Tree Belt Thinning

Our final four work days of the year have been spent at Jubilee Park, Rackheath, to thin-out a section of woodland and install a kissing gate on behalf of Broadland District Council.Β  The tree belt was planted in the late 1990s to surround a park created as part of a housing development that also saw the build of a new school. In common with similar tree belts the area was over-planted with many young trees that have since grown and compete with each other for light. Consequently, the trees grow tall and thin with few reaching a reasonable girth for their age. Thinning and coppicing removes the weaker trees and allows more light into the understorey benefitting the woodland floor. We can see the results of our last visit two years ago where the cleared section of woodland has regrown providing an age structure to the tree belt.

Coppicing begins in a new area of the woods where we are thinning out some of the trees to allow more light in to reach the woodland floor, to let the remaining trees and scrub to regenerate and encourage woodland plants to grow.πŸ™‚πŸ‘

On a very windy day at the end of November we started to work our way through a further section of the tree belt coppicing the hazel and field maple to open-up the woodland. Most of the larger trees are pines and we trimmed the lower dead branches of these. Cutting and handling tall, thin trees in a wind needs care so we worked our way methodically through the section. The cut trees were dragged onto the edge of the playing field to be chipped at a later date. Burning the material this close to houses would not be acceptable and in, any case, we could use the chippings for paths in the woods.

The magical art of kissing gate installing!! It reminds of the joke “How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb?”. Quite a few apparently. πŸ˜‰

On our second visit on 30th November our main task was to build a kissing gate to provide access to the lower corner of the park and a more direct route through to the school from the houses. The first job was to remove a fence panel alongside the road to create access to the woodland. Then it was a matter of getting into kissing gate mode and working out what we were going to do and how. We have plenty of experience of building these, but we also had some new volunteers to induct into the process! Agreeing the position of the hanging post (the one that supports the gate) is the key to success. Everything else is built around this. Stephen held the gate and from this the ideal position for the hanging post was determined. From then on it was mainly a matter of digging holes for the posts and then securely fitting these to provide a stable structure. Drilling the holes for the hinge pins and getting these in the right place and level takes a bit of care since we don’t want to have to drill another set of holes if we get it wrong! We got it right and offset the hinge pins slightly to ensure the gate closed by itself.Β  Holes for the other posts were dug and the posts installed. Side rails were fitted to the structure and also to fill the gaps between the old fence and the new kissing gate.Β The edges of the fence were tidied up using spare boards to leave a neat finish to the entrance. Meanwhile other volunteers continued to work through the tree belt coppicing and thinning out and adding to the pile of material to be chipped.

We have a plan, so continuing the coppicing and chipping of the brash and logs which will be used to create pathways through this section of the woods. πŸ˜€

Our following work days on 6th and 13th December were mostly spent chipping the cut material and clearing the piles on the park. Our trained volunteers operated the chipper while others continued to thin-out further areas of the tree belt. Just when we thought we got on top of the job of chipping a whole lot more cut material would be piling up nearby. So, it was a couple of days of dragging material and feeding it into the chipper and then moving to a different area and chipping some more – quite tiring. The chippings were spread along the paths within the tree belt. The chips are light and bulky, so you don’t get many to a wheelbarrow load. The volunteers worked tirelessly shovelling and raking the chips to create an attractive path through the woods. Although it is evident that it got a bit silly at the end of the last day of term when Paula had an urge to get immersed in her work!

Creating the pathways with our chippings from our previous work days here, followed by a quick game of bury your project leader!! πŸ‘πŸ˜€

Our last day was also a bit of a cake fest with Paula’s tiffin and my flapjacks to sustain us (recipes for both on our “Tailgate Tucker” section of the Blog). We also had mince pies, so the biscuits didn’t get much of a look in. No photos of the cakes but that was because Robert was too busy working his way through these to take any!

Well, it is the end of another calendar year and we have a break now until early January when we will back in a woodland somewhere around Norwich. Our final get together was our Christmas Lunch at the Cottage on Thunder Lane. Around 24 volunteers had an excellent meal and an opportunity to socialise in the warm and dry. It always surprises me how different the volunteers look in their “normal” clothes when you are so used to seeing them in their Fringe garb.

Some of the wonderful photos Robert took of the site when we were working at Rackheath Jubilee Park. Cracking stuff!! πŸ“·πŸ˜ƒ

So, it’s a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you from all our Project Leaders (Matt, Paula and Matt) and Volunteers at the Norwich Fringe Project. We have had another full and busy year visiting new sites as well as looking after our old favourites. The work never seems to go away and there is always more to be done to keep on top of it. Long may it continue since us volunteers really enjoy our days out in the countryside and can see the benefits to the environment of what we are doing. The social side of our work is also important and strong friendships have been built within our volunteer group – conversation and conservation is what it’s all about (fuelled by tea, biscuits and cake of course).