Marriott’s Way Drayton – Tree Coppicing

Friday 13th November 2015

With ‘Abigail’ threatening high winds and rain, some people might of thought working in a wooded area was not the best of places to be today of all dates; but they would have been wrong.

Today we were clearing a section of ‘Marriott’s Way’ (where it crosses Costessey Lane, Drayton) which had become overgrown.

Just in case there are some people that didn’t know, ‘Marriott’s Way’ follows the route of an old railway line which was closed to passenger transport in 1960 and freight traffic in 1985, when the line was closed.

There was a bridge over Costessey Lane but when the line was closed the bridge was demolished. The bridge was quite high and so when the ‘Marriott’s Way’ was opened a slight detour was needed to cross the road. An upshot of this detour was a small area next to the road which became a car park.  As is the way in so many instances, the few spoil it for the many and the car park was used for – as they say – ‘’ unsocial activities’’. The parking area was therefore closed to traffic and allowed pedestrian and cycle access only. This area had become overgrown and was the focus of today’s activities; to clear the vegetation, a mixture of brambles and young trees.

Coppicing of trees around the site.

This footpath is a popular and well used, so we had to be extra vigilant, when using chain saws and brush cutters, to watch out for passing walkers and cyclists. The brambles were ‘mashed up’ with the brush cutter and the resulting mound of branches was moved to a corner of the site to make a habitat pile. This done, we then cut down the smaller trees with hand saws and Matt then cut the larger ones with his chain saw.  Normally, when doing this kind of work, we would burn all the smaller branches and leaves (brash) and make habitat piles with the larger branches, (which creates a nursery and living space for innumerable creatures). Today however, for safety reasons (the close proximity of the public), we didn’t light a fire.  Instead we stored all the felled trees on site, so that we can return at a later date with a chipper to reduce the timber to a pile of wood chips. This can then be used at another location for path maintenance.

Clean up of Marriot's Way Drayton
Litter picking and clearing up of site.

While most of us busied ourselves with ground clearing, Keith took on the task of reinstating an information sign which had fallen over as its old posts had decayed. The sign was to be moved to the side of the path which is on the old railway embankment. That seemed like a good place to locate it until Keith started to dig holes for the posts. The ground there was a solid mass of chalk and flint, which must have been brought in by the railway engineers when building the line. So it was that, with perseverance, Keith was still hard at work, digging post holes, while the rest of us were finishing of the tree clearing. Luckily we took pity on him and help was on its way.

Sign up, ground cleared, more tea drunk and all worn out, Matt said we could go home, as we had – ‘’all done very well’’- (as ‘’old’’ Mr. Grace would have said).  (If you are under 30, ask your mum & dad).

Written by Alan Rae, Norwich Fringe Project Volunteer