Marshes and Rain

Marston Marsh: On 15th November it was a day out on Marston Marsh to repair a fence and the path under the guidance of Matt H. One of the cattle had recently escaped from the grazing area and had tried to get onto Marston Lane at the Eaton Village end. (I wonder if it had an escape plan. Where was it heading next?) Fortunately, the field gate and entrance kissing gate provided a final barrier but the posts and rails around the gates were damaged and needed replacing. The heavy rainfall over recent weeks had also taken its toll on the main path washing out the top surface and cutting gullies into it.

Fixing the fence, cleaning the drains, diverting the water away from the path and laying down some gravel.

The rainwater runs off Marston Lane and the Golf Course bringing down lots of silt which pools by a kissing gate onto the marsh. Previously we have modified the path to create run-offs, but this hasn’t worked as well as we would have liked. So, we installed some more baffles at an angle to the path to help divert the water. We also spread crushed granite on top which we cambered so that the water would run off the side onto the marsh rather than down the path. We also cleared the mud away from the kissing gate onto the marsh and dug channels beside the path for the excess water to run into. The drainage channel in front of the main entrance gate was also dismantled and cleaned out. There has been so much rain recently and it all has to go somewhere, and the marsh is “downhill” from the roads and tracks leading to it! The rain held off while we were working but started just as were packing up to go home.

Whitlingham Marsh: This is one of our main sites where we work all year round. Currently we are clearing our way through a section of woodland planted when the A47 Southern By-pass was completed in 1992. It is common practice to plant densely and then thin out at a later stage as part of the management of the trees. So here we are some 27 years later working our way through the tree belt removing the self-seeded alders and willows and coppicing the hazel to give the oaks space and light. We have coppiced the hazel before and will continue to do this on a rotational basis for years to come.

Thinning out the young woodland and coppicing the hazel. Chrissie must have had her spinach that day as she was seen quite happily picking up some logs!! You go girl!!

We had a large party of volunteers out on 21st November to support Paula and coppiced a significant area of hazel and also cut the edges of the riverside path. The following day we had a smaller team and, with Matt D and his chainsaw on site, much of our work was felling the larger alder and willow trees using ropes to guide these into the spaces between the oaks. Health and Safety is important when felling large trees and a smaller team makes for safer working – it is easier to see where everyone is. We added to our stacks of hazel poles and burned the brash. A large number of felled trees were left ready to be dealt with on our next visit.

Even the cows got fed up with the rain and were seen hurdled together in the corral.

We returned on 27th November to tackle the felled trees. It was raining heavily and much of Whitlingham Marsh was flooded. The grazing Dexter herd had moved off the marsh and up to the cattle corral area because of the flooding. We went over and said hello to them before we started work. They are a small breed and are cute and friendly. This was the first of our new Wednesday workdays and just Robert and I turned up to help Matt H. I guess the other volunteers took one look at the weather and decided to stay in┬ábed – very wise! Anyway, our small but perfectly formed team managed to get a fire going, despite the rain, and set-to dragging the brash to the fire, trimming this to size and burning it. The clouds eventually ran out of rain and from late morning onwards we had a chance to dry out and even remove some layers. Come mid-afternoon we had cleared and burned most of the cut material and left the site reasonably clear. I had taken a bag of home-made scones expecting a larger number of volunteers but as well as clearing up most of the cuttings we three also consumed most of the scones!