This was the final scheduled working party of the year, and it was a game of two halves. For the first hour we were to continue cutting and clearing the grassy area on the Warren Road side of The Beck, and then we were to decamp to the Social Club for tea and biscuits, before our induction as Norfolk Wildlife Trust volunteers.
Perhaps it was because we only had an hour and sub-consciously worked even harder than usual, or perhaps it was just the fact that 19 battle hardened excellent volunteers know what has to be done, and jolly well get on with it. Whatever, the result was that another significant part of the cutting programme has been achieved, and it may be that only one more session will see this section completed.
If dealing with the tall reeds can be considered relatively easy, this combination of grasses, rushes and goodness knows what other botanical delights poses many challenges for the Grizzly driver and raking teams alike. Many is the time one digs one’s pitchfork into a likely looking heap, only to discover it has remained attached to the ground. That can be a little trying.
Keeping just ahead of the onrushing Grizzly was the tree popper team, gamely uprooting the multitude of alder saplings that will insist on springing up as soon as our backs are turned.
Wonderful though the popper is, even it can’t yank out of the ground saplings that have emerged from coppice stools resulting from having been cut previously. In these circumstances, the radiating roots are sawn through, and the stool removed. This leaves a hole, ready for the unwary to stumble in.
It is wrong to carp about this of course. This area is genuinely a botanical treasure trove, much to the delight of our plant specialists. And what is good for a great diversity of plants is generally good for a similar diversity of animals. Quite apart from all the largely undiscovered invertebrates living their lives in the vegetation, in the summer and autumn this is the best place on The Commons to find butterflies, and no doubt moths too. The place is loud with the calls of grasshoppers, and cuckoo spit (the frothy protection created by young leaf hopers) is apparent everywhere. Lizards are partial to insect prey and thrive here, lurking underneath the boardwalk when not basking on top of it. At the top of this pyramid are the birds, which also like a tasty snack, and earlier in the year I watched a kestrel plummet to the ground in its distinctive way, to emerge a few minutes later carrying a lizard off, hopefully to its nest. On the mammal front, voles and shrews abound, and from time to time a fox cashes in. There are owls in the vicinity, and presumably this is a happy night-time hunting ground for them.
Our crack ‘A’ team on the winch has begun making wild and unsubstantiated claims about commando training. Last time Dave demonstrated his commando roll, and this time Noel showed us how commandos fall backwards when they unintentionally let go of a drag sheet. He arose unruffled and indeed unperturbed, other than expressing concern for whether it had put his hair in a mess. Hardly the usual perception of commandos, but what do we know?
Our Julie is a clever sort, and this time she decided to take a number of images as she turned through 360o. Here’s the result:
By the end of that whirlwind hour, the area looked like this:
Sadly, there was no bell tolling, but if there had been, it would have tolled 11, and it would have been tolling for us. In very swift order we packed up our gear and trundled it back to the store, before legging it to the Social Club, where the kettle was boiling and the warm beverages were flowing. Biscuits were passed round, and we all sat attentively, as Alan, the NWT Volunteer Coordinator, took us through the induction forms. With excellent timing, an hour later our forms were all completed and handed in, and NWT had at least 22 new signed up volunteers. In reality of course, it is not expected that much will change in the conduct of our working parties when we reconvene in 2019.
Chairman John was unable to join the working party, almost for the first time ever, but he was inducted along with the rest of us. Here is his message of thanks: