Earlham Marshes – Marshland Management Work

Friday 11th September 2015

We were at Earlham Marshes today, located off Wilberforce Road in West Earlham down by the River Yare

It was a lovely sunny day on Earlham, where we were undertaking several different management tasks. The Projects volunteers has already been out the day before repairing the barb wire fencing, which keeps the cattle and horses, our mowing machines, safe on the marsh.

Today’s task involved, cutting backing the encroaching willow trees along the ditch edge, mowing or topping  the nettles and thistles, which will enhance the growth of other plant species, as well as stopping the thistles from seeding and keeping the area looking nice.

The cattle corral near the entrance to the site had become over grown with vegetation, blackthorn and elder trees, our first task was cutting all this back.

The main task I undertook was with Keith, another of the regular volunteers; this involved walking across the marsh to the perimeter fence and checking the fence posts for weaknesses. Four posts were replaced overall due to them being rotten and broken. The marshland was quite difficult to walk across, especially with the equipment we were carrying.

When we got to one of the small ditches, we passed the tools and posts over to the other side before jumping over. When one of the ditches was too wide, we passed the tools over again, but placed two of the posts straight across it. Keith and myself then very carefully walked over it using the spade as a kind of support.

When we were replacing the posts, we first removed and disposed of the staples holding the barbed wire on the rotten post before lifting the post out with the help of the spade. We then placed a new post back in the hole and used a sledge hammer to secure it in the ground. We finished by reconnecting the barbed wire.

After we had finished the job, we headed back and it was only then I realised how close we were to another site called Earlham Millennium Green. In the meantime, I took a few photos and we walked back for our coffee break. After lunch we went back to collect the rotten posts.

When we returned, a fire had been started to burn the willow that Matthew Davies, Project Officer, was coppicing and clearing back, including the blackthorn and elders trees from the cattle corral.  However, after a while, some very inquisitive cows ventured over and began eating some of the cut willow trees lying on the floor, this was fine and a treat for them.  The smoke seemed to keep the irritating flies out of the way of the cows too, which must have been a relief for them. I even fed a cow at one point holding a willow branch out for it to nibble

Earlham Marshes1

By the time we had finished it was nearly 3pm, everyone then began to leave as we said goodbye to the cows. Matt stayed behind to make sure the fire remained under control, until it went out.

The job was then complete on a warm, September afternoon. Roll on next week.

Written by Tom Butters, Norwich Fringe Project Volunteer