Marston Marsh – Squeeze Stiles, The Final Chapter

Thursday 27th April 2017

Our return visit to Marston Marsh on Thursday was to finish the building of the squeeze stiles by fixing wing-ends to each side. As explained in previous blogs the squeeze stiles were built to stop the cattle using the old crossing bridges and use the new bridges instead. The final element to be constructed was the wing-ends to discourage cattle from trying to get around the sides of the squeeze stiles. However, a determined cow will ignore barbed wire and high fences and whatever else you may do to discourage it!

Essentially wing-ends are lengths of timber fixed to the sides of the stiles which extend out across the dyke edge. The dykes serve as “wet fences”. We had previously built two prototype wing-ends but realised that we could get away with using shorter rails and thus halve the cost of the wood required – costs savings here means extra cash for other jobs. We had fourteen wing-ends to build and we also needed to shorten the previously built wings.

A well organised team finishing off the last few wing-ends of the squeeze stiles.

Following good practice honed over previous visits we divided the work into manageable tasks with someone cutting rails to the required lengths, a post knocking-in team and a rail fixing team. The wing-ends are positioned to extend out over the dyke so the posts supporting these needed to be closer to the edge than the stile posts but, because of the downward angled rails, could be set deeper to provide a more stable base. Knocking in fourteen posts using a heavy post driver and working right on the dyke edge is hard work and tricky but we avoided falling in. Getting the downward angle of the rails right was a mixture of measurement and what looked right! Having found the right (jaunty) angle the gauge on the spirit level was set and the team fixing each set of rails followed close on the heels of the team knocking-in the posts.

The tea break at half time had a cake count of two – Paula’s tasty fruit, nut and seeded flapjacks, and a delicious banana, orange and ginger cake from Robert with more than a hint of rum. If it wasn’t for the physical labour expended on the day we would find it increasingly difficult to get through the squeeze stiles with all these cakes!

A stroll through the completed squeeze stiles and a well deserved photo of the team with their handy work.

After tea, we completed the remaining wing-ends and had a celebratory team trek through all eight squeeze stiles. We then made our way through to the other end of the marsh to repair a vandalised fence around a bench.

The main gravel path around the marsh was laid some five years ago to create an accessible path between the Ipswich Road entrance and the Eaton Village gate. There are also many other paths crossing the marsh so we followed the riverside path through to the other end. The path follows the river edge and passes through a small area of woodland with many patches of native bluebells as well as flowering broom, gorse, and blackthorn. The path emerges close to a shallow area of the river where people have swum for many decades. Meanwhile Paula had driven round to get as close as possible to the damaged fence. We unloaded the tools and materials and carried these down to the bench where we repaired the broken fence.

Views of the river edge and a small area of woodland with patches of native bluebells and Highland cattle checking out the new stiles and pondering how to test them out!

That was it for the day so we made our way back to the Eaton Village Gate, had a cup of tea and departed. Having worked our way around the site from one end to the other using unfamiliar paths was a bit disorientating to one of our fellow volunteers who couldn’t quite work out where we were and how to get back to his car at the other end of the site. What he should have done was look at our interactive map on the Fringe website where he would have found the answer. The interactive map of work sites can be found by following this link to our ‘About Us’ webpage.

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