Weathering The Storm

04 October 2018

Storm Ali lived up to its name and caused some fairly extensive disruption during the 24 hours in mid-September. With many trees still in leaf and with dry ground around their roots, we lost a few large centuries old trees. Over the past decade or so, we have been losing them at an increased rate due to the frequency and severity of storms, which occur when these landscape trees are in full leaf.
Although we re-plant hundreds, if not thousands of new trees every year, the landscape is being altered with tree losses. Added to the natural life-cycle of trees, we have also seen increased evidence of “Ash Dieback” recently.
First confirmed in Britain in 2012, the disease also known as ‘Chalara’, is a disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. Chalara causes leaf loss, crown die back and bark lesions in affected trees. Once a tree is infected the disease is usually fatal, either directly, or indirectly by weakening the tree to the point where it succumbs more readily to attacks by other pests or pathogens, especially Armillaria fungi, or honey fungus. However, some ash trees appear to be able to tolerate or resist infection, and scientists are studying the genetic factors which make this possible so that tolerant ash trees can be bred for the future.
The high winds also secured more work for the regular roof maintenance team, who had no sooner finished their summer overhaul and inspection of property roofs, than they were called back to start over again with many slipped slates, damaged ridges and potential for water to get into buildings during the coming months.
The Kinneuchar Inn is being stabilised at present, with much of the structure being repaired to ensure that the Inn retains its original characteristic “lean” whilst preventing further leaning! As soon as the building has been secured, work will begin on the roofs, to re-tile them (using the old original pantiles) and demolition of the flat roofed kitchen extension to make way for the new kitchens, loos and food preparation area.
In the second year now of our Mob grazing trial, we have really begun to see how the method improves soil health. By moving cows daily, in a small area of grass, they mimic natural grazing patterns which graze intensely for short periods and move on. About 50% of grass is eaten and 50% trampled into the soil – feeding soil fungi and bacteria which are essential to healthy soils.
We can now see the improved mat of organic matter on the surface which will help to keep cattle feet up in wetter months and prevent soil damage. The trials will continue for another few years, but we will begin to adopt the technique where possible.

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