Hales Green – Thistle Bashing

Friday 24th June 2016

We went out on a bit of a limb today and it was more like ‘The Norfolk Fringe Project’. We travelled about 13 miles south of Norwich into deepest ‘South Norfolk’, to carry out some work on behalf of South Norfolk DC in an area just outside the village of Loddon, namely ‘Hales Green’.

‘Hales Green’ is a little separated from the village of Hales and is a small community in its own right. With a few houses and farms scattered around the perimeter, the ‘Green’ has an area of about 90 acres with common grazing rights and the roads and tracks that connect to it all have cattle grids to stop the cattle from wandering too far.

Our task (should we choose to accept it!!!!) was to help with trying to eradicate an epidemic of thistles, which the cattle will not eat. If the thistles are cut back before they flower (and then set seed) all the energy that the plant puts into growing is taken away. After seeding the plant would normally die back and any nourishment that is still in the plant is taken back into the deep root system in readiness for the following year.  Taking their nourishment away (by cutting the plant back shortly before flowering) will weaken the plant and hopefully it won’t flourish the following year. That’s the theory anyway!

Hales Green Thistle Bashing

When we arrived on site, there was already a big green tractor (Matt said he would give a prize to the first person to ring him and correctly identify the make of tractor) cutting the thistles back with a giant sized grass cutter (90 acres is a lot of ground to cut). Our job was to get into the places the tractor couldn’t reach (sounds a bit like a lager advert) with our brush cutters and small (by comparison) grass cutter.

Simple enough? Well as always, things didn’t necessarily go to plan. Firstly, our grass cutter threw a wobbly and broke a chain before midday, which meant it had to loaded back onto Matts trailer ready to be taken to the ‘Grass cutter doctor’ on the way home. Then Matt got a call from the office. An emergency, on one of his other sites and he had to leave in a hurry and would not be back here again today. So we had to pack up all our cutting equipment into Matt’s truck and call it a day. We had managed to get a good deal of the cutting done but another visit to this site will be necessary to complete the task.

And the big green tractor? Well when we left, the driver was still going back and forth across the green cutting thistles, he might still be there for all I know.

P.S. If you get a chance, a visit to this site will be worthwhile. It is a special tranquil place and on a sunny day a lovely place for an afternoon stroll.

Written by Alan Rae, Norwich Fringe Project Volunteer.