The ‘Eagles’ from Aylsham High School

Wednesday 8th February 2017

A bit of a change from our usual activities today in that we are working with school children from Aylsham High School.

Matt had asked us volunteers if we could work on another day to supervise a fire to burn brash on work that the ‘Norwich Fringe Project’ is undertaking with Aylsham High School and two of us put our names forward; Fireman Chris (as the children called him) and myself. This is the second Wednesday that we helped Matt here (the first being the previous week, 25th January), so this blog is about both of those days.

Matt instructing the ‘Eagles’ on the correct use of the tools for the days tasks.

The pupils from the school are year 7 Nurture Group (The Eagles) which primarily addresses the challenge of transition from often very small primary schools to a large secondary school environment for our most vulnerable learners. It also helps us ensure that students are given the academic, social and emotional support they need at this hugely significant transition point.

The work we had to do was to clear one side of the ’Marriotts Way’ where it starts/finishes on Norwich Road (opposite the railway station) in Aylsham.  This work is part of ongoing work sponsored by ‘Norfolk County Council’ to manage this long distant footpath, where local community participation is a prerequisite; hence the High School involvement.

A very happy ‘Eagle’ litter picker!!

What we had to cut back and burn was a fairly dense patch of Blackthorn. The pupils were first given instruction on how to use bush saws and loppers and then under the watchful eyes of teachers and other volunteers they set about cutting down the foliage. Chris and I had earlier prepared an area where we could light the fire which we soon got going with the brash that the ‘Eagles’ brought us. Soon, we had a large pile of branches to burn as they brought these faster than we could burn them but as the fire got bigger so the brash disappeared more quickly. The weather that first day was grey and not very warm but we didn’t have any complaints about the cold from the ‘Eagles’ so they must have been enjoying their day out of school.

Everybody joining in on the fun.

Today, being our second day of cutting and burning, the weather was colder and a bit wetter but still the cutting, laughter and loud voices continued throughout the day. Their teacher – Mr. Sweatman kept a close eye on proceedings and kept his pupils in order and working hard. One highlight of the day was when Matt pollarded a few trees with a chainsaw. This created a lot of interest amongst the ‘Eagles’ and they enjoyed pulling the pollarded branches down with a long rope. Several of them teamed up to pull the larger branches to the fire which kept them occupied most of the afternoon with much merriment.

Success. One of the branches pollarded by Matt and pulled down by some mighty ‘Eagles’. Job well done!!

We have one more visit to make with the ‘Eagles’ which will be in mid-March, so let’s hope the weather is warmer and drier on that date. To read more about the ‘Eagles’ own experiences of their days out with the ‘Norwich Fringe Project’ then follow this link to Aylsham High School’s website and here is a couple of the presentations that they did as well.

Written by Alan Rae, Norwich Fringe Project Volunteer.