Mulbarton Common – Pathway Management Work

Friday 23rd October 2015

Mulbarton, so I am lead to believe, has the largest village green/common in England and at almost 47 acres there cannot be many that come close to this size. It has been maintained in this form from (probably) the Middle Ages with the grassland managed by livestock rather than arable farming. From the mid 18th century onwards, the common housed three windmills though none are still standing.

We met this morning at the village hall car park and were joined by some local residents who had an interest in our activity today. Under the guidance of an officer from South Norfolk District Council, we cut a path through a corner of the common, which is mostly grassland but also through some dense Blackthorn bushes. This path runs alongside the football pitches.

Mulbarton Common path cutting.
Mulbarton Common path cutting.

A two metre wide path was cut from either side of the bushes and more by luck than good judgment, the two paths met.  In this area of dense bushes, the two paths actually meeting in the middle was probably akin to Livingstone and Stanley meeting in the African jungle, as the Blackthorn towered 2 – 3 meters above us it certainly felt like that.

If you have ever handled Blackthorn, then you will know that you do so with great care, because as the name suggest, it has thorns; long and sharp and lots of them. Leather gloves are required for this work, and to emphasise how vicious the thorns can be, Matt even provided blacksmith’s leather gauntlets for those who wanted them.

Mulbarton Common path clearing
Mulbarton Common path clearing

Those cutting the blackthorn did so with great gusto, whilst those doing the grass cutting had the easy job of opening up a winding path through the tufted grass and trees. We were doing this to clear a trail through an area of the common which is rarely used.  Most of the common is grassland and cut regularly with mechanical mowers, and is well used by the villagers. However, the corner we were working on is away from the popular areas, overgrown with blackthorn and tufty grass and as a result less well used. A combination of brush cutters and a grass cutter were used to fashion the trail, which I am sure will be popular with dog walkers.

All the blackthorn that was cut down had to be disposed of so we made a bonfire to burn it all, which disappeared surprisingly quickly. Everybody always says they are astonished how an enormous mound of shrub and bushes is reduced to a small heap of ashes after a fire.

To prevent any trip hazards through the blackthorn section of the new path, the final job of the day was to dig up the roots of the bushes that were protruding from the ground, and then trying to smooth out the resulting peaks and troughs with a rake. Keith’s hard work on this would have made a good ‘’22 yards’’, but, without the grass!

Written by Alan Rae, Norwich Fringe Project Volunteer