Sunday 26 October 2014

ASBOs for orchard owners.

The UK Government is introducing new rules aimed at preventing the spread of invasive alien plants. Landowners are exposed to 2500 GBP fines and a criminal conviction if they don't control these plants on their land. The focus is on Japanese Knotweed and also Giant Hogweed. However they've also included Himalayan Balsam in the scope of the legislation. 

We have found some Himalayan Balsam on our orchard plot and during the year have taken action to carefully remove the plants when we find them. The problem is largely under control. The seeds seem to be carried to the field along the route of the Ecclesbourne river. There are large infestations both upstream and downstream of our stretch of the river which act as a source so it is going to be a continual process of eradication. I do wonder how the adjoining land owners/tenants will deal with their infestations. As we're on the edge of a residential area there is a risk of ASBOs (Antisocial Behaviour Orders) and a criminal record.

Other links are here.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Electric fence progress

I spent a few hours in the orchard today to complete the main part of the installation of the electric fence. There's now five stands of fence wire installed and correctly tensioned mounted on suitable insulators. In total there is over half a kilometre of  wiring, 60 insulators  and 25 wire knot joints. Feeding the high tensile wire was really hard work because I didn't have the correct "bobbin" to roll out the wire. Instead I had to work from the coil of wire. The coil was constantly threatening to explode into a birds nest of wire tangle. I had to feed each inch of wire carefully whilst keeping a tight grasp on the main wire coil.

The Gripple line tensioning tool (Torq) worked superbly and made the job of tensioning the wire really straight forward. Tomorrow I'll be ordering the lead/acid  batteries to power the fence.
Five strand Electric fence at Turnditch Orchard
Electric fence at Turnditch Orchard

Edit 25/10/2014

The electric fence is connected and live as of 5 pm today. The connection process was straightforward as a consequence of the careful planning work and preparatory effort. The "hot" wire strands are interconnected at various points along the length to ensure maximum connectivity and to minimise any power leakage, The measured voltage on all strands is 7000 volts. The bottom strand will not normally be connected to the power, but will be configured as a ground wire.

Edit 15/01/2015
We were beginning to wonder if we'd wasted money and effort on the electric fence. However when we drove past the site today and noticed the sheep were back in the adjoining farmer's field. The fence seems to be keeping the sheep out of our orchard. Yippee!

Friday 17 October 2014

Busy in the Orchard today

I spent most of the day in the orchard driving fence posts into the ground. I had to dig holes a metre deep for the larger posts and used a 20 kilogram post driver for the other wooden posts.  I covered 120 metres run of fencing. This will be used for the electric fence. By the end of the day the post driver was feeling very heavy. The next step is to cut back the under growth with a brush cutter before I install the insulators on the posts. I'm creating a six strand fence.

Update Sunday 20th
Yesterday I had a couple of hour's hard work to cut a swathe through the weeds and blackthorn saplings. These had sprung up on the neighbours field side of the hedge following last winter's hedging work. There's now a 120 by 2 metre strip free of weeds along the route of the electric fence. 

Today I installed the insulators on the fence posts and both the top and bottom strands of the fence. The bottom strand is high tensile galvanised steel wire it will not be electrified, but will be grounded to earth, The top strand is white polypropylene electric fence rope of approximately 7 mm diameter. It will be electrified to 8000 volts. I've chosen this to make the fence obvious to anyone passing close by to the fence. Once the Gripple fence tool arrives I'll install the other strands of the fence using 2 mm alloy wire. This wire is specially designed for the job with a very low electrical resistance to reduce voltage drop along the length of the fence. However the thin grey wire is difficult to see in poor light conditions,  hence the obvious white top strand.

I've spent a while this evening practising the knots used for fencing wire attachment of the insulators mounted on the end posts. Along the length of the fence the gap between the wooden posts is about 12 metres. I'll be placing lightweight plastic step-in posts between the wooden posts to act as wire spreaders. These will discourage sheep etc from pushing through the fence strands.

Fence is broken

As I drove past the orchard site yesterday I noticed the top wire of the new fence at the roadside was slack. I stopped to inspect it. At the lower end someone or something had pulled back a couple of metres of wire. When I followed the length of the fence, about 100 metres, I found a break in the wire. It looks like a stress break so I'm not sure what caused it. The fence after all is only one year old. Such are the trials of land ownership.

