New Roof, First-Aid Training & Ash Dieback

Preparations for winter are coming along nicely on the South Ormsby Estate. The fibre-cement roof on the new barn at Keal Yard has been expertly fitted by Paul Graves and his team, while at ground-level the barn wall is going up alongside new wooden cladding chosen to match existing barns. This should ensure a safe haven for the Lincoln Red beef herd when the cold weather starts to bite.

 

A new section of fencing was completed at Harden’s Gap Yard and some of the old rails were salvaged for use in repairs around the estate. Inside the Hall, the decorators were sanding and patching prior to the next phase of painting. We were proud to hear that as a result of their fund-raising efforts at The Old School on 27th September, Nicky, Jacqui and Annie raised £324.23 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Gin Distillery Manager Tristan Jørgensen is working hard to create South Ormsby Estate’s own elegant brand of gin, inspired by our 18th-century forebears – Charles Burrell Massingberd and his French wife, Marie-Jeanne. He recently attended an ‘Aged Gin Masterclass’ in Shoreditch to research the state of the distilling art. He’s also taken delivery of some exciting new equipment at Foreman’s Cottage.

 

In the meantime, the estate’s followers on social media have been invited to suggest a new name for Tristan’s 10L copper test-still. Among many excellent suggestions was the inevitable ‘Stilly McStillface’. Next week, the suggestions will be narrowed down to two and a poll taken to choose the perfect name.

 

At the Hall, Julie O’Donnell of Best First Aid, Louth, ran first-aid training for 17 South Ormsby Estate staff. Julie – who also runs manual lifting and fire training – is helping us to make the estate a safe and supportive place to work. Eleven members of staff underwent the full course, while six received refresher training – including Housekeeper Jacqui Rhodes, who mastered the abdominal thrust on her 27th attempt. Apparently, she’d been lifting when she should have been squeezing.

In the woods, Estate Manager Paul Barnes and his team faced a sad necessity. We’ve been obliged to fell and remove young ash trees infected by the fungus known as Chalara or Ash Dieback.

 

Chalara fungi over-winter in leaf litter, then in summer release spores that can be carried by the wind up to 10 miles. After coming into contact with ash leaves, they ultimately penetrate the xylem, block the tree’s water supply and slowly starve it to death. The fungus causes minimal damage in its native Asia, but the European Ash (Fraxinus Excelsior) hasn’t co-evolved with it and has no defence.

 

Since the alarm was sounded in the South-East in 2012, Chalara’s wind-borne fungal spores have been slowly spreading across the UK. The Woodland Trust estimates that over time, 95% of UK ash trees will die at a cost to the rural economy of £15 billion.

On the South Ormsby Estate, the 1997 ash planting has been principally affected. It is estimated that 5% of our 80ha of woodland is infected in up to seven distinct compartments around the estate. Stricken ashes decline slowly and younger trees are more vulnerable. The effects are very visible: wilting, discolouration and the appearance of death. The fungus has been present in the region since 2013, but our ashes have deteriorated markedly over the last year.

 

To mitigate the loss of the trees, some of the felled timber will be used in our biomass boiler, and some will be turned into new gates or sold to Ketsby Sawmill. We also have an ongoing, mixed-species re-planting scheme supported by the Forestry Commission, running alongside some planned timber extraction. The scale of the Ash Dieback problem will inform our long-term plan to keep our woodlands healthy for generations to come.