Earlham Marsh – Fencing Pollarded Willows

Friday 21st April 2017

Back in October we cleared some fallen willows in a corner of Earlham Marsh and on Friday we returned to build a fence around the stumps. The site is grazed by ponies and cattle who love to eat fresh willow shoots so any new growth would not survive and the trees would not fully regrow. The willow will regrow from the stumps and the only answer is to fence off the area until the trees have matured sufficiently to withstand grazing.

Sorting out the fence posts to be driven in around the pollarded willows.

This corner of the marsh was a bit soft underfoot with a variety of different ground conditions in the 8 metre square area o be fenced around the trees. Building a fence like this is a fairly routine activity and the starting point is working out the position of the corner posts and then knocking these in place with a fence post driver – a heavy metal tube with handles that is used to ram the posts into the ground. One corner was fairly wet hitting the water table quite quickly, a second corner was a mass of roots and difficult to find a way through, but fortunately the other two corners had sufficiently stable ground. However, just in case, the corner posts were all braced to provide extra stability.

Once the fence posts are in place the barb wire was strung and tensioned using a wire tensioner tool. Spanish Windlass were installed on a couple of the corner posts.

Once the posts were in place a bottom strand of barbed wire was strung and tightened. The next strand was placed and tightened but as the tension was increased the corner post in the wet area was uprooted. After a bit of head scratching it was decided to resit the post, install further bracing posts and construct a Spanish Windlass to this corner and one other. The Spanish Windlass consists of strands of wire looped between the corner post and additional bracing post which are then wound tightly to counteract the tension on the corner post. This worked and we were able to knock in the intermediate posts and complete the stringing of barbed wire with the right tension. In the end, a straightforward job that took a little longer than expected because of ground conditions but readily resolved through our experience of dealing with similar situations elsewhere.

Views of Earlham Marsh showing the River Yare and some Marsh Marigolds amongst the grass and sedges of the marshland.

There were some lovely stands of marsh marigolds close to where we were working which Robert captured on film. Most of the marsh is grass and sedge so the brightness of the marigolds really stood out.

Earlham Marsh sits within the Yare Valley and is one of a string of sites that we look after along the river. Our work dips in and out of these sites over the seasons so for a new volunteer to the Fringe Project it takes a while to realise that many of our sites are linked by the River Yare and form a chain around Norwich.

Some of the wildlife that can be seen as you walk along the embankment within Earlham Marsh.

Starting at Whitlingham Marsh many of our sites are dotted along the river’s edge – Trowse Meadow, Coopers Wood, Marston Marsh, Eaton Common, and Heronry Pond at Earlham Park. Crossing the Watton Road to a path by the church and following the river you come to Millennium Green Pond where the boardwalk leads to a kissing gate onto Earlham Marsh. A half-mile walk along the high bank beside the river brings you to another kissing gate and a path through to Bowthorpe Marsh which sits between Tollgate Road and Three Score. Follow the river under the road bridge and you are then into Bowthorpe Southern Park which has an entirely different habitat being partly a water meadow rather than a marsh and where we will be working next week. All of these areas are part of the floodplain for the River Yare.