March

2nd I took Ian C and John R to meet Dave at Carey Park to chip the piles of brash on the lime bed. It was cold but dry and we were doing well until the tell-tale plumes of smoke rose from the chipper. Dave was some distance away on the lime bed, so Ian C climbed into the tractor to switch off, as we had been instructed an hour or so earlier. We loaded a couple of piles of selected birches onto the tractor and headed back for lunch. Last week’s experience meant that stripping the chipper down would not be such a lengthy exercise. 

Elna and I teamed up with Jim M and Robin, who were making replacement screens for the sand martin bank. The screens needed to prevent disturbance to bird on Haydn’s Pool, but still allow access. The reeds had proved to be difficult to handle and were an ineffective barrier. Our solution was to infill the hazel frame, which Jim M and Robin hade made in the morning, with birch twigs, thus creating a portable dead hedge. The variation in colour was giving the desired effect. Pleased with the results, work began on another frame using birch poles from the lime bed. Elna tried her hand on the shave horse that Jim M had recently made. Another skill could be added to the list.

 

3rd Five of the volunteers set about making more efficient use of the space in the yard since the demise of the sodden shed. We move felled timber ready for sawing into logs for charcoal and then stacked logs. The end result was a covered area for woodcraft activities and a space for storing and sawing felled timber. It remains to be seen how long the allocated spaces last.

16th I began by cleaning off the notice advertising the Barn Owl Talk from the chalk board. Whilst I wrote the new notices, Jim went to clear litter from the out-of-hours car park. We then drove to Dairy House Meadows to check security for the cattle that will be living in the fields in a few weeks time. We set off in a clockwise direction, testing each of the posts with a wiggle. If they rocked Jim marked the top by hammering in a staple. We also checked that the sheep netting and barbed wire strands above were fastened to the posts. In places the boundary fence was protected by our old enemy, the bramble. Unfortunately we had not gone armed with loppers. The presence of rushes gave an indication of the marshy conditions and at times we were paddling. Together these made progress around the perimeter of the field slow. We repeated the process in the adjacent field, but were unable to complete a single circuit, because of the pools going right up to the fence. This meant retracing our soggy steps. A green woodpecker was laughing at us from the woods. We met up with Chris and four other volunteers in the first field. They were looking for our marker staples, so that they could replace the rotten posts and ensure that the other wobbly ones were firmly lodged in the ground. On our wanderings we had seen lots of evidence of badger activities. We disturbed a pair of stock doves around the recently positioned barn owl nest box. We should have put up a notice ‘Barn Owls Only’.

17th I needed to be at Marbury for a meeting at 9.30. Stuart Burnet from Butterfly Conservation was there with Paul to talk to Jim M about the continuation of records of dingy skippers on Ashton’s Flash. Elna and I expressed an interest in a general survey of butterfly species in Marbury Park. We made a date to meet with Stuart again to look more closely at the work involved. In the remaining hour before lunch Elna and I set off in different directions with litter-pickers and sacks. I tried not to disturb bird watchers in the Mere Hide as they focussed their binoculars and telescopes on the bittern in the reeds. I cleared up the remains of a fire in the orchard, collecting the bottles and cans. Joanne, Fi, John, Alan, Jim and I worked on the site of the old brine spill at Marbury all afternoon. Chris wanted to recreate the glade, which would be suitable for redstarts. There were birch, hazel and willow saplings to cut down and transform into a dead hedge. We tried, in vain, to persuade the fellers to land the trees with the trunk ends pointing towards the boundary, so that we didn’t have to grab hold of a few twigs to drag them to the hedge. Complimentary remarks from passing walkers encouraged us to keep going. We managed to move most of the felled trees into our dead hedge before retiring to the cabin, somewhat tired and in need of a cup of tea.

23rd Liz and I parked up at Anderton to embark on our contribution to Dave’s ‘litter blitz’. We decided to leave the car park area until our return and set off down the hill towards the Weaver. Liz discovered the remains of a barbecue party near the river and by the time that was cleared we had a sack full of rubbish to leave by the side of the track for Dave to collect later. We continued along the Fisherman’s Path to Carden Ferry Bridge, where we split up to meet again at the bridge over the little brook. Realising the time, we turned and left another two sacks of litter at the top of the path down to Carden Ferry Bridge. We continued to find more rubbish as we made our way back via the Rifle Range Steps and put yet another sack, half full, next to the first one. Going back up the hill we were amazed at how much we had missed going in the opposite direction. Dave called on the mobile to find out if we were OK as we were well overdue for lunch.

Seven wellie clad volunteers and Dave dropped down the bank near Butterfinch Bridge and squelched into the Reedbed. The reeds had been cut and left in piles. Our job was to remove them to drier ground to prevent the build-up of material that would cause the reedbed to dry out and the loss of a rare habitat. We began with forks, lifting and tossing the reeds to the banks. The tops of the piles were dry and relatively light, but further down they were wet and heavy. Dave lit those furthest from the bank and a breeze did the rest. Unfortunately the wind kept changing direction and we played a game of dodging the smoke. It was very hard work and I opted for the early bath.

24th Frances and I gathered newspaper, cardboard and kindling together to start loading the charcoal burner. I made the brave decision to climb the ladders and enter the kiln. We made sure everything was very secure before I made tentative steps onto the rungs. The tricky bit was transferring from one ladder to the other to get down inside. Safely in, I took the initial incendiary material from Frances to lay small fires by the vents. Once we had a layer of logs on top, I rearranged the ladders to make my escape. Jim returned from replenishing the bird feeders and helped us fill the kiln. He wielded an axe on the larger logs. By lunchtime it was almost full to the brim.

30th We felt the first spots of rain at about ten o’clock. By then we were getting organised in the yard at Marbury. Jim and I only needed a bucket of staples and a hammer. Just in case, we took a couple of litter-pickers and sacks with us to Witton Mill Car Park. We let ourselves into the meadow and set off around the perimeter of the field in an anti-clockwise direction. The posts down the first side were all sturdy and the fence only needed a few staples replaced. Further round we identified twenty wobbly posts, which we marked with staples. We had picked up a few items of litter in the field, but we had time to find more in the car park before lunch. We trudged all the way around the fields on Carey Park, checking the fencing. We found some breaks in the wire and some dodgy posts and, inevitably, loads of litter. Much of it was out our reach, on the tracks, especially surrounding the benches. We are hoping to tackle that problem tomorrow.

31st Jim and I went off to deal with the litter that we’d spotted yesterday. There was rather more than we’d bargained for and we only covered a small fraction of Carey Park’s tracks. We focussed on the area between the Leicester Street entrance and Carden Ferry Bridge, but it was lunchtime and we hadn’t got as far as the bridge. We took a boot full of rubbish back to the yard, including a sleeping bag and the usual bottles and cans. I fancied a change of activity in the afternoon. In the yard I wove birch and hazel twigs into the framework of a screen for the Brunner Mond Hide. I found it quite therapeutic in the warm sunshine.

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