Archive for February, 2011

February

2nd Dave had lit the charcoal burner by the time Jim and I arrived at Marbury. Ian C. and I stood by with Dave, watching for the appropriate moment for Ian C. and Dave to put the lid on and slot the chimneys into position. When sufficient heat had built up they sprang into action, whilst I snapped away, but there was no dramatic rush of flames from the vents at the base. Then it was just a matter of leaving it to cook for a few hours. Ian C. and I joined the other seven volunteers with Chris clearing rhododendron near the Coward Reed Bed. The fire took some time to get going and piles of rhody were accumulating, but by lunchtime there was enough of a blaze to leave for an hour. It flared up again and we worked on, burning almost as fast as the team could cut the invader down.

Outlining the task

 3rd Little Budworth Common was the meeting point for the nine volunteers and two rangers. We stood by the pool, which still had ice on it, as Simon outlined the task. The aim was to restore the bank by removing the trees that had grown up around the pond, reducing the water level and spoiling the habitat for snakes. The young tree trunks would provide stakes and the brash could be woven in to make a dead hedge surrounding the area.

 

Making a difference

The task looked daunting, but it was sunny and we were out in the open air and enthusiastic. There were plenty of loppers and bow saws with new blades. Dave and Simon were on hand with chain saws if necessary. Once we had driven stakes into the soft sandy ground about a yard apart, we had a framework for our hedge, which makes it much easier to construct. Most of the trees were silver birch and much more user-friendly than the hawthorn that we have been working with. By lunchtime we had turned the corner and were feeling pleased with ourselves. Dave had come fully prepared with camping stove, kettle, teapot and cups. We sat further up the bank to enjoy our packed lunches, tea and the generously donated cakes and biscuits. After less than an hour our bums were wet and cold and we were keen to get back to work.  Passers-by were commenting on the quality of our handiwork, giving us further encouragement. The hedge continued to snake up the valley. The sun disappeared and the wind picked up and Dave decided it was time for another cup of tea. Washing the cups in cold water meant that I was glad to wrap my hands around a cup of hot tea. Joanne was eager to know how much we had done and set off to pace it out, returning with an estimate of 75 yards. We all felt a sense of satisfaction of a job well done – nearly, as Simon hopes to clear the other side of the pool next week, if he and volunteers are available.

10th Chris suggested that I might empty the charcoal burner. Whilst Ian C and I were looking for masks and bags, he went to tip it over. Before we had located our equipment, he came back to curb our enthusiasm by announcing that it hadn’t been a very good burn. In fact, it had been a very poor burn. Plan B was to stack the resulting browns near to the kiln site and cover with a tarpaulin. Frances arrived to join in. Leaving a stack of browns ready for another burn on another day, we grabbed helmets and drove up to Anderton to find a hive of activity around the fishing pool. Rangers were pollarding and felling dangerous crack willow. Volunteers were stacking logs and feeding brash into the chipper. I opted to work around the chipper, but was soon called away to witness the drama unfolding on the water. Chris and Dave were trying to remove a willow that had grown out over the pond.

By the time I arrived with my camera Chris was performing gymnastic poses whilst operating a chain saw. The water, as well as the dust, was spraying back. Dave was standing by in the boat. The winch finally completed the operation, dragging the tree across the grass and leaving a tell-tale furrow. Lunch was a welcome break for all. We returned to Anderton for more of the same in the afternoon. By close of play we were more than tired. We had an eight foot high pile of chippings and stacks of logs, the smallest of which would find their way into the backs of three 4×4 vehicles within an hour.

16th There was still a bit of frost about as Chris geared up for a rhody bash. Ian, Diana, robin, Vernon, Elna and I were there to support him down by the Coward Reedbed. We struggled to get a fire going in the morning, but much of the dampness had gone by the afternoon and we had more success. The winch on the tractor made it possible to haul large shrubs up the bank. We hadn’t been able to keep pace with the bonfire, so there’s still a pile left to burn tomorrow.

17th Vernon had already been down to check on the fire before we got to Marbury. Jim, Elna, Fiona and I went down to bring it back to life. We piled on the rhody that had been hauled up yesterday and then Elna and Fiona went in search of more. Fiona found a few holes in the ground that tested her sure-footedness at the top of the bank. She was afraid that a slip would have resulted in a dip in the mere. Nevertheless there were shrieks of laughter coming from the pair of them. How dare they enjoy themselves! After lunch it was the turn of Ian, Diana, Gareth and I to continue the rhody bash. Ian and Diana were more confident on the steep bank, sawing and then heaving the branches up by hand. The more they cleared the more they could see. We ran out of time, so there is still more waiting to be removed.

23rd It was raining, which is unusual for a Wednesday morning, as its Elna’s Health Walk. Dave wanted to complete the viewpoint onto the river at Carey Park. He thought that I might not appreciate working on the steep slope again and offered me a bit of litter-picking instead. Fiona volunteered to accompany me. We parked a Witton Mill and walked down the brook. There wasn’t much litter until we reached the woodland, where a selection of cans and assorted crisp packets had been scattered. From Butterfinch Bridge we headed across to Neumann’s Flash, as I thought there might be work for us at the bird hide. Unfortunately I was proved right. Rubbish, mostly Fosters cans has been posted or slung through the viewing slots. Retrieval meant climbing over the fence at the side of the hide. No-one was watching. I didn’t have the bottle to go down the steepest bank, where cans had almost reached the water. One of the sacks now contained stinking rubbish. We decided to return to the lane, tip everything into one sack and leave it to be picked up by van later. We continued up the lane, clearing the verges and banks that we could reach as we went. Fi made the mistake of climbing the fence for a bottle and slipped on the sodden wooden rail, banging down on her ribcage. We just had time to check the car park for any litter before heading back for lunch. We resumed our quest further up the lane to the tip entrance. Mercifully it had stopped raining. We filled yet another sack to leave for collection along with a wheel and a bag of clothes. We’d had enough of litter and joined other volunteers dragging brash across the lime bed on Carey Park for the last hour.

24th Brash clearance on Carey Park was the main task on offer and half a dozen of us set to work. It was strenuous work on difficult terrain. The brash consisted of birch, willow and some vicious thorny shrubs, which tore at our clothes. Underfoot there were the stumps of the felled trees and shrubs, rabbit holes and brambles to be avoided. We carried or dragged loads across the lime bed to the track to await the arrival of the chipper. Dave arrived with the tractor from another job and chipping could begin. Three of us donned helmets, visors and ear-defenders and switched from haulage to chipping. After about a quarter of an hour the chipper began to clunk, then it and the tractor were silent. Lunch. A small team worked in the yard to solve the problem: a serious blockage of chippings, a barrow load in fact. A succession of increasingly large implements came out of the container and those of us who were mere spectators sought alternative employment. I went with Chris to replenish food supplies for the birds at the Mere and Woodland Hides. Inevitably we found more cans and bottles. By the time we were back in the yard the repairs had been completed and we could return to Carey Park, but only for an hour, as the gates are locked at four. Shame.

Nest Box Building – A Huge Success!

The event was a great success, with more than 100 visitors stopping by.  Between them, the adults and children made a total of 64 nest boxes – a record for this popular, annual event. 

There was no charge for the boxes, but we received many generous donations.  A special thank you to all those making a donation; it helps to support this and other FoAM activities.

Alan Redley, Chair, Friends of Anderton and Marbury (FoAM)

FoAM Newsletter – Winter 2010/11

Spring will soon be here!

 As the memories linger of  snow covering Marbury, we look forward to spring and a successful 2011.

Our latest newsletter is now available. 

Click FoAM Winter 2010-11 Newsletter to read it.