Marston Marsh and Danby Woods – A Miscellany of Jobs

Thursday 8th June & Friday 9th June 2017

This week our Volunteers caught up with a backlog of jobs on Marston Marsh and Danby Woods.

Marston Marsh on Thursday 8th June saw the team replacing a closing post on a kissing gate and clearing out a drain. The Closing post had rotted and was due for replacement. Paula, Keith, Rob and Robert set to work removing the side rails and digging out the old post. Replacing an existing post is not quite as easy as it might seem since the new post has to be placed exactly where the old post was to match up with the rest of the gateway. And old posts are rarely easy to remove since they have been there a long time and are quite content to remain connected to their surroundings! However, the post yielded to the perseverance of the Volunteers and was dug out and the new post fixed in place. Side rails were replaced and the gate latch refitted with a bit of juggling to the gate bolt. The gate has a chain and weight attachment to help this close but this was not working properly. The team found that by hanging some hammers and other tools on the chain that this just needed some extra weight.

Replacing a closing post of a kissing gate and clearing the drainage channel along Marston Lane. ^^’ 😎

Meanwhile, Chrissie and I cleared out the gully in front of the entrance gate on Marston Lane. The narrow gully is about 20 feet long and covered by around 15 sections of grating which regularly fills up with soil and debris washed down the lane and also from the Golf Course. It takes time to unbolt and remove the gratings. The whole gully was full of debris which the worms had turned into a rich friable compost. This had to be dug out by hand trowel and around seven buckets were removed and tipped on the edge of the marsh. The gully was then swept clean and everything put back in place.

We had an early finish today because Matt wanted the truck back to collect materials for Friday’s jobs.

Danby Woods/Marston Marsh Friday 9th June: Today we started at Danby Woods where the new path on Danby Park meets the path through the woods. There was a lip where the two paths met and this was proving difficult for wheelchair users. So today we laid crushed rock to provide a smooth area between the two paths. Edging boards were dug into the path in the woods and the area filled with the rock and tamped down using a mechanical whacker plate (a heavy machine that vibrates and levels the rock leaving a smooth finish). Sarah, who regularly uses the path, was in the woods and able to try out the new slope which met with her approval.

Off to Danby Wood to improve the pathway through the woods for wheelchair access. 😀

While the team were working on the path Matt and I dealt with some trees that had recently been felled. These were sycamores that had self-seeded along the fence line and grown too big for the site or had grown within the boundary fence or walls. Matt trimmed the stumps and I painted these with Roundup to stop further growth.

We then moved onto Marston Marsh where we installed a final post on the kissing gate fixed some weeks ago and laid more crushed rock in the gateway and whacked this down. Moving swiftly to the other end of Marston Lane we hung another old brake drum to the kissing gate fixed on Thursday and then drove across the marsh down by the river to lay the rest of the crushed rock in another gateway.

At the end of the day, a quick stomp around the marsh where we spotted some Southern Marsh Orchids (Dactylorhiza praetermissa), Ragged Robins (Lychnis flos-cuculi), Yellow Rattles (Rhinanthus minor) and Tufted Vetches (Vicia cracca). The featured image of the blog is a Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) just in case you were wondering. 🙂 😉

Before departing Matt took us on a guided tour of three field areas to see the wildflowers and, in particular, the orchids. When Matt took on management of Marston Marsh back in 2008 these three areas where covered in densely growing sedge. The area was species poor and nitrogen rich. Gradual cutting of the sedge and grazing of these areas has resulted in spectacular wildflower meadows with a wide variety of plants and the much-valued orchids. The yellow rattle and ragged robin has grown in abundance with meadowsweet now coming into flower. Matt is rightly proud of the changes to these areas and the benefits to wildlife from the much-improved habitat. The work of the volunteers has helped create these areas through cutting the sedge and removing this from the fields. The cattle then graze the new growth as well as churning up the soil allowing any dormant seeds to germinate and eventually recreate the flower meadows.