Danby Wood – Work Day with the Friends of Danby Wood

Saturday 13th May 2017

Working with community groups is a key element of the work of the Norwich Fringe Project. Such groups tend to work in their local area and therefore take pride in improving their amenities and the environment. It is also a social occasion enabling neighbours to meet and work together in a different way. The Friends of Danby Wood (FoDW) has been set up by the Eaton Rise Residents’ Association and meets about four times a year to do conservation management work under the guidance of the Fringe Project.

Views of the wood including Columbine Aquilegia vulgaris and Wood Forget-me-not Myosotis sylvatica.

Danby Wood is on the site of an old chalk mine with many banks, steep hills and deep hollows. The site is criss-crossed by paths and is well used by locals and visitors and as a route through to the adjacent Marston Marshes. From the car park, there is a slope up to the main pathway cutting through the site but the chalky surface gets very slippery when wet. One of the tasks today was to build a set of steps on the slope to improve access and to stop further erosion of the bank. To the left of the slope is an old collapsed ice house which was once part of the Harford Hills House estate. There is much industrial archaeology on the site so minimal intervention was needed here. The Geograph website has further information about the old chalk mine and the history of the site here.

On Saturday, a team of around 13 from the Eaton Rise Residents’ Association met at Danby Wood on Ipswich Road to continue their conservation management activities. Overseen by Matt the main tasks were to spread crushed rock on the steps built last year and build new steps on the slippery bank from the car park.

New steps being installed on a slippery slope and the final result with the team involved.

After a bit of discussion, the team building the new steps worked out how best to place these avoiding the many roots and old bricks on the bank and with minimal intrusion. Having decided that the steps did not need to be of equal length or spacing we dug shallow trenches to hold the timber in place. We were using 2.4 metre length sleepers for the steps which were very heavy to handle. These were cut to size and put in place to check the levels and fit. Once in the right position stakes were hammered-in to hold the steps firmly in place. A flight of four steps was built and then secured to the stakes. The top inch of soil between the steps was dug out and replaced with crushed rock to provide a firm surface. It took around three hours to complete and it was great teamwork that got the job done.

Meanwhile another team were cutting back the soil surface of the steps built last year and dressing these with crushed rock. Not an easy task since this required many barrow loads of rock to be moved down a steep slope and then spread across the steps. The finished crushed rock surface is much more walker friendly than the soil it replaced and will be usable all year round.

The young trees that needed weeding and the flight of steps that was previously built that required dressing with the crushed rock.

Other tasks undertaken were to clear around the whips (young trees) planted earlier in the year to remove any vegetation that would impede growth. A litter pick around site collected several bags of rubbish and a long coil of wire.

Tea break was an opportunity to chat and sample a few jam doughnuts – sticky but very tasty! Further photos from the day can be found on the FoDW Facebook page here.

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