Earlham Marshes – Pathway Maintenance & Hedgelaying

Friday 5th February 2016

Earlham and Bowthorpe Marshes is a fairly extensive marsh area bordering the River Yare stretching from an area west of ‘Three Score’ and snaking its way to the Watton Road opposite Earlham Park. We have several access points to these marshes and today we were at the western most part of West Earlham. At this point there is a popular access to this public open space which was in need of some restoration. 

Over the years a million feet have worn away the earth around the ‘kissing gate’ access and other gates close by, so restoration work was needed. Matt had ordered 3 tons of crushed concrete to be delivered to the site for the repair work, which hopefully will not wear at the same rate as bare earth.

Chris and Keith loading up the dumper with crushed concrete and taking it one of the kissing gates to fill up some of the holes. Pete compacting the crushed concrete.
Chris and Keith loading up the dumper with crushed concrete and taking it one of the kissing gates to fill up some of the holes. Pete compacting the crushed concrete.

Moving this concrete would have needed some back breaking work if Matt had not brought along a motorised wheelbarrow. Self-propelled it might have been, but quick it was not (the joke about the squeaky wheelbarrow on a building site springs to mind. For those who don’t know the joke, I’m sure Keith will know how it goes.). As the majority of the concrete was to be moved a fair distance, watching the grass grow between loads was preferable to a bad back if we had used the normal barrows.

The concrete repair work needed only 3-4 people, so the rest of us set about with some hedge-laying work. If you have never done this work before, you ought to try it as it is a very satisfying endeavour. The basic premise of hedge-laying is to create a barrier to live-stock from an existing hedge. A disadvantage of a hedge is that as it grows the lower parts do not grow at the same rate as the higher parts and sometimes what growth there has been there lower down dies away, which creates gaps at the bottom of the hedge. Laying the hedge fills these gaps and encourages new thicker regrowth which is good for wild life, especially for birds.

Hedge to be laid to promote regrowth and a thicker hedge for wildlife. Alan and Chris started laying down the pleachers (cut, but still live trees) halfway down from where Kestra, Steff and Michelle were working. The final result is a hedge laid to create a natural fence line and a wildlife habitat.
Hedge to be laid to promote regrowth and a thicker hedge for wildlife. Alan and Chris started laying down the pleachers (cut, but still live trees) halfway down from where Kestra, Steff and Michelle were working. The final result is a hedge laid to create a natural fence line and a wildlife habitat.

While carrying out the hedgelaying task, a local resident seemed concerned in what we doing to the hedge. We talked and explained to them the benefits of this traditional method and showed them that the trees were not being harmed, and that by laying the pleachers, we are ensuring the health and longevity of the hedge. It was nice to meet and talk with the resident, who showed an interest in their local nature reserve.

For the first time in a few weeks the weather was not an issue, and we finished all our tasks in good time, with ten volunteers working today it shows the old proverb is right: –

Many hands make lights work,

except that we were not working with electricity!

Written by Alan Rae, Norwich Fringe Project Volunteer