1st The large number of visitors to Marbury on Bank Holiday Monday resulted in a large amount of litter to collect. Chris and five volunteers spread out across the park on a cleansing mission. You wouldn’t want to see photos of this exercise. For about half an hour after lunch we took tools to cut back nettles and brambles along the paths to the orchard. Then, just for a change, we transferred our litter-picking efforts to Leftwich Meadows, which hadn’t been serviced for at least a fortnight whilst Chris was on holiday. The areas nearest to the entrance needed most attention. Litter louts don’t seem to walk far, but some of them can toss bottles and cans rather well. Chris claimed that I saw the glint of a bonfire before dragging a discarded garden gate up the bank.

2nd That garden gate dumped at Leftwich Meadows would provide the heat required to get rid of the last 14 bags of ragwort. Jim and I worked hard to get it all burned by lunchtime. We joined a convoy of vehicles on their way to Holford Brinefields, where a dozen of us were to be the guests of INEOS Enterprises. It was a long drive from Lostock Gralam railway station across the fields to the headquarters and we lost all sense of exactly where we were, once we had passed under the by-pass. The two Johns gave us the history of brine pumping and an explanation of the current system that even I could understand. Their presentation included an extract from BBC’s Secret Britain, featuring Steph. We went on a guided tour of the site by mini-bus after a magnificent buffet lunch. Before we left we looked at the proposed site for the positioning of the bench we had presented to them earlier in the year. Back at Marbury we had our own presentation to mark Ray’s retirement, at 82, as a volunteer. Dave was delighted to identify bastard balm, which he and Liz found behind the compound.

9th Dave, Liz, Ian, Alan G., Frances and I drove down Marbury Lane on our way to Haydn’s Pool. Dave had the necessary equipment in the trailer so that we could remove vegetation, which Ian had cut yesterday on the island.  Strictly speaking it wasn’t an island as, following months of dry weather, it wasn’t surrounded by water. Access was therefore easier than I had last experienced. We forked the reeds etc onto a tarpaulin spread on the ground and then dragged it over to the meadow. We repeated this about eight times before the island was clear.  

 We then negotiated our way back through the long grass, which will be supporting cattle in a few weeks time. Before they can arrive, the fence posts needed checking. Ian braved the nettles and brambles armed with a slasher to get close enough to give the posts a wiggle. Frances and I were less bold and tried to find the more obvious posts. We realised that we would be of little use to continue fence post operations in the afternoon and we didn’t fancy bloody forearms like Ian’s. Dave found us alternative work, labelling all equipment in the workshop and shed with Marbury marks. There was time left to collect litter at Anderton. The steep bank down from the car park seemed to be very attractive to the tossers of cans and bottles, making it less attractive for all other visitors to the park. We took a couple of sacks of rubbish back to Marbury.
29th It was a miserable day with occasional very heavy showers.
Not having volunteered for a couple of weeks, we had missed the start of construction of the new bird hide with support from Brunner Mond. This will replace the screen at the top of the Stannah Steps. Whilst equipment for that work was being unloaded from Dave’s van Jim and I grabbed litter-picking gear, spade and loppers to do some tidying up. Jim cleared the steps while I walked to Carden Ferry Bridge along Witton Brook and back via the top path. There wasn’t much rubbish, but it gave me chance to see where most cutting back of encroaching vegetation was needed. We took loppers and removed hawthorn, gorse and dog rose that were threatening to attack passers-by with their thorns or prickles. We bear the scars instead. By the end of the day we had almost reached the steps down to Carden Ferry Bridge. Dave has promised me a bonfire tomorrow, but I will need wellies and waterproof trousers.

30th It was a much brighter morning as Elna and I gathered fire-lighting gear to put onto the trailer. Suitably kitted out in wellies we took our incendiary material to the back of Haydn’s Pool. The willows that grow so well in the wet conditions provide perches for predatory birds after waders, so they were cut down last week and left in piles. Fortunately it wasn’t boggy today, but the grass was very wet after yesterday’s rain. With the addition of some twigs from the dead hedge, which we had so carefully built last year, we soon had a small fire. We then dragged bundles of willow and spread them out next to our fire in the hope that they would dry out a bit. We gradually added the branches to the fire. We were concerned that we didn’t have any larger pieces of timber to keep the bonfire going over lunch. Dave came to the rescue and carried huge armfuls of willow to dump on top. By that time we had built up a lot of heat and the damp, even wet, branches did not put it out.  Dave complained about the uneven nature of the ground. Some fool had left willow stumps sticking up! Joanne took over from Elna in the afternoon. We returned to a neat circle of ash surrounded by rays of willow. The ash was still just glowing and we coaxed it back to life with a few more dead twigs and some vigorous fanning from Joanne. We had got rid of the piles of willow in the immediate vicinity and turned our attention to the heaps out in the middle. We got a fire started, but lost it. It was time to tidy up and return to admire the new hide at the top of Stannah Steps and then help the construction gang to pack away.

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