Thursday 22nd & Friday 23rd November 2018
We returned to the UEA Fen to finish burning the willow scrub we coppiced previously. We were burning on sheets of tin to protect the environment which constrained the size of fire we could build and therefore the amount of material we could burn each day.
Generally, we are pretty good at building and lighting fires but despite our best efforts it took three attempts to maintain a fire on the Thursday. The fires would get going with a good blaze but as soon as we started to load larger branches it would peter out! Perhaps we didn’t have enough dry material to really sustain it or perhaps it was the dull and overcast weather which suppressed it – who knows. Anyway, after dismantling and rebuilding the fire for the third time (and lots of firelighters) we got it going and eventually had a strong fire and was able to work through the cut material.
We hauled all the cut willow from around the site to the fire site and burned this. It was apparent that we were going to clear the whole lot, so we started clearing some further areas along the dyke edge. Last time we were here the dyke was empty, although somewhat muddy to cross. The dyke had since filled which meant that we couldn’t get to the other side to clear the willow. We found in the reeds an abandoned rubber dinghy, complete with oars, but it clearly wasn’t in any shape to get us across the dyke!
Matt had previously hired a pump to dampen down the reed and extinguish the fire but had since splashed out and bought a new pump for the project. Fireman Chris still has links with the Fire Service and was able to source some surplus old hoses for our use. So, he and Alvin spent some time setting it up and checking out the hoses for leaks. You could see that Chris was back in his element neatly rolling out the hoses and playing with these. The new pump was powerful, and the extra hoses gave us a much longer reach and easily extinguished the fire at the end of the session. Given time we could have drained the River Yare!
Robert found plenty of fungi and other interesting growths to photograph in addition to capturing what we were up to. Over lunch on Friday we had an in-depth discussion on eating – our volunteers embrace vegetarian, vegan and meat-eating diets and it was interesting to hear their stories, menus and reasons for adopting a particular lifestyle. Lots of friendly banter and joshing going on and contradictions highlighted on all sides.
By our finish time on the Friday we had coppiced a substantial area of willow between the boardwalk and the dyke. Still more to be cut but that will have to wait for another time given that the area will become a lot wetter and probably inaccessible over the winter months. The area looks so much different from how it was when we started at the beginning of October. The reed and sedge will grow back next season but will not be so dominated by the willow.