Fell

2 Dec

I felt pretty lousy yesterday having spent a week in limbo with my wife moving house, moving workshop and setting up in Sheffield. So it was a pleasant and restorative Sunday 1st of December spent in the fresh air of Grenoside woods. Glorious winter sunshine found us amongst the Scott’s pine, self-set birch trees, oak trees, bracken and heather at the invitation of the excellent Sheffield Wildlife Trust, the Working Woodlands Trust and a handful of doughty Sheffielders – we joined together to gather winter fuel and build a cord to store and dry wood for fuel.

A cord is literally a stack of wood 8 feet long by 4 feet deep by 4 feet high. About a ton in weight – an ancient standard used by woodsmen of the past and present to calculate value of wood fuel (cord wood). Nowadays a cord of high value hard wood logs (like ash) will set you back about £150 in the USA it is cheaper at a dollar equivalent. The rise in cost is directly linked to the rising popularity of solid fuel burners. Three years ago you couldn’t give the stuff away.

On the day we used both modern methods (chainsaw, felling lever and timber tongs) and traditional methods (bow saw, bill hook and axe) to put down selected trees for the benefit of the woodland, to generate some winter fuel and stimulate the interest of the community.

I persuaded Fay, an Ecologist by profession, and a keen environmentalist in her spare time to ‘have a go’ with my small felling axe. Here she is putting down a self-set birch tree for cord wood.

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She overcame her initial slight reluctance to swinging the axe at a tree after I told her a story about my mother. My mum (a single parent) used to say “I can do any bloody job as well as any man. I was a wood chopper and a grave digger in a Japanese prisoner of war camp from the age of 12 to 16 in Sumatra. That is how I earned a bit of extra food for my family, so don’t bloody well tell me how to put a shelf up Henk!” That was me told.

I have always admired women with a steel core in their back bone; I guess this comes from being brought up by such a tough, uncompromising parent. So I really enjoyed watching Sarah, of the Sheffield Wildlife Trust make short work of a Scott’s pine with her Stihl 260 chainsaw, and Fay, fell and sned up a birch tree with my axe.

Fell means many things:

From the old French ‘fel’ meant cruel, fierce or vicious: in Latin fello is the root of fellon or villain as in Macbeth’s ‘one fell swoop’. Faelan or fyllan from Mercian or Saxon means to cause to fall. Think of Lizzie Borden who, according to the nursery rhyme, took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks. A nursery rhyme based upon a true story of the Sunday school teacher accused of killing her mother and father at their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1892. Not that I have ever been tempted to copy her actions of course…..

Mr. Osborne has been wielding his metaphorical axe to the detriment of local government, charitable institutions and the general public for the past few years. He and the government he represents is our modern day fellon. It is good to see the real thing put to good use in the hands of people giving up their free time for the sake of their woodland and community.

They say a woman’s work is never done, all fellons should remember who wields the axe and ultimately who tends the hearth.

One Response to “Fell”

  1. Wes Hedge December 2, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    Glad it was a good day. Really missed being part of it. Would have been good to try out my new Stihl 150!

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