Archive for September, 2013

Autumn at Marbury, Saturday 2nd November

plane roughA two hour guided walk to see the changing autumn shapes and colours in Marbury Country Park

Meet:10 am
Rangers’ Cabin/Marbury Lodge area

For more information:
Phone Mary Jeeves: 01606 77688

September

charcoal dust5th The charcoal burner had been lit on Tuesday night and was cool enough to empty. It had burned well, perhaps too well as there very few browns and lots of ash. Jim, Clive and I riddled and bagged the charcoal. Meanwhile Chris chain-sawed and Ian and Gordon split the logs ready to reload the kiln as soon as we’d finished. The masks protected our noses and mouths, but we still looked as if we’d been down a coal mine. We tried to clean ourselves up in the limited facilities available, but our clothing remained contaminated and so our hands were soon dirty again. The charcoal burner was filled once more and the log-splitting continued. Clive and I took a brief spell away from the yard to remove a couple of rogue buddleias that Chris had spotted on the terrace. They needed to be out of the way before they seeded and established another non-native species. We all walked around to the orchard to pick a few early ripened apples.

Chris binned25th Our first job was to bag up some of the charcoal that had been produced while we were on holiday. There had been other burns when we were away and other volunteers had enjoyed the pleasure of riddling and bagging charcoal. We filled the last of the sacks in the shed and had to leave some in a plastic sack. Chris returned to the yard with Connor, Ians B and C to reload the kiln with us. After lunch the group replaced the ‘Recent Sightings’ board with another temporary board that will facilitate writing up and wiping off reported sightings. I brought the chalkboard notices up to date before joining Chris, who was working behind the play area. He was cutting branches, mainly from the laurels, which Ian , Connor, Jim and I used to create a barrier around the play area. We returned to the yard to light the charcoal burner that would cook overnight. The smoke rose directly up into the sky in the calm, humid conditions.

barrier26th Chris returned to the back of the play area with Ian, Gareth, Jim and me. The species varied from yesterday as we turned the corner, but the task remained the same. Whitebeam, hazel hawthorn and blackthorn were all cut back and used to create a barrier. We completed the three sides, still allowing children access into the small wooded area, but hopefully deterring loose dogs from entering. We rounded off the day with a visit to the orchard to pick apples and damsons. There were just two plums each as reward for our efforts.

August

ragwort 1Thu 1st.It was the hottest day of the year, so we had a bonfire. Jim, Elna and I took fire-lighting gear to the burning site and we were faced with a mountain of stuff to burn. We had no difficulty getting a fire started and we soon had enough heat to start piling on ragwort. Elna and I left Jim to it whilst we did the butterfly transect. The Horse Jump Field is now covered with the purple flowers of black knapweed, which are attracting both bees and butterflies. The Scrape Meadow is also attracting large numbers. The wildflower meadows are rewarding the time, effort and money put into them.

Wed 14th. I volunteered to get a bonfire going as there was still a huge pile on the burning site. Don offered to join me. We put some cardboard, newspaper and matches together. There was no way we could lift the timber so we started a fire between the heavy remains of Furey Wood furniture and the heap of trimmings from the Lime Avenue. There was a stiff breeze that helped create a blaze and we gradually edged the flames towards the timber. By the end of the day there were just hot embers remaining.
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Thu 15th.
Chris took a group of volunteers cutting back around the bridle path. It was sunny and warm, not as forecast. Elna and I walked and lopped until we caught up with the gang on the trailer. They were tackling the overhead growth whilst we pruned the brambles. The blackberries were beginning to ripen and we were tempted to eat one or two. We started to see a few butterflies, so we decided on a diversion, continuing on the butterfly transect. After lunch I returned to the burning site, where the trimmings from the bridle path were waiting for a fire. There was still enough heat left in the embers from yesterday’s burn to get it going with some gentle coaxing. It had all gone up in flames when Chris and the gang unloaded another pile, which we left on top of the ashes.

