image3rd. Chris called “Fire! Fire” as soon as I arrived. There was no room to put any more on the burning site, so that was my job sorted. Elna and Jim decided to join me. We took newspaper, cardboard, wood scraps, matches and forks, but then we had trouble finding a space to set the fire. We settled on a small patch between the newly cut lime, a pile of ragwort and some drier trimmings cut last week. We gradually encouraged the flames towards the other piles and heaved more on top. Chris and volunteers delivered more lime trimmings before lunch, but it was the ragwort that we we were most keen to incinerate. Towards the end of the day we had just a layer of hot ash, when another load of lime prunings came to smother it.

10th. Elna and I prepared packs for our first visitors from a Leonard Cheshire Home. We met John and four volunteers, who would be sharing the task of pushing the four residents in their wheelchairs. We led them around the site of the hall and down by the mere. After just over an hour we left them to their picnic in The Lodge. The bright sunny weather continued through the afternoon for the Butterfly Transect.

23rd. Following a knee injury I was prepared only for light duties. Dave had posters that needed laminating before they could be distributed in Northwich Woodlands. Jim and I drove to the noticeboards, but even so the job took us the whole of the morning. Sandra offered to come with me on the Butterfly Transect. It was very warm and we counted more than 100 butterflies, mostly gatekeepers.

image24th. Chris wanted us to have another bonfire to get rid of the piles of ragwort that had been tipped onto the burning site. Jim and I had to climb over it all to set out newspaper, cardboard etc. The nettles had encroached since our last fire and the horseflies were about. It felt as if we were being attacked except that Jim didn’t seem to be affected. We had burned a bit by lunchtime, but the piles didn’t seem any smaller. We needed more heat to dispose of the ragwort, so Chris put the remains of a picnic table on the trailer and left that for us. On a day when the temperature reached 27 the last thing we really wanted as a blazing fire, but that’s what we got. Most of the ragwort was consumed in the flames.

30th. We had a bonfire. (I can’t think why they call me a pyromaniac!) Again we had to climb over the piles before Jim and I could start it with broken pallets that Chris brought on the trailer. Antony joined us while Sandra, Graham, Shaun and Tony pulled more ragwort from the wildflower meadow opposite. They all joined in once the field was clear of the yellow weed. A breeze fanned the flames, but then the ragwort soon turned it to smoke, which fortunately blew away from us most of the time. After lunch Chris led a team of 10 volunteers on a litter-picking expedition around Marbury. Huge numbers of visitors during the good weather have spread their rubbish generously. After about half an hour most of us turned our attention to cutting back in the arboretum.

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