Days out with Friends

The Norwich Fringe Project support many Friends Groups around our area and our Volunteers recently worked with two of these groups to support them in managing their projects. The Friends Groups usually work in one area looking after a single site or several sites within their locality. Matt at the Fringe Project works with these groups writing a conservation management plan for their sites and leading them on their workdays. After a few sessions with Matt and appropriate training the Friends Groups will organise and lead activities themselves but will call on Matt for any significant work such as tree felling. Our Volunteers often work with the Friends Groups to provide trained and experienced people for the more significant tasks. Over the years our Volunteers have regularly worked with the Friends of Ketts Heights where we have replaced a fence along a path and brush-cut the terraces at the site. We have also worked with the Friends of Train Wood to help clear the area around the site of the old City Station and also worked with the Friends of Danby Wood and with local conservation group Draituna Trees at Suter Drive Pond in Thorpe Marriott. Recently we spent a day with Greening Wymondham and a day with the Friends of the Tud Valley assisting them with their projects and here’s what we got up to.

The Lizard Wymondham – On 30th January our Volunteers gathered at The Lizard on the edge of Wymondham to support Greening Wymondham and the Lizard Trustees in the management of this site. The Lizard conservation area follows the upper valley of the River Tiffey with a series of footpaths around this 12 acre site. There was a long list of jobs to do but with around 15 Fringe Volunteers and a team from Greening Wymondham and The Lizard Trust we had the resources to deal with these. The key jobs were brush cutting, hedgerow planting and blackthorn scrub management. Tasks were allocated and people split into teams to tackle the various jobs.

Hedgerow management at the Lizard with their volunteers and Greening Wymondham.

A first job was to cut back the bramble and other stuff along the line of the old hedgerow by the entrance gate so that new trees could be planted. The bramble and old dog rose had grown thick and woody so a lot of it had to be cut by hand since it was too much for the brush cutters. On the main part of the site volunteers set to work cutting back the overgrown hedgerow and hauling the cuttings onto the side. The pile quickly built up and it was decided to burn this as there was too much to leave as habitat piles. Many of the trees were thick with ivy and on some of these the ivy was cut to stop this growing further. Several trees had died within their coat of ivy. Further around the site Robert and Mark trimmed the hedgerow with the hedge cutter and Alan walked the DR mower along the path edge to cut back the long grasses. With a lot of the bramble and other stuff cleared it will be easier for the local volunteers to plan their planting of new trees to replenish the ancient hedgerow. Still much to be done at the site but it was a good day out and great to meet other volunteers, many of whom we have worked with previously at Ketts Park, Wymondham.

East Hill Woods – This is another site where we have worked previously supporting the Friends of the Tud Valley in their management of the wood. East Hill Woods is located on Longwater Lane in Costessey and is a large wooded, hilly area with a series of paths meandering through the trees. Matt wrote the management plan for the site and the Friends team led by Pauline have done a lot of work clearing the bramble and other stuff to create wide open glades that teem with bluebells in the Spring. Our main task on Wednesday 5th February was to coppice the hazel which hadn’t been touched for many years and in places had grown to an enormous size. Helen from South Norfolk District Council, who own the site, joined us for the day to help our volunteers and the Tud Valley team with the coppicing.

Hazel coppicing with the Friends of the Tud Valley volunteers.

Generally hazel is coppiced on a regular basis to contain the size of this and encourage new growth and use the poles for various purposes. Our team cut the smaller stands of hazel, but Matt and his chainsaw was needed to deal with the larger branches which were 20 feet or more high and too thick for our Silky saws. But even then, some of the hazel was too big and twisted for Matt to deal with and Helen will have to arrange for a more experienced tree surgeon to fell these. Coppicing the hazel will let more light into the understorey which will benefit the bluebells and other woodland plants. We processed the cut hazel creating a pile of poles for other projects and stacking brash to the side of the site. The coppiced stools were also covered with brash to deter rabbits and deer from eating the new shoots as they emerge. The hazel will send up new shoots this season and within five years or so will need to be coppiced again to keep this to a manageable size. East Hills Wood is a pleasant place to work, with a variety of habitats and is deceptively large given the narrow entrance off Longwater Lane.

Paula’s Retirement Lunch – Not so much a conservation day but more of a conversation day as many of our volunteers gathered to celebrate Paula’s retirement as one of the Fringe Projects long-serving Project Assistants. Nineteen of us met for lunch at the Murderer’s in Norwich and we enjoyed a few drinks and a good lunch. Paula had been with the Fringe Project for many years and led our Thursday sessions until the end of November last year. Paula’s inclusion in this Blog about Friends is appropriate since many of us have known and worked with her for a long time and grown to love her. Fuelled on strong coffee and roll-ups, Paula organised and cajoled us to deliver on our tasks. Our wellbeing was paramount as demonstrated by her regular supply of cakes for our breaks and concerns about us not spending too long using equipment such as brush-cutters and mowers! Paula’s Tiffin was always popular and has been included in the Fringe Project Hall of Fame that is Tailgate Tucker! Matt wished Paula well in her retirement and listed the many words of endearment and phrases that our volunteers present had shared with him. Too many things to mention and with some not suitable for a wholesome Blog! Our volunteers presented Paula with a signed card and a collection that she had used to buy an environmentally friendly luxury bean bag for her house. We also presented her with a collage of photos celebrating her time at the Fringe Project. Social occasions are an opportunity for our volunteers to let their hair down and relax in a convivial atmosphere and we made the most of it.

Paula’s bit-of-a-do at the Murder’s pub. Happy retirement Paula.