Thursday 27th July 2017
We have spent many hours repairing and maintaining boardwalks but this time our Thursday group were removing a section of rotten and damaged boardwalk on Whitlingham Marsh. We were working in a secluded area of the marsh, close to the A47 and the river crossing, where the boardwalk spans a wide dyke and wends its way round to a platform overlooking a pond. This was the site of an old hide which eventually collapsed and was removed some time ago. A few years back, just before the Dexters were introduced to the marsh, we constructed a squeeze stile on the boardwalk to stop the cattle getting across the bridge. The boardwalk on the marsh side had been in place for many years and had rotted and been damaged further by the cattle walking on it.
However, before we could get to the work area we had to clear away overhanging branches and cut back nettles etc. so that we could get the truck closer to the workplace. (Don’t want to have walk too far for our cup of tea and the ginger bread men made by Paula!) Once cleared Paula backed up the truck and we sorted out our tools and planned how best to approach the job. There were a number of rotten boards on the retained section of the boardwalk so we took the opportunity to reuse the best of the removed boards to repair this section.
We first had to remove a layer of wire netting used to provide an anti-slip surface and then start prising the boards off the bearers. The team (fireman Chris, Keith, Michelle, Chrissie, Robert and Rob) methodically worked their way along the boardwalk removing the boards and stacking these to one side. The friendly Dexter cattle came over to see what we were doing and had to be shooed away otherwise they would have just got in the way. So inquisitive!
Meanwhile Rob and Chris worked their way along the other section of boardwalk to identify boards that needed replacing and started removing them. Some boards had rotted through leaving gaping holes on the structure and others were in a very bad condition. The old boards were prised out and the replacement boards nailed to the bearers and the netting stapled back in place. Keith and Chrissie walked over to the riverside to repair a kissing gate spring which had become loose.
Once the boards had been removed we were faced with what to do about the bearers which were made of old sleepers and supported the handrail along the dyke edge. They were a potential trip hazard so some had to be removed and others, which were already part-buried, were covered over to make them safe. The handrail was secured in place. The old rotten boards were then moved to an open area where they could be burned later in the season.
Although not far from the busy A47 this section of the marsh has a tranquillity about it. The pond was full of plants and buzzing with wildlife. From the platform, there was a good view across the marsh to the riverbank. The Dexters were now quietly grazing on the far side having decided that we were no fun! Just as we had got back to our cars there was a sudden downpour – just in time for those with cars but a time to get out the waterproofs for the cyclists (me!). 🚴🌧☔