Not quite the weather you would hope for for hay making! Drizzle and rain all day, and warm – the second week running the midges have been irritating (very irritating), so hooray for Sue has bought us some Skin So Soft which is a great repellent.
We really just wanted to concentrate on cutting and raking the wildflower grassland today. But inevitably we had to clear some litter first – including mattresses, baskets and the inevitable shopping trolley. We had to leave another trolley in the pond as we had not gone equipped, and there was a burnt out scooter that was just too heavy for us to get it up the hill to where the Clean Team collected our hoard.
We used the auto-scythe and hand scythes to cut the grass and then raked the cuttings to mulch the trees. There is plenty of knapweed, meadow sweet and meadow cranesbill and meadow vetchling in the grassland, and this management work will help preserve suitable conditions for these wildflowers to continue to thrive.
Our focus today was to cut the meadow in order that the flowers, and their supply of nectar for the insects, continue to thrive. There is a lot of Meadow Cranesbill, Meadowsweet, Knapweed and Scabious. The functioning autoscythe did a good a job of the main area, with the hand scythe being useful on the verges, though the encroaching brambles first had to be cut with loppers.
It is a shame that some inconsiderate dog owners are less than attentive to clearing up after their dogs, which made task of raking the grass unpleasant in places. Although it is October, the weather was more like that of traditional hay making season; it was hot work out of the shade.
We also cut the Japanese Knotweed near the gate and cleared a bit of litter. We were concerned to see that the pond was very dry. We know this has occurred within the last 10 days as we undertook a newt rescue last week to help a local resident who was worried about pollution in her garden pond, and its long term future. Rachel and Bella transferred 100s of newt tadpoles into the pond. Let’s hope the lack of water is short term and the invertebrate pond ecology survives.
The main task today was to cut the top areas of wildflower meadow, in order that the flowers continue to thrive amongst the grass. We used the auto scythe to cut the grass and then raked off the arisings to reduce the build-up fertility in the soil.
There was also a substantial amount of litter to collect including four mattresses, a divan base, a tent, sheets and blankets. Thanks to the Clean Team for collecting these items and the numerous bags of litter.
In addition we cleared cut back some over grown hedging and mended the gate on Westcroft Road.
Our task today was to cut and rake off the meadow areas to benefit the grassland flowering plants. First though we carried out some litter collecting. This involved retrieving tyres and a shopping trolley from the pond plus other large bits of rubbish scattered around the site. We then set about main task, once the autoscythe got started. The grass areas were cut leaving the flowers that were making an appearance. We saw plenty of Meadowsweet, Celendine, Vetch, Cranesbill and a single Cowslip. This is all encouraging for a good show of colour during the summer with plenty of nectar for insects.
We were again supported by the Clean Team who collected the litter. The Council Wardens also made a visit, so we were able to discuss the suitability of a dog fouling bin for the site.
For our visit today we thinned trees from an area of path near the factory, these were mainly blackthorn and dog rose so there was a lot of untangling to be done. These were cut to make habitat piles. While this was in progress other maintenance tasks were carried out; some of the missing rails on the Old Corn Lane boundary were replaced and litter collected. Once this was carried out we worked on the Green Lane path; cutting back vegetation, replacing the coping stones on the wall and clearing the litter. Working to maintain the paths will make access around the site easier for the visitors and removing the litter gives wildlife a chance.
Although there was the thinnest layer of ice on the pond it still felt mild for the time of year.
There were quite a few jobs to be on with today. One was to rehang the kissing gate, this was a difficult job as the old post had to be dug out first, but as it was concrete it had to be chipped out with a crow bar. By the end we had managed to get the new post in and holes drilled ready for the gate to be hung again. We also cut the meadow area at the entrance and cut the nettles and bindweed along the path and at the fence. This will make the site seem more cared for and allow other plants a chance to grow. The path along bottom of the site was cleared and this will make access easier for the public. But as we are still without our autoscythe the meadow did not get a full cut but we plan to in spring next year. This will benefit the wildflowers that are growing there like Meadowsweet, Meadow Cranesbill and Bird’s foot trefoil.
Today we worked with 10 volunteers.
Click here to see other photos of the day and site.
We did not cut the meadow areas today because of ongoing repairs with the autoscythe. But that does not mean we had nothing to do. We were kept busy tackling Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam, controlling there spread gives the other ground flora a chance to thrive. The hedge along roadside was trimmed, it is good to see it growing well after it was laid. Pathways through the site were cut back and kept open, which makes the site more attractive for visitors. Then we repaired some of the steps and pathways, were the surfacing had been washed down the hill from previous heavy rain. The steps were really awkward to walk on but are now a bit safer. Plus litter was collected and we had filled about 10 bags by the time we had finished.
When we arrived on site today we decided that the priority for nature conservation was not to thin the ash trees due to the uncertainty of the ash die back disease but to tackle the amount of litter and flytipping that had taken place. We got on with what seemed an endless task and shifted beds, mattresses, car parts, carpets, for sale signs, bags and then there was the litter of which we collected over 20 bags. In fact we ran out of bags and had to get more. Unfortunately we could not shift the burnt out van, but it is reported and will be removed in due course. We collected so much rubbish that the Council Clean Team were not only impressed but had to make two trips. It felt like we worked at Brackenhill Urban “Landfill” Site, but we left the site in a more suitable state for people and wildlife than we found it.
It also left us enough time to repair one section of drystone wall and the team created a nice little wall end which sets us up to repair further sections on future visits.
We had to change the site today as the snow covering the tree planting site at Dewsbury Country Park prevented this task from going ahead. This task has been rescheduled for 1st March.
Instead we returned to Brackenhill to complete the task of removing willow that has been overhanging the pathway. As well as opening improving access the felling work has also opened up the hazel coppice on the field behind and inspired us to manage this in a more proactive way in the future. We were joined by the Council’s Countryside officers who chipped the branches that were too small to be harvested for charcoal. In addition they took away the old fence that served no purpose but was a hazard to passers-by.
We also did some maintenance of the hedge on Old Corn Mill Lane, to prevent it obscuring the road.
The weather was a factor today with a cold blast bringing snow for us. Still a good number of hardy souls turned up for the task and we were able to get out as planned. But the Countryside Service was unable to join us due to the conditions. At site we were able to get warm with the work of cutting back the overhanging willow trees. These have been causing an obstruction for a while and someone had started to cut back in the summer causing all sorts of poor regrowth. We cut the back the stumps using bow saws to allow the tree to regrow better, then we cut some of the bigger branches to allow more light into the area. At the end of the day the area looked much improved and we could see the wall and the fence line once again. The timber that we cut was harvested and will be used for making charcoal later in the year. We also had time to collect several bags of litter and connect with a local resident who is a regular site visitor and will keep an eye on the site.