10th All 47 pupils, from age 4 to 11, arrived from Whitley Village School accompanied by staff and a few mums. Bags and coats were stowed securely in the cabin. To start them off Chris organised a game of ‘foxes and rabbits’. We all walked to the site of the hall so that Chris could describe the enormous house that stood at the top of the Carriage Drive. There was time to go down the steps to the bird hide before returning to The Lodge for a mid-morning snack.
We retrieved the bags from the cabin and, after a ten minute break, we followed Chris in a crocodile along the Mere Path. Little legs needed help to climb the bank to the dead hedge at the top. Yesterday Chris and Charles had set small mammal traps amongst the brash. Excitement mounted as Chris displayed four wood mice and a field vole. Everyone negotiated the descent back to the path. Back at the cabin the children were ready for lunch and they quickly identified their bags again.
When all the bags were back in the cabin we set off on a long walk for the four year olds to the Ice Pond. They were lucky to net some baby newts. When the older children arrived for their turn at pond-dipping, I led the first group to look at the monkey puzzle tree, the ice house, the slipway and, most fascinating, the money tree. The whole school joined up again in the woods by the yard where Chris organised groups to make sculptures with the materials around them. They made creatures that had featured during the day including a baby newt, an owl, a wood mouse and a squirrel. The children were reunited with their bags and coats ready to go home.
17th Dave was already getting kitted up for using the chain saw when we arrived at the entrance to Carey Park near Witton Mill Car Park. The five volunteers were equipped with helmets and gloves ready to tidy up after him. He was keen to remove trees from the gabions that supported the bank, fearing that the roots might destabilise it. Further up the track and through the gates willow trees had put on a lot of growth. They were leaning and overhanging the path. Dave worked away with his chain saw for most of the day. We battled to keep the path clear for walkers and cyclists. We created brash piles that should be appreciated by birds and small mammals. At the end of the day the entrance to Carey Park was safer and more inviting to visitors. I topped the day off by tripping over hazel poles lying in the yard and landed full length on the ground in front of John. Fortunately there was no photographic evidence and only my pride was seriously hurt. My knees were merely bruised. I wasn’t sure after that whether any stiffness was due to the fall or the exertions earlier in the day.

25th Chris had parked the tractor and chipper on the Mere Path and he was armed with his chain saw gear. Half a dozen volunteers were kitted out with helmets and gloves. Chris took a long hard look at a sycamore and then indicated where it would be safe for us to stand. In just a few minutes the tree was diagonally across the path having only brushed a silver birch as it crashed to the ground. He even managed to land it inches away from the mere. He continued to saw it into manageable sections as we hauled the brash to the chipper and piled logs on the path. It took us two hours to clear the path so that it was fully accessible to walkers again.

Dave had a special little job for me in the afternoon – painting the ladybird. The gates from the town centre featured a silver ladybird, hence the Ladybird Gates. Dave provided me with small tins of red and black paint, two brushes, paper, marker pen and sellotape. I parked in Cumberland Car Park and set myself up. Walkers, dogs and cyclists came and went, largely ignoring me. I wasn’t too keen on the paint. It either formed large drips or it didn’t cover and left brush marks. It was like trying to paint with caramel. My advice is: don’t look too closely. I wrote the ‘Wet Paint’ notices, taped them to the gates and left.

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