Thursday 25th May & 1st June 2017
Our Thursday Volunteer Group spends a lot of time during summer months cutting grass and other vegetation to keep footpaths open. Our recent days at Earlham and Swardeston are typical of activities this time of year.
Earlham Millennium Green Pond – Thursday 25th May: The pond sits between Earlham Park and Earlham Marsh adjacent to the path linking the two areas. This is a busy path linking the Three Score development with the UEA and the Research park as well as a regular venue for dog walkers. Two years ago, the old wooden boardwalk on the right-hand side was removed and the bank built up from dredging to create a deeper pond and a better environment for the local wildlife. The bank is used by some walkers but the vegetation had grown quite dense along this.
The left-hand boardwalk follows the river bank. This is plastic and long lasting so requires fewer repairs than the old wooden boardwalk needed. But this doesn’t stop the grass, cleavers and nettles from growing along its sides and collapsing back onto the path.
We split into three teams: Michelle and Keith took on brush-cutting the right bank; Fireman Chris and I with Chrissie in support dealt with the boardwalk, while Paula, Rob and Robert and student Ben tackled a stand of brambles encroaching on the footpath and cleared other sections difficult for the brush-cutters to get into. It was a hot day so Michelle and Keith and Chris and I swapped duties regularly to spread the load of wielding the heavy brush-cutters around the pond. We also picked up litter and cleared along other paths in the area. The truck was parked under the trees so was a cool place for our breaks which included lemon drizzle cake from Michelle and a fruit cake from Paula.
Swardeston Common – Thursday 1st June: This is one of our favourite places and one that we visit throughout the year. The common has a variety of habitats with wide open meadow and densely wooded blackthorn areas and a number of ponds. During winter, it is coppicing and blackthorn management that keeps us busy while in summer the many paths need our attention. This is our first of what will be several visits this summer and the sides of the paths were thick with nettles, cleavers and other growth. We like to keep the entrances to our sites tidy so Michelle and I set out with brush-cutters to clear around the two main pedestrian entrances and the vehicle entrance (which Paula had difficulty negotiating on the way in). We also cleared around the four benches on site which Robert then painted. Paula and Rob set out with the big DR mower to cut the path edges. Student Will cut back the overhanging branches along the paths. The common is around 11 acres and has several main paths that required two passes per side to deal with the growth so a lot of walking on a warm day!
There are also many other paths across the site which Robert and Paula referred to as “desire paths” which was a new one on the rest of us. Apparently, these are paths that people (and wildlife) create to access areas not served by the main paths. Typically, they form short cuts across corners to link up paths. We did not cut back the “desire paths”.
Paula had parked the truck under a shady tree to give us respite from the sun during breaks. We feasted on my home-made flapjacks with the fruit flavoured with sloe gin made from sloes picked while clearing blackthorn at Swardeston a few years back. At the end of the day we walked around the site to see the many orchids growing in the water meadow at the bottom of the site. Earlier, Rob had counted more than 40 orchids just from the path and we found many more as we walked the meadow including Bee orchids (Ophrys apifera), Early Marsh orchids (Dactylorhiza incarnata) and Common Twayblades (Neottia ovata). It really is a most pleasant site to work at or to visit throughout the year and is real asset to the local community.