Archive for January, 2011


5th It was the first volunteering day since Pete’s tragic death, so the mood was rather subdued. As it was raining, Jim and I worked in the barn to bag charcoal. We filled 21 bags from the sacks used as a temporary measure before Christmas. There was half an hour left before lunch to do a bit of litter-picking along the Mere Path. We took our equipment with us to Anderton, where the rubbish amongst the undergrowth had been revealed since the cold weather had removed the last of the foliage. After touring the area around the car park and picnic tables for an hour, we’d filled two sacks with bottles and cans. Dave kindly invited us to join him by the fishing pond with Elna, Vernon and Sandra. He was felling crack willow and the volunteers were creating a dead hedge, with the brash. This has more than one purpose. It forms an extra safety barrier to the twelve feet deep cistern, which serves as a fishing pond. It will also provide habitat for wildlife. As the sun got lower it caught the willows on the far side, the buds forming a golden glow. 

6th Joanne, Elna, Frances and I loaded the car with bow saws and loppers and parked up at Anderton ready to carry on with the dead hedge started yesterday. It was a bit chilly following an earlier ground frost and it took a while for the fingers to warm up. We scrambled up and down the bank with brash. We were so engrossed in our construction that we didn’t notice that it was gone twelve. It took a few minutes to collect the tools together again and by the time we got back to the cabin everyone else was well into their lunch. Diana took over from Elna and Joanne as we returned to our task. We made the decision to work from the other side of the hedge, where we had a flat surface to work on, although we had to remove some of the hawthorn branches to give better access. The hawthorn occasionally attacked us, even drawing blood from Diana’s scalp. We had to drag the brash up the steps, but once Diana had cleared them of wet leaves, we could move around with more confidence. We attempted to tidy up the anglers’ car park, but had to leave the heaviest logs where they were. Before we left we remembered our other dead hedges around the park and generally admired our handiwork. 

12th There was some congestion for traffic around the entrance to the yard at Marbury, whilst the wood-mizer was being manoeuvred into position at the end of the Lime Avenue, so I left the car on the main car park. There was a crowd of volunteers awaiting instructions. I was detailed to nail a notice to the Caravan Field gatepost, indicating that there was “No such thing as a pooh fairy”. As I removed the three bags of dog foul from that post I’m sure I felt a flutter of wings behind me. Jim met me on the way back to the yard and helped me to clean off the out-of-date information from the notice board. Work began on dismantling the sodden shed, but space was needed in the yard for the rubbish, so Chris took Frances and me to the recycling depot to get rid of the sorted litter. On our return Frances and I dealt with the big wheelie bins, supported by the men doing the collection. After lunch all of those not working around the wood-mizer joined in the demolition work. It wasn’t long before water was pouring in from the roof, which threatened to cave in. Temporary supports enabled work to continue as we sorted piles of timber, plastic, metal and electrical components. Chris used his chain saw to remove the roof. Various strategies were employed to demolish the walls, but none of them avoided the dispersal of some of the polystyrene foam beads that had formed the insulation. Diana, Elna, Frances and I only glanced at the mayhem as we quietly removed dangerous nails from the timber. It was inevitable that that we would get words of advice on the correct way to do the job from those who considered themselves experts. 

13th The first job was to tidy up the area where the wood-mizer had been yesterday. Some loaded planks onto the trailer to take down to the barn at Carey Park, where they will be left to dry out for at least a year. The rest of us cleared the sawdust and other waste. Then it was back to the sodden shed, which now required chain saw, sledge hammer, ropes and brute strength. Realising my limitations, I restricted myself to removing nails and screws from the timber in the interests of safety and recycling. By 3.30 the yard was a scene of devastation with untidy piles of timber, metal, plastic etc awaiting recycling and an empty space, where once there had been a shed.  

19th The trailer was fully loaded up with all the unusable timber remnants from the sodden shed, so that Chris could tow it to the burning site. Jim and I managed to find enough bits of lath to use as kindling to start a fire. Much of the hardboard was still quite wet and even frozen, so it was like trying to burn wet newspaper. We tore it into smallish pieces, trying not to blanket the flames. We were relieved that there was still life left in the fire after our lunch break. We finally got all the hardboard alight and sent for Chris to help load the floor sections onto the bonfire with the tractor. The metal sections raised some cash at the scrap merchants and there was hardly a hint of the sodden shed in the yard, just a pile of plastic. Everything else has been recycled. 

