Cutting back the Rhododendron

We spent a few days thinning rhododendron at Spring Plantation back in 2017 and we returned on 31st January/1st February this year to continue working our way through this compact woodland that forms the plantation. One our previous Blogs, Spring Plantation – We’re Back includes a map and information about the site.

But first off, our Thursday work may not have started at all. Paula collected the truck and loaded up the tools at the depot, but the truck would not then start. A serious malfunction had incapacitated it. After a few phone calls, up steps a knight on a white charger to come to her aid. Keith and his trusty Nissan Note rushed to the depot and collected Paula and essential tools and then drove to the office to collect the all important brew kit and flasks of hot water and then it was on to Taverham where our keen volunteers were waiting to get started. Our volunteers are an integral part of the Norwich Fringe Project and will do more than just turning up and cutting a few branches. Keith was granted an extra piece of cake in recognition of his deed.

By reducing the amount of Rhododendron on site, this will allow more diversity of plant and tree species to develop and will benefit the long term health of the woodland. Win, win in my book. 👍😉

So, a slightly late start on a frosty and foggy day but we were ready to go. The brief was simple – cut back the invasive rhododendron and burn it. We were working on behalf of Broadland District Council and their notice explains why the work was required and the overall management aim for this site. The site is on a steep sided woodland and our fire site was at the top of this in a relatively open area. Before we started the view from the top of the wood down to the road was obscured by swathes of rhododendron, but the view quickly opened up as our volunteers got to work.

The fire was slow to start and took a while to get a hold. The rhododendron was green and sappy so took time to catch and burn. It was late morning before the fire really got going with enough heat to dry out the wood quickly and burn this. The leaves made a very loud crackling as they caught and burned, and the steamy smoke billowed in great swirls up into the surrounding trees.

Nothing like a good fire and a few smoke signals thrown in for good measure too!! 🔥🔥😉

With Paula back, we had cake – a fruit cake with extra brandy and a carrot cake. The team needed the sustenance since they made many trips up and down the steep slope to bring the cuttings to the fire site. Bob thought that he climbed the equivalent of Ben Nevis during the morning! All good exercise and helps to keep us fit and supple.

We were back on Friday with Matt to continue our work. The truck was fixed – a short circuit caused by wrongly placed screw during manufacture. The fire still had residual heat after Thursday and was ready to go but was reluctant to reach the temperatures achieved on Thursday. It had to be dismantled and smaller fires created to get the thing going so that we could burn the remainder of the Thursday cuttings and deal with our Friday output. By the end of the day everything was burned. It is probably the greenness and wetness of the rhododendron that caused the problems with the fire.

Amending the fence line around the kissing gate and making sure all the cuttings are burnt. 🔥😊🔨

Another job undertaken by fireman Chris and Alan was to add some further rails to the kissing gate installed last summer. The kissing gate stops people and their dogs from going straight onto the busy Sandy Lane, but some further rails were required to stop the smaller dogs easily getting through.

Matt had made a Madeira cake to boost our energy supplies. This is becoming a habit which we would not wish to discourage. We like cake!

A lot was achieved in our two days here but there remains a lot more rhododendron to clear around the site. A task for the future.