Thursday, 25 February 2016

Yellow Peril – High-vis Wednesday

24th February 2016

After last week’s rather damp Wednesday, where a few hardy souls from the conservation team spent the day clearing a patch of rhododendrons near the Lily Pond; today the weather reverted to type, bright sunshine and blue skies but cold.

Piles of bark chippings ready for spreading.

The small group of volunteers donned high-vis jackets and armed with wheelbarrows, shovels and rakes set off for the Strawberry Castle Play Area. The task for the day was to spread out bark chippings over the play areas. The whole play area is being upgraded and contractors were on site with earth moving machinery – hence the need for high-vis jackets.

The finished job.

Loading up the wheelbarrows from the large piles of bark chippings and spreading them over the play areas soon had us warmed up. By lunchtime our supply of bark chippings had run out, so after a short break it was back off to continue the deforestation of the rhododendrons by the Lily Pond – a seemingly never ending task!

The cleared areas.

Not yellow peril but early primroses.

Phil Coyne

Monday, 15 February 2016

Orange Spot

10th February 2016

Frost covered the hollow of the Hollow Walk, and stamped out the pattern of fallen leaves among the trees. The noise of an explosion of jackdaws from the Old Hall faded, and gave way to the call of a red kite.

Frosty Leaves
The kite circled low, its colours embellished in the winter light. The bird settled for a moment in the high top of a Wellingtonia , then again drifted low and slowly above us - quite possibly, like a robin, attracted by human activity, hoping to spot some easy pickings. Instead, what it saw, were three old men in the woods chopping down trees: old, but not carrion yet.
Cutting down silver birch
After a week elsewhere, we were back in Hollow Walk Dene seeking out Ranger Liam’s orange-spotted birch trees to cut down, to let in more light and reduce competition. Remaining birch will have opportunity to grow faster and stronger; ground vegetation should thrive and, perhaps, become more diverse. And the Wednesday Conservation Team will become fitter and stronger - though, at the time, it didn’t feel like that; knackered, is what it felt like.
This young stretch of woodland is faring well. Here and there we tugged out the odd western hemlock sapling – all that remains of a commercially planted and aggressively invasive species. From among patches of heather we cut back birch, broom and bramble.  Better for the heather, and better for the rarely seen stag’s horn club moss that grows amidst it in places.
Plan of Nature Playscape
Last week the orange spots marked the dispatch of some large holly from the Woodland Playscape area near The Stables. This time the intention was not so much to make room for ground flora, but to make way for children attracted to the newly constructed willow tunnel. As it turned out, the tunnel was lucky to survive the crude felling technique of over-eager, macho volunteers. The day was saved, though, by the skills of Conservation Volunteer Mary, as several males of the species looked on: perhaps not diminutive in stature, but much diminished in reputation.
The holly dead hedge takes shape
The men look on whilst Mary works!


The Perfect End to The Day

Steve Wootten & Phil Coyne