We had a couple of tasks outlined for today, removing (or rather uprooting) large swathes of Himalayan Balsam, and clearing out the large pond's silt trap.
Along with 3 others I got involved in digging out the trap at the top of the pond. The trap is a large stone construction with two chambers into which the feeder stream flows. The design is such that any silt in the water gets deposited in the trap before reaching the pond - a very successful design given that the chambers were completely full!
We had a full day's digging to clear the trap - one brave soul volunteered to get in and clear out the smelly sludge once we had dug out most of the solid stuff. It wasn't pretty!
Once finished, we rebuilt a small section of the revetment (retaining wall) at the side of the silt trap, using small logs harvested from the woods themselves.
Other volunteers did a great job in removing the balsam from the slopes surrounding the pond - more days are lined up for further clearing, as there are many other sections in the woods where the balsam has taken hold.
After several weeks of not being able to help out at BEES for one reason or another, I was very happy to be back for a relatively gentle day at the orchard. We set out to smarten up the area for the following week's blossom day, and tasks included weeding and grass cutting, sign making for the event, and repairing a broken bench. I also spent an hour or so assembling a box (designed by Nick) for our shiny new Kelly Kettle!
The weather held out in the main, and it was a nice way to spend the day. The trees were on the cusp of blossoming, and all being well will be perfectly timed for blossom day - provided it doesn't get too breezy before then!
Working with Habitat Heroes, we made a start reclaiming part of the large area of waste ground behind the new school playground here at Peel Park Primary, with a view to eventually creating a wildlife habitat area that children can visit. A large stand of Japanses Knotweed was cleared around some steps uncovered by the group. We're in no doubt that it will be back with a vengence in the summer! We also cleared and uprooted brambles to help reduce overgrowth in summer, effectively making a start on a possible route for a nature walk.
Other members of the group assembled and installed a couple of large raised beds near the entrance to the school grounds, and some native trees/shrubs were also planted.
This was a varied day, at the start of what is a large undertaking to transform the site. It will be very interesting to see how this develops.
Finally, I think that I should mention the lovely lunch that the school laid on for us. It was a rare treat, and very much appreciated by all of us involved!
After two weeks of working at the YMCA designing and building a tool storage area, this week we were back out in the field. Continuing our work from late last year we carried on with the hedge laying on the boundary of the landscape area.
There was quite a sizeable group again this week, and we managed to lay a substantial length of the boundary. A smaller group was tasked with litter picking, and did a great job clearing some substantial items from the site.
It was good to get more practice cutting the pleachers (see my last blog entry for a description of hedge laying), and I feel that I am beginning to get more of a feel for it. Another day at the site is planned for next week, and if this week is anything to go by then we should be in a good position to complete the job.
We worked on a line of hawthorn hedge at the outer limit of the landscape area, continuing on from where a previous visit had started laying the hedge. Traditionally this type of hedge laying is used to create a dense barrier to keep animal stock in its fields. A side benefit of creating such a structure is that it creates an ideal habitat for wildlife, and this was the reason for our work here.
Nick demonstrated the technique required to cut a "pleacher", a sort of hinge cut out (using a billhook) from the bottom of the plant enabling it to be bent over and staked. Before having a go ourselves, we cleared all of the small branches from each plant, up to about 5 feet high, which would allow the plant to be bent over without snagging, and we removed dead leaves and twigs from the ground around each "trunk" so that we could get to the plant where we needed to make the cut. Access was quite awkward, with the hedge being found at the bottom of a slope and fenced in, so I found some of the cutting quite difficult. It was, however, very satisfying and I think I started to get the technique after a couple of hours. I could still spend days (if not weeks) trying to get it spot on though!
A small group used some of the trees on the site to make stakes for the hedge, but I think that most of us had a good go at making the pleachers. We managed to lay a surprising length of hedge, and it will be great to see how the plants will look in a year or so. There's still at least a couple more days before the rest of the hedge is done.
After all of the sawing and cutting of hawthorn in a tight space at the bottom of a slope I got home with slightly bruised knuckles and scratched hands, as if I'd been in a bare knuckle fight. All in a day's work!
We were tasked with coppicing a relatively small but overgrown area of willow at the Rodley Nature Reserve. After a period of clearing bracken and nettles to expose the ground, we worked methodically to fell the short trees and process the timber for future charcoal production. The tree stumps that remained were further cut to elminiate the risk of rainwater collecting and rotting the tree, thus helping to ensure future regrowth in this sustainable crop. The coppicing also encourages growth of plants and wildlife that would otherwise be absent.
It was great to be able to learn the new skills involved in tree felling, and continuing this fairly ancient process of woodland management, albeit on a small scale.
This was my second visit to Baildon Moor with BEES, and what a difference in the weather. Last time I suffered terribly from acute hay fever in the hot, dry and dusty conditions. Today was nearly the polar opposite, which may have deterred a few but was welcomed by me!
Anyway, it was more of the usual work for this site, clearing dead bracken and piling it up, along with cutting down new growth, all with the aim of increasing the biodiversity on the moor.
In the afternoon I tried my hand at using the scythe. After some tutoring from Nick and a couple of hours practice I think that I had started to get the measure of it; it's not as easy as it looks at first glance. It was great to be learning a new skill.
This job is never ending, with the group replacing the traditional means of moorland management (i.e. agricultual practices which are no longer carried out). The volunteers' work over the years is certainly having a positive effect, however, and the difference between the managed and the unmanaged areas is striking.
Today we had to tackle the "alien" species in this nature reserve (Himalayan Balsam and Japenese Knotweed) and maintain the paths through weeding and cutting back of trees and shrubs.
We split into two main groups, and I helped clear the Balsam from the pond, of which there was very little actually. There were a handful of points within the whole site where the Balsam was well established, however, and most of my day was spent uprooting the stuff. Its a pretty easy job, as the weed is very shallow rooting, and we soon amassed great piles of it. It will be interesting to return to see how well we have managed to limit its spread. It's certainly an annual job at this site though.
By the end of the day, the relatively large volunteer workforce had really made a difference here. The paths, overgrown at the start, were clear along the full length of the reserve, and hopefully the less noticeable changes where all the Balsam and Knotweed had been removed will be much appreciated by our native species.
A relatively straightforward day today, we were tasked with getting the two charcoal kilns filled and ready for firing sometime in the very near future.
A group of us set about sawing and chopping logs whilst another group layered up the kilns. The shady woodland and pleasant breeze helped keep us relatively cool on a gloriously sunny day, although we did break a sweat trying to split some very knotted pieces of wood!
It was a really satisfying day, and the following quote attributed to Albert Einstein sums up the task nicely:
"People love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately sees results."
This was my second visit to the school, the last time being in March. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the willow had come on since our last visit, where we had cut and shaped it into a fence. Today we just had to finish off where we had left off, and get the willow sorted at the bottom end of the site. Some of the harvested willow branches were stripped of their bark in preparation for being made into charcoal in a couple of weeks time.
The woodland area was looking fantastic, and just needed a couple of very small trees removing where the Spring growth had made a little thinning out necessary. A couple of us also shipped in a few trailer loads of wood chippings to neaten up the path through the woodland, which had become quite muddy.
Others cleared the long grass from around the fruit trees in the orchard section, and mowed the rest of the grass in that area.
Overall the site is really well established, and it was good to be doing some "gentle" maintenance. Earlier in the Spring we started a new site at another school (Killinghall), and I am keen to see that evolve from a corner of a playing field as it was then to something like what we have at Brackenhill!