15 Unstung Heroes

Following the carnage inflicted on our volunteers by malign waspy forces at the previous working party, we might have expected a poor turnout today. And rain was forecast. However, once again our corps of volunteers showed their customary heroic pluck, and 15 of them turned up to defy the stripey-jumpered fiends. And we had instructions to avoid the immediate scene of the crime. And we had a big notice, saying “Wasp nest” to help remind us where it was. Happily, we were all unscathed, indeed unstung, thanks perhaps to the relatively cool and damp weather, following heavy rain overnight. There were some wasps in evidence, but they kept a respectful distance, and we did likewise.

But first, a rather unsavoury matter had to be addressed. Despite efforts to encourage dog owners to clear up their pets’ mess, some are impervious to our pleas. The lepidopterist who has been surveying the moths on the Common has recently had the deeply unpleasant experience of treading on a pile or two in the dark, and it is certainly no fun at all chopping the stuff up with our ‘Grizzly’ mower, or indeed raking up cut vegetation mixed with pungent canine faeces. (You will note I do not use the infantile “poo” to name this stuff: it is what it is, and what it is is deeply unpleasant.) Frankly, we’re fed up with it. The problem gets worse when we cut the boardwalk edges, a job that is necessary to keep the boardwalk passable for walkers and chair occupants. Clearly, some dogs are pleased with the new toilet opportunities thus opened up to them; the pity is that not all owners respond appropriately. The red bin in the Car Park awaits their deposits. We volunteers don’t see it as part of our role to clear up after other people’s dogs (many of us walk dogs across the Common ourselves, but know that no faeces are acceptable, on the boardwalk or off it). However, nor is it part of our role to come into contact with the muck, so it fell to a couple of us to find and clear up as much of it as we could before work began. Here is a sample, with no apologies for the gross nature of the image.

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In last week’s working party blog (http://sctrust.org.uk/blog/social-insects-but-not-very-sociable)   we reported the first sighting of Lady Fern on the Common. Our plant recorder now reports that having taken a sample home for inspection in a wasp free environment, the lady was not all she was made up to be. She was actually a Buckler fern, another delicate fern but quite distinctly different. The discovery was timely as later in the week he hosted a ferns workshop for volunteers from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and was able to compliment them on their correct i.d of the Buckler fern. Lady Fern meanwhile continues to grace Mill Common as shown in last week’s blog photo.

Anyway, back to the work of the working party. Here is the happy crew hard at work.

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And here is the top-flight winch team, smiling bravely for the camera from their secluded hideaway. In this session we worked at the extreme limit of the rope we have for winching the drag sheets to the dumping site, and this underlined yet again the value of the winch, as without it we would still be dragging the heavy sheets for a very long way, exhausting ourselves in the process and making the whole job much longer.

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Our two botanists were anxious that the work did not throw the baby out with the bath water: the baby in this case being the precious flora we are trying to protect. Accordingly, they set to with sickles to carefully trim material away from around many specimens of some late flowering orchids, emerging Grass of Parnassus flowers, Lousewort, Eyebright, and Devil’s Bit Scabious. Here is a photo by Margaret Dowland of the latter from our plants gallery (http://sctrust.org.uk/gallery-plants).

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Avoiding this particularly sensitive area with the mower required careful planning: here is Chairman John telling us during the break how we were going to handle it. It looks like we are paying attention, which is nice.

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We enjoyed teasing rookie Grizzly operator Kevin, who sometimes got a bit carried away with enthusiasm and had to be recalled, having gone somewhat off piste. Luckily, we have someone on hand always glad of an excuse to use the whistle…

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Here is Chairman John’s message of thanks:

Hello All

Great morning, thankyou.  I think everyone approached this morning a little warily having regard to those little fellas in yellow and black stripes.  Although the scene of our last encounter was still alive with the little pests, both parties employed a tactical stand-off and no one got hurt.  A lot was achieved, even a happy compromise with the botanists over wild flowers v. reeds. Where cooperation is needed, we know how to do it - so much for the Brexit lot!

Thank you again for a splendid effort.  Next session is Sunday 26th August at 9:30 again.  I do hope you can help although I appreciate it is Bank Holiday weekend.  We have made a very good start.

Kind regards
John