Fenland, Woodland and Commons

Our volunteers have again been visiting the Fringes of Norwich employing their skills and expertise across different habitats over the past few weeks of September and October.

UEA Fen – More Willow Clearance

Our first stop was four days at the UEA Fen continuing our campaign of clearing willow and alder scrub to help maintain the fen habitat. We started clearing the area last year and returned to the site on 26th September to pick up where we left off. Over four workdays we coppiced the scrub and burned the arisings. Unless checked the willow and alder will, through natural progression, gradually turn the area into wet woodland and eventually into dry woodland as the trees lower the water table. By removing the trees and treating the stumps the reeds and other vegetation can maintain a foothold and preserve this precious area of fen.

A good bonfire gets rid of the willow scrub cuttings, and to ensure the fire does not get out of control we hose it down with water at the end of the day. Oh, and a green elf cup fungus was found too. πŸ‘

There was no access to get a chipper in and leaving the cut willow as habitat piles would not work since it would just take root and grow again from where it laid. So, we cut a lot down and burned it. The long branches have to be processed to reduce these into manageable lengths for the fire which kept our team busy cutting, dragging ready for the fire. Willow burns quickly and very hot, so we got through most of it before it was time to damp down the fire to leave the site safe.

Always great to see what we have achieved at the end of day and how much has been cleared. Our Oz visitors from Perth (Sharon & Grant) and Steph one of our student volunteers from old. πŸ˜€

Helping out with our UEA Fen work were a couple of visitors from OZ (family members of one of our volunteers, Michelle who looks after the website and social media accounts) and a returning volunteer and ex Easton & Otley College student, Steph. Lovely to see Steph again and catch up on her news and to see that we can entice oversea visitors to one of our volunteer days which they enjoyed mucking in.

Whitlingham Marsh – Coppicing and Faggots

Following our days out in the open it is getting to the time where we take to the woods for our Autumn/Winter tree management work. On 10th October we were at Whitlingham Marsh thinning out the trees in a section of woodland adjacent to the A47 Norwich Southern By-pass. We have been here before and are gradually working our way along the corridor of trees planted when construction finished on the road. It is a noisy place with the constant whoosh of speeding vehicles and engine noise. Running alongside the by-pass is a lane lined on both sides by trees and fences. Behind the fence on the marsh side the terrain slopes down through a wooded dell to the dyke and marsh beyond. The wooded area is densely populated with bramble and trees and this is the area we were clearing. Our plan is to coppice the hazel and remove alder and other trees which are crowding out the oaks.

At the beginning of the day we are fighting our way to the area that we will be working, however as we get coppicing and creating faggots the space opens up and a glade is formed. πŸ‘

First stage was to brush-cut a clearing for a fire site and build a fire. There was a lot of hazel and coppicing this helps clear the under storey and bring light into the dell. The hazel will re-grow ready for coppicing again in 5 years or so. The hazel is trimmed, and the long straight poles stored for use as bean poles or for use on other projects. The thinner brash was used to make faggots for riverbank restoration projects elsewhere and what was left over or unsuitable was burned. We were using our new faggot making technique first tried out at Swardeston in March. (See our blog β€œA Few Faggots More” for further details). Over two days we made a large pile of faggots and thinned-out a long stretch of the dell. The remaining trees and hazel coppiced stools will benefit from this work.

Thursday is generally cake day and this week was a good example of what we sometimes have to endure. Paula, Dave and I had made cakes and it is the duty of each volunteer to try at least one of each – a duty which is eagerly taken up! Dave had made delicious caramel pear blondies and the recipe for these has been added to the Tailgate Tucker page on our website. (Click here for the recipe, you won’t be disappointed).

Continuing the coppicing and creation of the glade the following day. πŸ‘

On Friday both Matt’s were with us so there was a lot of chain sawing happening and several of the larger alder trees were felled which had to be processed by our volunteers. But with a good fire we burned through them quickly, so much so that most of it was dealt with by our finish time. Except, of course, Matt “Just one more tree” Davies got a second wind and felled a handful of large trees just as were thinking of leaving. However, these will be dealt with on our next visit to the site over the coming months.

Horsford St Faith’s Common – Scrub Management

This is another site we visited this time last year and we were back to continue our heathland management work on 17th October. We were working in a large area of heathland surrounded by trees. The area is open heathland populated predominately with heather, some bracken and invasive grasses. There were also a lot of self-seeded alder and pine saplings and other scrub which would mature into full grown trees and gradually take over the area. The site is managed as heathland and our task was to clear the scrub and also cut back the grasses.

Some heathland work of uprooting young saplings, clearing some bracken and invasive grasses so this type of habitat remains a heathland. πŸ˜€

To help us we have tree poppers which grab the base of the saplings and then pull these out including the roots. It is hard work using the poppers to grab the trunks and then levering the tool back to pull out the trees especially where the roots had become established and had to be cut to remove them. The arising was carried away to the edge of the site where they will die down. We also brush-cut around the site to reduce the invasive grasses and take the top off the heathers. This will encourage new growth and strengthen the plants. There remains a lot to be done at this site and a further visit will gradually clear the scrub and allow the heathland to thrive.

Some of the Autumn fungi on display on this site and an adder admiring the views too. πŸπŸ„

Being Autumn there was a lot of fungi around the site and Robert captured many photos of this. He also spotted an adder and managed to get a few shots, although the snake was reluctant to pose and smile for the camera. Paula had dusted off her Tiffin recipe to build up our energy levels. Our volunteers are always reticent when it comes to who should take the last piece – not wishing to deprive others of the pleasure. But it disappeared so someone must have snuck in and eaten it!