20th Our bonfire was no longer alight. There wasn’t even a glimmer to enable us to re-ignite it. There were still some charred remains of one floor section and the flames hadn’t reached another section. Frances and I set off with more newspaper and cardboard, but only two matches. It was freezing cold and very foggy. We were keen to get a fire going, if only to warm us up a bit. The charred timbers were soon burning and we hoped that we had enough fuel to keep it going over the lunch break. The weather had not improved at all and the dead hogweed stems standing at the side of the Wildflower Meadow were covered in hoar frost and looked sparkling. We were pleased to find enough fire not to need our last match. We gathered the remains together, whilst waiting for Chris to come with his chain saw to cut the final section of the shed floor into more manageable pieces. Once everything was settled on the fire we joined the other volunteers on the terrace, where Chris was felling. We fed brash into the chipper for about half an hour before returning to our bonfire. The walk helped to restore the circulation to our feet. We drew the remains of the blaze together and left the smoke drifting into the fog.   

26th Chris and Dave took groups off to Carey Park and Dairy House Meadows. Jim, Ranjit and I were left in the yard to load the charcoal burner. Ranjit volunteered to negotiate the ladders to receive our initial offerings of paper, cardboard and kindling. It took us most of the morning to fill the kiln, using up most of the timber stacked in the yard. It was crowded in the cabin at lunchtime with numbers swelled by a group from the Rotary Club working on Carey Park.  Jim and I walked over to Dairy House Meadows with Vernon and Steve. A second barn owl nesting box was being installed on a telegraph post. First a four foot hole had to be dug. I could do little except remove a few hawthorn branches that were in the way. After that I passed the occasional tool, like the shoveholer and stood by watching. The first foot of soil was the envy of any gardener.

Measuring up


 Progress slowed when Vernon, Ian C and Chris hit clay and and then the measuring of the last foot became less crucial. The pole was manoeuvred into place. The clouds rolled in with a biting north wind and I was freezing. I took shelter in Chris’ van and only got out to photograph significant stages in the event. The cup of tea was most welcome at the end of the day. 

Seen any barn owls yet?





27th It was still bitterly cold, but there seemed to be more shelter in Carey Park, where we were joined by some of the Rotarians, who had been working there yesterday. Dave had cleared an area to provide a view of the River Weaver, which had been totally obscured by bushes and trees. The piles of brash were being transformed into dead hedging. Our first hurdle was the fence, but Dave had kindly provided a ladder and steps, so we didn’t have to perform any athletic feats. Even so the transfer from the ladder on one side of the fence to the steps on the other was a tricky manoeuvre for some of us, especially with an audience. After that, scrambling about on the banks of the river wasn’t such a problem. David offered to go down to the bottom of the slope and pass up sawn branches to Frances and Gareth. Mark helped me to construct a short length of dead hedge. The only problem was crossing that fence again, but the thought of lunch was an incentive. Back at Marbury five of us loaded logs into the tractor bucket on the terrace, which Chris then dumped in the yard. Dave got to work with the chain saw and a log-splitting gang followed on. Frances and I cleared some more space in the corner behind the cabin, consigning more accumulated rubbish to the bin. Now we could stack the cut and split logs under a tarpaulin ready for later charcoal burning.

Bird Walk in Big Wood, Marbury Country Park

On Saturday 29th January, FoAM member Vernon Lundy organised a very successful Bird Walk in Big Wood.

A bittern had been seen earlier in the day and, as visitors arrived, they were encouraged to go to the Mere Hide, only to be told that the bittern had just gone out of view!

Shortly afterwards, a second bittern obligingly moved and sat up on the reeds, giving everyone a splendid view.

More than 30 visitors came to the event and were split into three groups for the walks, which were led by Alan Garner, John Gilbody and Vernon. 

As well as seeing the elusive bittern, visitors also saw a roosting tawny owl and many othert ducks and woodland birds during their tour. 

(photograph by Alan Redley)

Next time you are at Marbury, see if you can spot a bittern in the reed bed!

Bird Walk in Big Wood, Marbury Country Park, Saturday 29th January

A reminder to join FoAM member Vernon Lundy to see how many birds you can identify on a walk in the Park.  You can use the checklist in the Wildlife category.

Meet:  2.00pm at the Rangers’ Cabin, Marbury Country Park
Contact:  Vernon Lundy 01606 782627