I effected a quick temporary repair and pulled the wire back into place by hand. It will need some proper tensioning and a permanent repair. The fence has a 15 year guarantee, but it seems a bit mean to call the fencer out just for a single wire break. 

As it happens I had been driving back from Lester Lowes with a pair of 8 foot  by 6 inch fence posts. I'd purchased them to form the end posts for the electric fence which I'm planning on the other side of the field. I needed to have a method of tensioning and fixing the high tensile conductor wires for the fence at each end. Last night I've decided to invest in a Gripple Torq wrench and some Gripple fixings. I can use the tool for the fence repair, the electric fence installation and also for future fence repairs. I'll no doubt do some damage to fences when I start coppicing trees on the embankment. and river bank.

Edit 21st Oct 2014

The Gripple tool arrived today. After checking a training video on YouTube I went to the orchard to fix the fence using Gripple fixings. I repaired and retensioned the fence in less than five minutes. It gave a neat strong repair.

Saturday 4 October 2014

Road closure in Turnditch

We've just discovered  in a newspaper report (Derby Telegraph) that the A517 Ashbourne Road which provides access to our orchard will be closed  during the day (9:30am - 3:30pm) by Derbyshire Country Council between 20th Oct until 10th November. The gate of our orchard is within the closed section of the road. The closed section is from the Railway Inn (B5023) to Windley Lane. For vehicles over  7.5 tonnes the diversion adds 8 miles to the journey from Cowers Lane to Ashbourne.

We'd planned a lot of works in the orchard during that period. Let's hope we can make some access arrangements otherwise it will delay our planned work, possibly by another year!

Edit: 9th Oct 2013 The inhabitants of Turnditch have made contact with the council and suggested their needs are taken in to account with the planned closures. It is believed the original plan may be modified somewhat. Local businesses losing custom for three weeks was somewhat unwelcome.

Friday 3 October 2014

Electric fence at the orchard

We're planning to install an electric fence at the orchard during the next two weeks. It will be positioned outside of the recently laid hedge on the field side of the orchard. The wire fence at the road side will not be electrified. The fence will be of a semi-permanent construction running for approximately 100 metres, with wooden posts spaced at 10-15 metres. There will be  temporary green plastic push-in posts supporting the wire between the wooden posts. Once the hedge has grown strong enough to repel browsing farm animals the fence will be removed.

The fence will be built using five strands of galvanised braided wire (1.6 mm) and a top strand of white poly-electric fence rope. The fence design is is aimed to prevent sheep from damaging the hedge or the fruit trees in the orchard. They did a lot of damage last winter.

The fence will have a powerful charge capable of penetrating the insulating wool of the sheep, probably in the region of 8000V. It is about twice the power needed for a electric fence configured for horses/cows. While the charge on the fence is not dangerous it would be very unpleasant for you if you touch the fence and get a shock. It would be similarly unpleasant for a dog.

We'll be labelling the fence according to the regulations. It will be possible to access it from the public footpath if you wander off the path and trespass into the farmer's field. However it will not affect access to the public path.

The legislation sets out specific safety regulations which must be adhered to.  These are as follows:
  • Every electric fence must carry a suitable warning sign:
    • The sign should have the size of at least 100mm x 200mm.
    • It is recommended that the basic colour of the sign be yellow with black inscription and should use the words "ELECTRIC FENCE".
    • The inscription shall be permanent, inscribed on both sides and have a height of at least 25mm.
  • An electric fence when installed in such a position that members of the public might reasonably be expected to touch it, such as along a public road or highway or as a boundary fence, should be identified by a number of warning signs (as explained above) which must be clamped to the fence wires at intervals recommended to be of approximately 10m to 50m, but not exceeding 90m.
  • A clear warning notice should also be fitted at every point where persons may have ready access to the electric wires, rope or tape. The notice should bear the words 'LIVE WIRES' in block letters not less than 13mm high, the letters should be red on a white background and the size of each notice should be not less than 62mm x 50mm overall.