Ever Wondered Why the Gardens Close in Winter?
Have you ever wondered why the Gardens close in winter, and what we get up to during the winter months? We thought we would tell you a bit about the work that is carried out in preparation for a wonderful season of beauty and colour in the spring.
Above all, the Gardens close for safety reasons. This year, we experienced a very wet early Autumn. Because the soil type is shillet: a free-draining sandy loam, it can become very slippery and rather treacherous after periods of heavy rain. Indeed late September and October saw a succession of low-pressure systems that brought significant rainfall to England and Wales.
Autumn is also the season for ferocious Atlantic storms, and this year we endured a particularly nasty one at the beginning of November with winds gusting to 80 miles per hour in exposed locations, bringing down trees by the score. Sadly, the Gardens took quite a hit with many trees affected, leaving us with weeks of clean-up work ahead. And of course, when one tree falls it damages others on the way down. A falling tree brings down neighboring branches and leaves others hanging precariously overhead.
An abundance of Wood
In the end, clearing up fallen trees and branches is a productive affair. We thin-out the glades by removing smaller shrubs to allow seedlings to grow. At the moment, thinning work involves removing the casualties of Ash-Dieback. When a tree is affected, the wood becomes brittle and prone to splitting and falling. With no resistance to the disease, it’s best to remove our Ash trees and avoid the inevitable damage should they fall over.
In November an old, old Monteray Pine came down. Monterey Pine tends to have quite a shallow root system which, together with a wide, heavy canopy makes them rather vulnerable. It’s so sad to see such a majestic tree lying helpless and silent on the ground. So much lofty life extinguished in a moment. However, nothing will be wasted. Branches have been removed and the trunk cross cut into logs. The logs will be milled and sold for furniture manufacture or used locally on the Estate. For example, our sister company the South East Cornwall Rural Business Centre used a great deal of our timber from a Redwood that fell in 2018, during the conversion of its barns. The Centre is now the proud owner of the most beautiful window-sills and reception desk.
Brush – that is to say small branches and twigs are chipped and used for biomass or groundcover, and smaller logs are sold to householders.
As well as Devastation, there’s Re-Creation too!
As well as the devastation of the storms and clean-up of the aftermath, there’s plenty of routine maintenance too. For example, autumn leaves are cleared away. Removing leaf-fall ensures that the paths don’t become too boggy and remain aerated. Keeping the paths in good condition allows the grass to continue to grow as autumn progresses.
In October, we also cut and spin the grass in the rides. Spinning pulls out the thatch and disperses wildflower seeds. Then in April, there’s an explosion of colour as the bluebells emerge. From around May or June, a carpet of meadow flowers spring forth, providing shelter and food for bees, butterflies and bugs of every kind.
We bale the cut grass and use it to feed livestock during the winter months.
Managed not Manipulated
So. these are some of the reasons why the Gardens close during the winter months. Our ethos is to manage our woodland gardens in such a way that we nurture not only a beautiful landscape but also a healthy, sustainable one that enables our natural flora and fauna to thrive. We let Mother Nature take the lead. Perhaps that’s why the Gardens offer such a tranquil, restful place to while away an hour or two. We’ll be open again in the spring. Meanwhile, the good work will continue apace.