Friday 29th June 2018
Our Friday group met up at Hales Green near Loddon to build a new kissing gate and do a bit of mowing. Hales Green is a very large common managed by South Norfolk District Council (SNDC) for whom the Fringe Project was undertaking this work. Helen Sibley from SNDC joined us to tell us about the project and get us started. The main task for the day was to replace the old gate with an accessible kissing gate and also tackle the thistles on part of the common.
We last visited the site in 2016 to cut back the rampant thistles and contractors occasionally top the site to try and keep these under control. Our team tackled the areas that the tractor can’t get to such as the edges of ditches and banks. Hales Green is around a mile long from top to bottom, so Matt gave Alan and Robert a lift to the area for cutting (around a half mile away) and then collected them in time for lunch.
Our main focus though was the kissing gate and the starting point was to dismantle the old gate and fencing which included removing the rotting gate post – a tough job on a very hot and sunny day. Once everything was cleared away we sorted out where the new 8ft hanging post would go and how the field gate would best close against this – the opposite way around as it happens. The ground was very dry, hard and stony so digging the new post hole was hot and difficult work and so was shared between us. With the post in position, the new kissing gate could be offered up to the post and the location of fittings determined. The gate hangs on the top pin with an adjustable eye located on the bottom pin. Getting the holes in the right position on the post is crucial so a lot of measuring and checking went on before any holes were drilled.
Having hung the kissing gate, we worked out the location of the closing posts on each side and then the position of the other posts. From thereon it is a (not so simple) matter of digging holes, setting posts and fixing side rails. A kissing gate has to enable cyclists and people with prams and wheelchairs to use it so has to be big enough to hold these while the gate is swung from one side to the other. The final task is to hang weights on the gate to ensure that it always closes against one post to prevent cattle from getting through. We are getting better at doing this, but it is a matter of trial and error with positioning the weights and chains to ensure a smooth closing action.
The previous weekend I had replaced a fence and gate at home and my experience of doing similar things with the Fringe Project helped enormously. However, working by yourself is not the same! You don’t get the banter nor the constructive criticism or the chance to have a bit of a mardle over a cup of tea. Being able to share experiences and explore options helps us to work out solutions that enable the job to get done. Occasionally things might not work, and we have to take things apart and start again. So, one of the benefits of working with the volunteers at the Fringe Project is the comradeship and fellowship from being with other like-minded folk out in the countryside and, generally, with reasonable weather.