I blame the Alders

I blame the Alders. If it wasn’t for their promiscuous lifestyle, causing them to continually and intemperately spread across the area of flower-rich grassland between Fox’s Beck and Warren Road known as Area B, we would not have the need to laboriously uproot the saplings before mowing the area every two years. You might reasonably consider I am being too harsh on them. We now know that trees communicate with each other chemically via their extensive root systems and attendant fungi, and possibly through their leaves, but it might be going too far to suggest they have free will. But I am not so sure…

Anyway, when the time came to cut that patch in late 2018, an advance party of tree popper wielding folk was closely followed by the Grizzly mower. The consequence of this was that we started cutting at the Warren Road end, and since we could not drag the resulting material towards the Beck we created a large wall of material to the side. Now that the rest of the cutting programme has been completed ahead of schedule we have returned to the scene with the intention of dismantling the wall and moving it down to less obtrusive dumping sites closer to the Beck. This proved to be extremely hard work, not least because it was frozen solid following a series of very cold nights. So a team of people gamely prised chunks loose and pitchforked them onto a queue of waiting drag sheets, which were then winched down to the new dumping sites.

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Another team laboured away moving the stuff to its final resting places; they were perhaps (slightly) grateful for the work, as they were in a colder place than the rest of us.

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The highlight of this aspect of the job was another ‘Commando Roll’ from Dave: so impressive was it into a deep hollow in the welcoming dumped material that it took two of us to extract him!

Before all this, it is of course necessary to transport the tools required for the job from the tool store near the car park; in this case to a spot about as far away as it is possible to go. (Well, not the outer reaches of the Solar System, but as far away on The Common as you can get). This in itself is a slog, especially if you take care not to let the trolley tip off the boardwalk, as documented in a previous posting.

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There were 20 volunteers with us again (we are averaging almost 17 this season), so our forces were divided between shifting the previously cut material and cutting back trees and scrub overhanging the boardwalk.

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We cut back quite a bit of old encroaching growth but created a log pile out of bigger branches.

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Plus Margaret’s incredibly neat compacted twig hedge

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We reckon at least three new habitats were created for birds and insects to utilise.

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As usual we all had to break for coffee and the nation’s favourite custard creams! Here are some cheerful chaps anticipating their tea and biccies.

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Your correspondent’s suggestion that if we started work later we would get to the break quicker was met with what can best be described as a negative response.

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Chastened by the rejection of his helpful suggestion, your long-suffering correspondent returned early to work, to much ironic applause...

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Then the rest thought they had better join in again!

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Despite the excellent turnout of willing workers, and the efficient process, we still only managed to shift about half of the wall, so will probably return to try to finish it in a fortnight. Nonetheless, we could bask in the glow of a job well done.

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It can’t be denied that at the beginning of the session it was very cold, but we had fortunately been spared any snowfall. Just the weather for the snowdrops which are just starting to appear at the Bradfield Road end of the boardwalk to flourish.

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Another plus for the day was that the splitting of our forces onto different work groups allowed some of newly qualified corps of team leaders to show their mettle, amid plenty of good-natured teasing.

Your correspondent is also one of your photographers. We have often described how things can get lost on these working parties, but this time the fool had left his phone (with integrated camera in the modern style) at home, so we are indebted to Julie for all the pictures (she usually provides some, and always the best of the pictures we use in these blog ramblings). The sunny appearance of The Common in these images belies the fact that it really was quite cold (honestly), but a beautiful morning in which to be out. This was underlined when on the trudge back to the tool store we met a couple who had come all the way from Norwich to visit the place for the first time, and seemed delighted with what they found.

Here is Chairman John’s message of thanks:

Hello All

When you break something really strong that shouldn't break, after you've blamed Chinese manufacturing standards, not forgetting Brexit for good measure,  it can be quite reassuring to reflect that you used the tool so hard it was tested to destruction.  So it was that yesterday another marine grade, stainless steel, 11mm, spring carbine hooks became the weak link in our chain.  And our faithful winch had the sulks too, but our experienced and sympathetic operators coaxed it along.  Which is all testament to the excellent work done yesterday,  morning.  Splitting the group worked well, and everybody got stuck in, whether wielding pitch fork, saw, loppers or bill-hook.  The results speak for themselves and all who took part should be proud; I speak for all Southrepps residents, as well as visitors from further afield, in applauding and thanking you.

In the mean time I shall carry out some urgent maintenance ready for a return match in two weeks time, Sunday 17th.

Kind regards - John