Making Hay While The Sun Shines

Thursday 17th & 21st August 2017

At the end of July, we started our hay cut at Swardeston Common meadow but decided to postpone the work on two further areas because the wild flowers were still in bloom. Our Thursday group led by Paula returned on 17th and 21st of August to cut the remaining areas and we have a further visit on 31st to complete the work. We cut and remove the grass and dying flowers to enable the meadow to regenerate the following year. If we left the meadow to its own devices it would quickly become clogged with dead material and become a nitrogen rich but species poor field. The mass of wildflowers seen during earlier visits would eventually disappear.

Time to swing into action and get this wildflower meadow mowed ready for next years crop. πŸ˜‰

Using brush cutters, we cut the grass and wildflowers and then rake this off and clear the area. Not as simple as it sounds since on both days it has been hot and sunny and the work is heavy and continuous throughout the session. In places, the grass and reeds along the perimeter were choked with bindweed which is difficult to cut and got tangled around the shafts of the brush cutters. The ideal machine for the job is a reciprocating mower which would do a low-level cut leaving the grass etc long and easier to rake off but we didn’t have one available. Our rotary DR mower is not suitable for this job since it would cut the grass in short lengths and therefore difficult to rake up and remove.

Having cut the grass, we raked this into piles and then loaded it on to tarpaulins and dragged these to the edge of the meadow where we created habitat piles. So, on each day it was cutting and raking and dragging the grass to the piles until we had had enough and decided it was time to finish. It is hard and very hot work especially dragging the filled tarps which we always seem to overload! And, of course, we are not getting any younger!

On the final stretch and it is time to gather up the last cuttings (including Paula), dump them to the side of the meadow and admire our handing work. πŸ˜€πŸ˜ŽπŸŽ‡

Paula ensured that we rotated brush cutting duties since it was hot and heavy work cutting the long grass. Michelle, Keith, fireman Chris, me and Paula shared the brush cutting duties. Rob, Robert, Tim and Chrissie raked and dragged, helped by those “resting” from brush cutting duties. Sue returned on 21st after a long absence following a skiing injury back in January, it is good to have her back with us.

Although it is all hard work we need to keep our strength up and tea breaks with energy boosting treats are essential. On 17th it was one of those days when several people turned up with cakes so we had a lemon drizzle cake from Michelle, cakes from Paula and I had made some scones. And just to be on the safe side Robert had brought some chocolate chip cookies as back up! And just in case you were thinking that we are a greedy lot, we didn’t finish all the cakes so they were taken back home by their bakers. On 21st we had flapjacks from Paula and bread and elderberry jam made by Chrissie from the elderberries picked at Swardeston the previous week. Chrissie had also brought a range of other jams made from fruit picked at our sites during previous work sessions. Who needs the Great British Bake Off when the Norwich Fringe Project is around?

Cheers from some of the volunteers to Matt, Cassie and Eddie on their new family addition, Ralph. From left to right the crowd is Chris, Fireman Chris, Keith, Chrissie, Tim, Robert, Michelle & Rob. After lunch we quickly picked up the rest of the clippings and quietly collapsed to watch the clouds go by. πŸ˜€πŸ‘ΆπŸ‘ΌπŸŽˆ

On 16th of August Matt’s wife Cassie gave birth to their new son Ralph so Matt is taking a few weeks off. We congratulate Cassie and Matt and son Eddie on their new addition to the family. We took a team photo of us drinking a toast toΒ them during one of our tea (and cake) breaks. We are ready and willing to partake in a more formal toast when Matt can fit this in!

During September, we will be working with Matt on Wednesdays and Paula on Thursdays so that Matt can help out at home on Thursdays and Fridays. We will have a new project cutting a ride through woodland at Thorpe Marriott to keep us busy for the month and our forthcoming blogs will tell you all about it.