Thursday 6th & Friday 7th September 2018
We work on a variety of sites and most of these are very attractive places to spend a day. Some sites might be a little less attractive but interesting for other reasons. And so last week we visited a couple of sites which highlight this variation.
On Thursday we were at Bowthorpe Southern Park where, under the guidance of Paula, we constructed a fence alongside a culvert. A new footbridge was being built across the River Yare to link the park with Colney. Apparently there had been some old stepping stones but these were no longer usable and impassable when the river is high. Contractors had laid a path to the new bridge and created a culvert to link the river to one of the large ponds in the park. A culvert is a structure that allows water to flow under something, in this case the footpath. Our project was to fence off the sides of the culvert and create a safer crossing.
We visit the park throughout the seasons to manage the hedgerows, clear around the new trees and maintain fencing. We have worked here on some extremely wet days (e.g. planting trees for the Norfolk Rivers Trust) but mostly we have had fair days and the more we work here the better we appreciate what a great site it is. There are a range of different habitats and the ponds and the river attracts a variety of wildlife. Thursday was warm and sunny, and we were working between the river and the pond in what was an idyllic spot. There were plenty of fish fry in the large pond that were also using the culvert to move to and from the river. We spotted a heron roosting in a nearby tree and the grazing horses came to see what we were doing. Also, many dragonflies laying eggs in the pond to produce the offspring for the year after next.
We formed a plan and split into two teams each tackling a side of the culvert. We were constructing a post and rail fence using round posts and long rectangular rails. The culvert has two large pipes running through it at an angle to the path. Our centre posts had to be placed between the pipes so as not to damage these. The ground was a bit soft over the culvert and we needed to get the posts in firmly to support the rails. Pilot holes were made with a spike and the posts knocked in using post drivers – heavy metal tubes with a handle each side used to hammer in the posts. It is hard work forcing a 4inch post into the ground and also ensuring that it is perfectly upright. We had regular stops to check that the angle was right in both directions and to check the depth. We also take it in turns to use the drivers since most of us are getting on a bit!
With the posts in place it was time to fit the rails ensuring these were level and evenly spaced (we always use a hammer length as our measure). Wing ends were built at 90o to the footpath to protect the sides of the culvert. Job done and time for a group photo of our volunteers proudly showing off the finished fencing.
On Friday it was off to the pub for the morning. Sadly, no beer on offer and, in fact, no pub either! We were back at the site of the Jolly Maltsters which was demolished in 1984 to make way for junction improvements on Carrow Road/ King Street, close to the Carrow swing bridge. This is a very busy section of the Norwich ring road being the main river crossing for vehicles on the East side of the City. We visit here annually to cut back the grass and hedging, and to collect up any rubbish.
The grass had grown very long and had collapsed onto itself into a dense mass. It is difficult to cut when it is like this and so hard work wielding the brush cutters to get down to the base of the growth. Once cut the grass was raked up and carried down to the back of the site where we created habitat piles. The piles from last year had rotted down to a small mound and this year’s cuttings will also reduce over the next twelve months. As in previous years we came across a wasp nest in the grass and worked round this to avoid getting stung. We only spotted the nest after we had brush cut the grass over it! We collected just one bag of rubbish hidden within the long grass and down the steps which isn’t too bad.
There is a section of the old City Wall on the boundary of the site and the steps to the old pub cellar run down beside this. Cutting the grass and clearing up rubbish makes a big difference to the appearance of the site which is passed by thousands of people every day – most of whom probably don’t notice it is there!