Wed 21st. Chris persuaded Sandra and me to help him sort out some sacks of rubbish for recycling. We loaded bins with cans, glass and plastic bottles onto the small trailer and climbed into Chris’ pick-up. It wasn’t until we reached Winnington Bridge that it occurred to me to ask where we were going. The May Gurney recycling depot in Winsford was the most likely place to accept our offerings. Chris drove in and almost immediately a man approached and agreed to unload our cargo, once they had dealt with a household recycling lorry in the yard. A few minutes later man with clipboard was less sure and needed to check with the ‘gaffer’, but there were no problems as long as it was already sorted. They helped us unload and we were on our way. If people took their rubbish home none of this would be necessary.
Our next port of call was the vehicle maintenance depot to collect the large trailer following its repair. We took the empty bins out of the small trailer and tried to load it onto the large trailer. Chris had recruited the wrong volunteers and extra muscle was hailed from the garage to boost our feeble efforts. Once everything was back on board we returned to Marbury in time for lunch.image
Now that the large trailer was back in action, Chris was keen to put it to good use. Elna, Sandra and I climbed aboard the trailer with a pair of loppers each. Chris drove very slowly and precisely down to the mere, beginning a journey through to Big Wood. Our task was to remove encroaching vegetation. It was a test of our balancing skills whilst cutting back from a slow moving vehicle over uneven ground. We called out for Chris to stop at intervals, but he couldn’t always hear so there were some stray branches missed. The trailer gradually filled up with brash, making it more difficult to move around. As we headed downhill Elna suddenly shot forward into the back of my legs. Chris seemed to have gone deaf to our shouts of ‘Stop!’ as Elna struggled to regain her feet. He couldn’t see anything that needed lopping. By this time the blades of the loppers that I had so carefully selected had crossed and were virtually useless, but I could still pull down branches for Elna and Sandra to sever. We emerged from Big Wood and returned via Marbury Lane at slightly greater speed. We were surprised when Chris didn’t turn towards the burning site and even went past the yard. He still had other targets for us as we travelled over more even ground near the garden centre.  We were shaken up and bruised and I’m sure we weren’t supposed to find it all so amusing. It’s the nearest that I’ve ever come to the experience of riding on a carnival float. Finally we unloaded the brash onto the burning site.

imageThu 22nd. Repairing steps at Anderton held little appeal for Elna and me, but we knew there was stuff to burn. We loaded the necessary bits and pieces into Elna’s car and drove to the burning site. Yesterday’s trimmings were waiting alongside a rotten, broken picnic table. In little more than half an hour we had everything on a fire and it got very warm. We were able to leave it and set off on the butterfly transect. In cloudy, humid conditions we recorded more than 50 butterflies. There was little left of our bonfire when we returned and we just pushed it all together. Despite the humidity, which drained us all of energy, a group of us cleared brambles and nettles from around the oriental plane trees. All the volunteers met up with Chris in the orchard to assess the crop. It will be a few weeks before the apples are ready to pick and there don’t seem to be many damsons.
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Wed 28th. Sandra Charlotte, Liam and I took loppers to the encroaching vegetation on the path by the old walled garden. Mark came to join us as we completed that task. We all filled the remaining time before lunch cutting back as we wandered from the yard to the slipway and back along the Mere Path. Later Sandra, Charlotte Elna and I walked down to the bridge over the brook in Hopyards Wood carrying just a spade and a big hammer between us. We climbed up the zigzag path on the other side of the brook and found the chestnut fencing that mountain bikers had moved to one side, which enabled them to take the more direct route down the slope. We achieved a Heath Robinson result in restoring the barriers, which may be removed before the end of the school summer break. We met up with Liam again on a litter picking job between the access road to the garden centre and the orchard. We filled a wheelbarrow with four sacks of rubbish, mainly discarded from the lay-by on the main road.
dipping
Thu 29th. Charlotte and I stayed at the cabin while Chris took his pick-up to the Ice Pond with the pond-dipping equipment. He walked back in time to greet the first arrivals for the morning event. After the introductions more than a dozen children and accompanying adults walked in a long crocodile to the pond. Once the children were seated Chris demonstrated how to dip the nets and then transfer the contents to the white trays without too much weed and debris. Then it was time for everyone to have a go. Children and adults were excited to see young newts, water beetles, water boatmen, midge larvae, water fleas, shrimps and dragonfly nymphs. Even children as young as three years old maintained their interest for the hour. We repeated the activity with a second group in the afternoon.
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