Breaking the ice, and inventing another new sport

200119 Julie frosty reeds.JPG

200119 Julie frozen plant.JPG

22 hardy volunteers turned out on the coldest 2019 day so far, making it the highest turnout of our current season. Our average turnout is approaching 17, meaning that as last year we have essentially finished our programme several sessions ahead of schedule, and can consider what other jobs we can usefully do to improve parts of The Commons away from the priority SSSI.

The common (see what I did there?) experience was of cold hands thawing out; two pairs of gloves were a good wheeze, and a highly scientific poll of a couple of people revealed an average of three pairs of socks inside the notoriously frigid welly boot. The southern section of the central site to be worked on was still in shade, and distinctly un-thawed. We found it quite hard to prise the cut reeds (left there since the end of the previous working party) off their recumbent resting place and pitchfork them onto the waiting dragsheet. In a blast from the pre-winch past, the sheets were light and close enough to the perimeter of the site to be easily dragged by hand.

200119 frozen stuff.JPG

Happily, once this was done, moving to the sunlit section on the other side of the boardwalk allowed everyone to warm up, and the array of interesting headgear began to be removed. Everyone agreed on what a wonderful day it was.

200119 sunny scene.JPG

Such was the effort put in that we were basically finished by the tea break, which is usually held half way through the session. The early arrivals at the break formed a huddle, while the one in the middle generously shared a warming peppermint.

200119 huddle.JPG

This scene of abandoned pitchforks as the volunteers enjoyed a hot beverage and chocolate digestive or two was reminiscent of Trump’s America, suffering its seemingly interminable shutdown. Fortunately, in our case, the refreshed and re-warmed hands returned to the scene to clear away the tools and then disperse in high cheer.

200119 Julie pitchforks.JPG

Some of the cut material on the Central area (receiving belated attention now that all the flowering plants have flowered and the wasps buzzed off) was on the sparse side, so your correspondent invented a new sport – Commons surfing. This is quite simple, entailing crouching in a classic surfer pose on the lightly loaded moving tarpaulin as it is winched across the slippery frozen surface. I didn’t fall off or anything, although the resulting acclaim was surprisingly muted. It may never be repeated, so I will hold the world record for life. Sadly, the event was un-photographed. Here’s a nice picture of Grizzly in splendid isolation instead. It can’t surf, so the record is safe on that score.

200119 Grizzly.JPG

We were happy to see the return of Chairman John to careful action, having recovered sufficiently from the surgeon’s attentions to lend us his wisdom and leadership. Here is his message of thanks:

This morning was about as good as it gets;  glorious weather and lovely people saying nice things welcoming me back.  Again, over twenty volunteers made such light work of the job in hand that I had to call it a day at a little past half-time; well done everyone.

The group simply goes from strength to strength, and defies all predictions.  Three years ago I was telling the Parish Council that we hardly had a viable future, and now look at us. NWT are really getting it all on a plate, although service is a bit slow on dishing up. But what it means is we have the capacity to do a bit more than just meet the Natural England management programme for the SSSI.  It's easy to lose sight of the other four Commons, i.e. Pit, School, Mill and Bradfield Road, where there is so much that could be done.  Our current published schedule of working parties runs to the end of March, as it always has, but we will finish this year's programme  next session, 3rd February.  So if you have any ideas for the remaining three or four sessions, or indeed thoughts on our work generally, please let me know.

I leave you with the customary plaudits ringing in your ears and a reminder to see what our highly acclaimed Blogger made of this morning.

Kind regards