Marston Marsh – Finishing the Squeeze Stiles

Thursday 20th April 2017

This Thursday saw a return visit to Marston Marsh to build the remaining five squeeze stiles. Not as warm as our last visit with a chilly wind so we were all grateful for our Norwich Fringe windproof fleeces which kept us cosy.

On our last visit, we built three stiles and worked out the size and shape of the stiles and how to best position these. This week we got a production line going with Keith and Chrissie busy cutting the rails to required lengths and creating a “flat pack” for each stile. Meanwhile other volunteers knocked in the support posts on the first crossing and handed this over to Chris the fireman and team who began fixing the rails in place. And so, we got a system going with a team moving across the marsh bridge by bridge to knock in the posts followed by the team fixing rails to complete the task.

The production line in full swing creating the squeeze stiles.

It was not all plain sailing since the ground conditions along the dyke edge were not always sufficiently stable to place the posts in our preferred position and occasionally both posts had to be moved further back from the edge. Somehow it always seemed to be the second post being placed that was unstable meaning that we also had to remove the first post (which was nice and stable and firmly in place) and start again. Not an easy task since the posts were around three-foot-deep and the marshy ground creates suction which makes these difficult to extract without digging them out.

The “flat pack” system worked well with minimal tailoring required for the final finish and no bits left over at the end! The important thing was to ensure that the rails were fitted to the right face so that the rails were placed on the front of the posts as approached from the marsh. This way the cattle would not be able to easily push the rails off the posts when having a good scratch.

The last squeeze stile created and installed for the day.

We are keen to get the levels right on every job and use spirit levels to ensure posts are upright and rails are level. Sometimes though, even when everything is level, it doesn’t look quite right (“on the sosh” as they say in Norfolk or, “on the huh” for those of us from Suffolk) so after some debate and the team examining the structure from different positions we decided to go for looks rather than accuracy. It is undoubtedly the undulating terrain that makes things look as if they are out of kilter but in the end, it is how things look in the landscape that often wins.

Our next visit to Marston Marsh will be to fit the wing ends to each side of the eight squeeze stiles to stop the cattle getting around the sides of these.

A well deserved break for a cuppa and some cake.

Our cake count this week was two – an orange and banana cake from Robert and seeded flapjacks from Paula. Cakes always cheer us up and help boost our energy levels far more than biscuits ever do – especially on a chilly day.