It has been strangely quiet at the woods. The school is closed, our teachers are working from home supporting students with welfare calls and video link lessons, online support packages and workbooks.
Spring and Wild Garlic butter
It is hard for everyone, as believe it or not, we all enjoy our jobs and are missing the woods, colleague and the students. But the lockdown is in full swing and my visits are brief to collect the post and check that the property is secure.
As the spring bursts into full bloom the woodland is coming back to life after a very long wet winter. The bright green Larch trees look healthy, always a relief as only a few years ago we thought we were going to lose the whole woodland to phytothera ramorum (a tree disease).
A beautiful spring
The wild cherry trees have produced beautiful blossom this year and the wild garlic in the wettest part of the woodland is just starting to flower.
As I stand in the car park the birds seem to be singly louder than before, I can hear the cuckoo in the distance, a pheasant making itself known, and a wren singing a warning of my presence.
When we purchased Butterdon Wood the Larch plantation was so thick that we had to crawl in on our hands and knees. The trees had been planted but not cared for so our first job was to brash them, clearing off the dead lower branches so we could at least stand up.
7 years on with thinning and clear felling of two compartments it is really great to see natural regeneration of pioneer trees such as the silver birch and rowan, interspersed with several hundred indigenous trees that we have planted as part of our woodland regeneration plan.
7 years ago wood sorrel was the only thing growing in Butterdon Wood, other than the Larch and Douglas fir. Over the years it has slowly and naturally been replaced with wild raspberries, fox gloves, broom, gorse, bramble, bluebells, stitchwort, cow wheat to name but a few. The wood sorrel is still there in dark pockets of acidic soil where the light is limited by the canopy of leaves and needles.
The bluebells are always a few weeks behind other parts of the country due to our location. The edge of Dartmoor can be a cold place! But the wild garlic is in full flower and scent – and tastes great!
It is very sad that our students will miss this beautiful spring, but whilst we all stay at home safe, the woodland and its wild occupants continue to thrive. After all the woodland will be there next spring for the students to enjoy.
Wild Garlic butter
If you want a bright green and delicious garlic butter place a few handfuls of freshly washed wild garlic leaves into a food processor along with 250g of butter (room temperature).
Blend it all together then scrape it out onto greaseproof paper, shape and roll your butter wrapping it in the paper as you go.
Chill in the fridge until firm.
Slice into portions.
It will keep for 1 week in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer – defrost before use.