It all seems a bit surreal not having our workdays to look forward to. We get the occasional two week break but not having any workdays planned and no prospect of these returning in the near future because of the threat of the Coronavirus is strange. I have been out with the Project for at least eight years and some volunteers are within reach of getting their long-service medals. We will recover from this and be back, but it may be the end of the Summer before we dust off our tools and equipment and see how nature has dealt with our absence.
We had a taste of the shutdown in February when Matt got the flu and we all had two weeks off. But we returned in March to continue our woodland work and get a few things done before everything was cancelled.
We did a further two days at Spring Plantation in Taverham on behalf of Broadland District Council continuing our campaign to remove the invasive cherry laurel and open up the woodland. On Wednesday 4th March we were joined by Steph and Jo from Broadland District Council who were getting some experience of working on outdoor projects. Matt got to work cutting down some of the larger laurel which had trunks of twelve inches thick or more and had clearly been there a long time. He also cut down some of the large hazel which were overhanging the road. Our second visit on Thursday 5th March was led by Paula who had returned to help out for a while. To celebrate her return Paula brought flapjacks and ginger cake because she knows how to spoil us. A lot more laurel was cleared by our volunteers. We came across a den built by local youngsters from laurel branches cut during one of our previous visits. They had named the den “The Dog House” and had a statue of a cute dog tucked away in the back. We left the den in place but picked up any rubbish left lying around. Our four days of working here has opened up the under storey and let a lot more light into the wood which will benefit other plants. The invasive laurel will regrow but dealing with this will be much easier in future.
We were back in Taverham on Wednesday 11th March but this time at the nearby Scotch Hill Plantation to tackle the laurel there. A small group of volunteers cut back the laurel and chipped this. Ian and I ran the chipper while Andy and Will cut back the laurel. Matt had splashed out and bought some new Stihl brush-cutters which Robert brought into service cutting back the bramble. Matt felled the larger laurels with the chain saw and cut back some of the thicker ivy growing on trees. I was able to brush up my driving skills manoeuvring the chipper around the woodland. Laurel can be difficult to chip since it has a lot of green leaves which can clog the blower and the branches are twisted so don’t feed easily into the hopper – you are constantly battling with these to keep the machine running. The chippings were spread along the paths as we moved around the site. We had a productive day clearing much of the laurel in the plantation.
What has now turned out to be our final outing for a while was a trip to Three Score at Bowthorpe on Thursday 12th March to do some work around the ancient hedgerow along the old track. We started restoration work on the old hedgerow back in 2018 and occasionally revisit to undertake further work. You can read more about the project in our blog from two years ago, Three Score Hedgerow Project. Paula led the team through a number of tasks including: cutting back the vegetation round the hedgerow trees planted previously, planting up gaps with hedgerow trees (whips), coppicing more areas of the old hawthorn hedge, mowing the path with the DR mower and managing the ivy on the trees. A busy day with lots to keep our volunteers occupied.
The Project has also been busy working with other groups around the area. On Saturday 7th March Matt led a team of local residents at Lion Wood near Thorpe Hamlet in Norwich planting some trees in a recently cleared area of the woodland. They had a great session with 150+ trees planted including Hazel, Rowan, Oak, Hawthorn & Spindle.
On Tuesday 10th March, me and Tim (regular volunteers with the Fringe Project) worked with a team from The Conservation Volunteers Norwich (TCV), led by Debbie Murray, installing a new kissing gate and planting trees along a hedgerow in Danby Wood. Tim is also a leading member of the Friends of Danby Wood who have received funding from the National Lottery which is being used to improve an old access path from Ipswich Road to the woods and park with help from TCV. Tim oversaw the clearing of the path and planting of hazel and hawthorn, clearing the logs and brash, and planting up the hedge. I led on the kissing gate construction to assist the TCV volunteers who had little experience of installing these. Matt provided all the tools and materials for the kissing gate. It was a great day out with lots achieved and an opportunity for the community to work together.
On Friday 13th March Matt led a team of staff from Norwich City Council on a work experience session at Whitlingham Marsh. They tried their hand at coppicing scrub and creating habitat piles on this Local Nature Reserve.
So, for now, we will stay at home and do other things. We look forward to matters working their way through and all of us coming safely out the other side. What this will look like is unclear but at some time we will be back to cut the paths, trim the trees and repair fences around our patch. We (and you) have our Blogs to look back on and recall all those activities we have undertaken over the years.
You all take care now and keep safe!