The winter months have suddenly fallen upon us!
It feels like only moments ago, when the forest was in full bloom and the rivers were flowing with sweet, warm water.
Many of my fellow keepers cherish summer. It’s a time when we can enjoy the long warm days at work and still have time to enjoy the sunlight in the evening. However, I’m happy enough during the colder months. Unlike my colleagues at the forestry commission, I don’t mind waking up in the dark.
In the early hours of the morning, even the animals and birds stay eerily silent. The only sounds you can hear are your own footsteps, crunching through the crisp, cold leaves.
Thankfully, the cold weather has driven out the spate of unsociable activity that the forest was plagued with during the summer months. Unlicensed tree felling has all but ceased now – this is good news for the trees and it also makes our job as park keepers much easier. Instead of constantly hunting down mischievous thieves, we can now focus on protecting and caring for the wildlife that lives within our forest.
This is good news all round – especially for our badger population, which is dealing well with the winter months, but has need for improved shelter. The soft nature of the loam and shallow depths of the roots of our younger trees often means that the average badger finds it difficult digging his sett.
We’re hoping to combat this in the coming months with the help of some friends in the timber packing cases (http://www.timberpackingcases.com/) industry. Their experience in the field of building custom timber units will hopefully aid us in preparing some pre-made setts for the indigenous badger population.
Using their knowledge of wood integration and complex plank arrangement, we are hoping to construct pre-fabricated setts. These will be the average size of a normal sett, but will be reinforced with additional timber, to ensure that there is no chance of a cave-in. Once these have been constructed, we are planning on burying them in populated areas and filling them with the soft loam, that our local badgers are used to.
Work will begin on designing and fabricating the setts in the coming weeks, ready for the winter months.
Lastly, the problems with the small fires, that were cropping up around the forest during July and August, have subsided. This is a great relief to us rangers, who were honestly baffled with their appearance. Often we would feel like we were closing in on the culprits, only to find a smouldering piles of twigs and bones – and the smell of cooked meat.
For a long time we were sure that we were dealing with a group of individuals, perhaps living inside the forest, but now it appears that the fires have ceased.
In their place, rangers are beginning to report strange wooden sculptures hanging from tree branches. Once more, we’re baffled by the appearances of these vaguely creepy items – but as long as the forest is safe, we’re happy.