off opposite reservoir.) 

Short walk (some stiles) along ridge with lovely views. An interesting estate with working horses, charcoal making and dry stone walling.

Grid ref  SK 504167

Leader  Stuart Freeman

Report Marion Bryce

Home Farm on the Paget Estate is owned by the Joanna Herbert Stepney Charitable Settlement also known as the Paget Charitable Trust. It is an Organic Farm open to the public. On a damp dark day we arrived in the farmyard to meet Stuart Freeman of Total Tree Services Ltd who manages 250 Ha of woodland on the farm.

Swallows and martins stooped low over the near field, not bothered by two kestrels hunting voles amongst a herd of long horn cows. A wagtail with slate grey upper parts and distinctive lemon yellow underside, wagged its tail and chicked from the top of a red barn.

IMG_4197The evening brightened as we met Breeze and Storm the cob horses, known as Gipsy vanners, employed to do the heavy tree work. Stuart trained with Monty Roberts the Horse Whisperer and soon had us mesmerised and leading the horses. John Blackburn held the reins as Stuart demonstrated his absolute trust in Breeze ducking under his belly.

Next we crossed the meadow with gatekeeper and comma butterflies twirling. Chiascuro trees were exciting discussion, oak red, pedunculate or sessile? Neck craning blue spruce, leylandii, redwood and larch, with some standing deadwood. This was grand parkland.

IMG_4305The bouncy leaf litter was alive with baby frogs and toads as we reached a close planted area where forestry training sessions are held, including safe use of chainsaws, tree thinning and dry stone walling.  Sycamores have been removed from the wood except for one specimen tree which gained fame in the 2010 film ‘Pelican Blood’ which is a love story set in the world of obsessive birdwatchers.

20130729_201143Charcoal making was next. Stuart owns two large burners which use wood trimmings to produce high quality local charcoal. The labour intensive 24 hour process involves skill in packing logs in a wheel on top of kindling, a huge lid provides a reducing atmosphere, some oxygen is introduced successionally by alternately opening and stopping up basal air vents with soil.

IMG_4326Continuing we looked up at the ridge but the light was fading as moved to an area of mature woodland. Lastly we peered through ivy to discover a ruined building which housed a waterwheel which used to send water to the farmhouse. Some of us squeezed through the tiny door to find the wheel in working order but no pump. Restoration will be another project for Stuart and his merry team.

There are 3 permissive paths through the estate. The walk along the ridge at Buckhill Barns has the best view of the Soar Valley. As Joanna says: This is England, and everybody should be able to enjoy England.’

Marion Bryce

Photos © Marion Bryce

Link to additional photos of visit © David Pinney


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