Heron Gates1st  Steph took charge of the volunteers this morning, setting us off on various tasks at Marshall’s Arm. She gave Elna and me a bucket, brushes and detergent and took us to the Heron Gates at the bottom of Saxons Lane. The gates were covered in green algae, giving them the look of being uncared for. s arm

We were to be the scrubbers and since I had been doing a similar job yesterday, Maria declared me to be a pro. The water was freezing cold and soon found our arthritic fingers. With the gates almost restored to the original black, we joined in the litter pick, focusing on the area near where we had parked the car. Litter picking seemed to be the theme for the day, as Dave directed seven of us to Furey Wood with bin sacks. Down by the river it wasn’t so much litter as fly-tipping and the sodden discarded bedding of someone who’d been sleeping rough. To add insult to injury there was a shower of hailstones. After two and a half hours it was time to go with the trailer piled high. There is still more rubbish littering the site, but much of it is in difficult, if not inaccessible areas, where the ground is steep and unstable.


7th  I spent the morning cleaning the chalk boards. The recommended ‘wipe clean with a damp cloth’ approach was proving unsuccessful, so tougher measures were needed. I nipped home for some household abrasive and, with a bit of elbow grease and some neat lettering, the boards  were ready to advertise Friday’s Family Orienteering Event. Frances helped me to position them outside the cabin and by the entrance arch. I walked down to Haydn’s Pool with Robin and Jayne in fine weather for the official ceremony for the Sand Martin Bank. Twenty-four people representing Cheshire West and Chester, Chester Zoo, Brunner Mond, Mersey Forest, Northwich Guardian and FoAM gathered around the interpretation panel for the unveiling.  We then climbed the steps to the hide for light refreshments. Some got their first glimpse of the Sand Martin Bank itself. It was the culmination of almost two years hard work by a lot of people.

8th  Frances and I saw ourselves as superfluous to the planned attempts to float the nesting platform and anchor it on the far side of Budworth Mere. On earlier walks we had both noticed areas where litter had accumulated and offered to tidy up. We started along the Fisherman’s Path at Anderton and by the time we had reached Carden’s Ferry Bridge we had as much as we could carry. Most of the rubbish had been left around makeshift seating areas along the pipeline. Behind the bench on the edge of Marshall’s Wood there was en empty Grolsch box, so we searched for the 15 bottles. We managed to find ten spread over quite a wide area. We suspected that the rest might be en route from the town centre, possibly on Carey Park. We tied up a very heavy full sack of rubbish and left it for Dave to pick up in the Land Rover later. We shared the litter clearance at Neumann’s Flash with Steph. The hides were the main grot spots, where litter had been posted through the viewing slots. It seems we missed some entertainment as Vernon wrestled with the nesting platform in the water and no photos are available.

sculpture14th  Seven volunteers joined Dave on Anderton car park. The area around the new sculpture needed sprucing up. Liz, Frances and I were picking up sticks and stones so that the grassy areas could be mown. Meanwhile the strong-arm brigade (Vernon, Ian, John, Jim and Dave) were doing heavier work like moving the warning sign for speed bumps a few yards further along the drive. It was detracting from the view of the sculpture. We cleared the encroaching grass away from the granite setts and used it to patch areas needing a bit of turf. The area behind the coach park was next to receive treatment with removal of items that might damage the mower. Dave had done some thinning of trees near the marina, so there were logs to be loaded onto the trailer along with all the tools. The day wasn’t over, as it took half an hour to unload it all back in the yard.

15th  Prior to our arrival at Marbury Elna and I had been nominated for bonfire duties. Weather conditions were ideal and the flames were soon consuming everything. Unfortunately there were some flying sparks that attacked us. I thought that I had extinguished the one on my thigh, but soon realised that it was in my fleece pocket. Elna rushed to get my jacket off, not easy when both of us were wearing protective gloves. She threw my car keys out of the way and stamped on the fleece, but there was already a huge hole in the pocket. I must remember not to put my keys in that pocket in future. We installed a warning notice and joined the others in the cabin for lunch. Cannon April 2010 001There was still more tidying up to do at Anderton. Following Dave’s thinning there were piles of brash to go through the chipper. It was bright and sunny making walking to and fro dragging trees thirsty work. It didn’t help that a couple from one of the boats were sitting at a picnic table supping beer. They were kind enough, though, to fill Maria’s water bottle and add some ice. The trailer was fast filling up and Maria was given the job of climbing up and tossing the woodchip to the front to make room for more. Dave felled just a few more trees and we had more logs and brash to deal with before packing up and returning to the yard to tidy everything away.bonfire

21st  I was teamed up with Elna for another bonfire. It was a warm, sunny afternoon, which soon got hotter as the huge pile that faced us was  reduced to a few smouldering logs and a carpet of ash.

28th Jim and I began by pulling logs out from under the cabin and wheeling them to the other end of the yard. Chris cut them into shorter lengths with the chain saw. Jim carefully climbed into the charcoal burner.

Jim in the bin I passed newspaper and kindling so that he could set up the base of the burn. Chris wondered if Jim would be any good to eat, but we decided against. Next came the browns (partially cooked charcoal) before we started adding logs. Dave took over with the chain saw in the afternoon and we were joined by Elna, Diana, Ian, Robin and Vernon, who all helped by splitting the larger logs with axes. The yard became a hive of activity and a dangerous place to be. The supply of logs under the cabin was exhausted and so was I, but at least the kiln was full. The lid would keep it all dry until it was lit. There were logs by the fence that now needed to go under the cabin to dry out ready to begin the process again. That started a general tidying of the yard.

29th Today was designated a Team Task Day for the rangers, so there were seven rangers and eight volunteers making their way to Furey Wood. Dave sent Joanne and I off with bow saw and loppers to cut back along the main paths around the fields.   IMG_0043 (2)In places the brambles threatened to invade the path. We received further instructions to remove a willow sculpture. A couple walking their dogs told us that it had looked great when it was installed, but by the following day it had been trashed. After lunch in a very crowded cabin we returned to finish the job in the rain. RichardWe could hear a chain saw on the other side of the field and went to lend a hand dragging the logs and brash away from the paths. Willow and white poplar trees had been leaning at precarious angles over the paths and had to be felled. We all met up again in the car park just after four o’clock in various states of dishevelment, depending on the jobs we’d been doing. Removing chicken wire from the steps was blamed for creating the muckiest volunteer. No embarrassing photos were taken.

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