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Conservation Work - Past
Happy New Year
As tradition dictates, today we joined Forest of Bradford for a pre-Christmas tree planting session. We were planting in the valley below Stanbury, looking across to Oldfield, on the shady side of the hill. So, whilst it was a lovely winter’s day, the icy patches on the grass did not melt but luckily the roads weren’t too bad.
The trees were a mix of oak, rowan, birch, alder and willow. They will complement a couple of other planting schemes that Forest of Bradford have done along the valley.
We were ideally placed to finish off the afternoon with a drink at The Silent Inn to acknowledge all the volunteering effort throughout 2017.
Another cold start, and today the temperature cannot have risen much above freezing as none of the snow or ice melted, even in full sun. We made a tentative start to the pruning; it’s not ideal in such cold conditions but also we wanted to complete the installation of the veg bed to avoid carrying timber around again. We have used oak sleepers, so whilst we will appreciate the durability, they were heavy to handle and resisted the nails. We persevered and completed the job.
We pruned almost all the soft fruit – this has been missed the past couple of years, so whilst it leaves us with a lot of pruning to do on subsequent visits, it was a prickly job, well done.
An icy start to today, and we had to be careful walking across the bridge as we unloaded from the minibus to avoid exceeding the reduced weight limit. Our task today was to support the regular Rodley volunteers with the willow coppicing. The coupe we were working in had a fair amount of bramble throughout the area. Some had already been cleared which made it much easier to coppice, abut other areas needed to be cleared before we could fell.
We had a good day, with the opportunity to have a brief look for birds on the water. We found an old wren’s nest in one of the trees and quite a bit of willow bracket fungus.
We started our winter programme of tree thinning and branch removal today. We cut the coppiced hazel on the bank, and immediately we could tell more light will be getting to the ground to help the flowers. A key aim is to allow more light onto the ponds, to this end we wanted to remove some of the large over hanging branches from the ash trees. The task wasn’t without its excitement - high and heavy branches - but we have made a successful start and will continue when we return in January.
The university removed 3 skip loads of fly-tipped waste last week. The banking is looking much better, but there is still rubbish to clear on our next visit.
A mixed day, split between cutting the first floor meadow and cooking chutney in the kitchen.
Three builder’s sacks were filled with the arisings from the meadow. Removing this organic matter will help the wildflowers thrive amongst the grasses, and we plan to sow some more wildflowers to increase the floral mix. The vegetation next to the car park was also cut and raked, along with a large amount of litter removed.
In the kitchen we started with the most important bit – a cake to share. Actually more of a pudding, Apple Sharlotka came out of the oven in time for lunch. Meanwhile we prepared the apples, veg and spices for apple ‘cheese’, apple and green tomato chutney and a sweet apple chutney with date and a pinch of cayenne. These will all be on sale at Shipley Alternative, Kirkgate Centre on 2nd December.
In the morning we finished off this section of the work at the canoe and kayaking club. We cut back some of the side growth of the trees on the bank. On the bank side near the spilings we planted some willow sticks, firming them into holes made by the crow bar, making sure they were the right way up! They should take root and form another section of protection for the banking.
After tidying away all the willow debris we set off to the orchard for our afternoon’s work installing the timber bed edging for one of the veg beds. The shaping spaces team had started the job but it hadn’t been as easy I suggested as the timberlocks did not go easily through the lovely oak sleepers. Instead we used site pegs to nail the timber in place, once we had positioned and squared it. Some of the well-rotted compost was added to the soil and garlic was planted in one section of the bed.
In the grass near the greengage we planted a small packet of crocuses, adding to some Amanda planted with Shaping Spaces last week. The final bulbs to be planted were some Allium spaerocephalon; along with the crocuses these will provide nectar for the bees and butterflies. We choose to buy ‘ecobulbs’ to avoid planting flowers with systemic neonicotinoids.
This is the first time we have worked here, on a bend in the river near Dowley Gap. The Canoe and Kayaking Club asked us to help with some of the remedial work that they are under taking following the floods in 2015. Forest of Bradford volunteers have constructed spilings to reinforce the bank on the bend in the river. This consists of two willow fences infilled with horizontal willow and topped off with soil. We finished off the addition of soil, shaping the bank above and applied some grass seed (knowing it is a bit late in the year we have saved half the bag to reapply in the spring).
We raised the canopy of some of the trees on the river bank to enable better sight lines into the water. The plan is to add some extra planting in some sections. We worked on an island in the river to secure some of the woody debris that has amassed at times of flood and high water. We pegged these piles into the ground to reduce the chance of the logs floating off and causing trouble downstream. Whist we worked we found a number of very old bottles, but also signs of a mass of Himalayan balsam that will need attention over the next few years.
We haven’t been to the Reserve much this summer, with none of our regular schools groups visiting due to the anti-social behaviour that we have had to deal with. So when we arrived it was looking a bit unloved and abandoned. However, it was amazing what we achieved – all the meadow areas and paths were cut and raked, and over hanging branches cut back.
We decided not to remove vegetation from the pond as it was quite sparse in relation what we normally experience at this time of year. However, the lower pond was covered in a film of oil so we did need to address this. We used newspaper and paper towels to absorb the oil. We didn’t have enough to finish the job, but made a good start.
Whilst sitting for lunch we were aware of the lovely autumn sunshine, but none of it is reaching the ponds or grassland (or us). We will schedule a couple of days in the winter to coppice hazel on the bank and remove a few other trees. The long-tailed tits kept us company all day.