Winter Work of Thinning and Clearing

Friday 14th October 2016

This blog is an amalgamation of the blogs that have gone unwritten over the last three weeks (only the over inquisitive would now ask at this point – ‘why have they gone unwritten?’) but as they are essentially all the same story, blending them into one narrative seems like the right thing to do.

Over the last three weeks we have embarked on our winter work of thinning and clearing willow trees from the River Yare valley which runs south of Norwich from West Earlham through to Marston Marshes.

I have written in the past how willow, if left unmanaged, will quickly become a dense and impenetrable no-go area, especially in the wet river margin areas. This is usually because the ground is soft and boggy and does not give the tree roots a great deal of support in strong windy weather, which can lead to them being blown over. If not this then the trees larger and heavier branches can snap off at the trunk. In either case branches which make contact with the ground can re-root themselves and this creates a mass of near horizontal and vertical branches, which given enough time will themselves fall over and re-root, and on and on it goes.


The situation at West Earlham was not quite that bad, as the trees are on ground that is ‘drier’ and the clearing work was in the main branches which had broken away or getting too close to this state. This made the coppicing and clearing much easier but it still took three visits to get done what Matt wanted to be done.

The Marston Marsh site was a different kettle of fish all together. On a part of the marsh that I don’t think has been managed for many, many moons, we had to fight our way into this section. (I say ‘we’, but in fact I was not there when our ‘Stanley’ set foot into this willow jungle looking for Livingstone.)  The ground, in comparison to West Earlham, is soft and boggy and in the wet weather this area would have been under more than a few inches – sorry – centimetres of water. Work here was a lot more arduous and the trip hazards a lot more numerous but a good start was made in opening up this tract of woodland.

Altogether on these two sites I think we spent six working days cutting and burning, chatting and drinking Matt’s tea.

Written by Alan Rae, Norwich Fringe Project Volunteer.