On the Southwood task today I’ve been sharpening chainsaws ready for clearing up more storm-blown trees next week. My improvised work bench certainly has a pretty view.
Southwood work bench with a view
Later Paul H popped down to check on our work, coming down in a wheelchair as he’s off injured. Whilst halo cutting round our veteran oak trees, we found a stash of metal including a large metal water tank. We’ll have a go at pulling it out with our tractor on the May task.
On Sunday 12th February we had our penultimate work party of the winter clearing scrub, birch and willow from around the acidic scrape near Grove Hide. With an excellent turnout of 19, volunteer leader Jane got us all well organised to attack the scrub at the end of the scrape.
Volunteers starting to cut back the scrub
With so much brash and a reluctant fire, Tony took some of the volunteers and extended the dead hedge alongside the path round Horseshoe lake. This looked really nice at the end and gave us a productive task while the fire started.
The completed dead hedge
As well as this, Bob was clearing scrub from around the hide to improve the views and Andy and a team were cutting back the birch and willow alongside Grove Lake. Some of the bigger birches were felled into the water to provide low level perches for ducks and other birds.
Grove Lake shore cleared of birch
By the afternoon the fire was burning well and volunteers were clearing the bramble and remaining thinner birch. We even saw a vole (or was it a mouse?) scurrying across to the logpile. There are still a few birches to come down next year but the results of the day were very impressive.
Scrub cleared at the end of the day
A big thank you to all our volunteers for all the hard work you have put in. We hope you enjoyed yourselves and will return for our last Sunday task on 12th March where we will open up some light into the “ochreous” stream and hopefully build a “stumpery” for stag beetles.
Volunteer Leaders Duncan, Jon & Jane
This afternoon Jenny, Laura and I have been out clearing up some of the trees blown over by the storm. Thankfully the winds subsided later on so it was safe for us to go out and tackle one in Prince’s Avenue and Tongham Wood.
Jenny chainsawing fallen willow in Tongham Wood
Willow cut back to far side of drainage ditch
In Tongham Wood we were concerned about the multi-stem willow rotating and collapsing in to the drainage ditch, so I bravely leapt across on an upturned wheelbarrow and cut it back to the far side. Thank you to Laura and Jenny for changing other jobs to come out and help.
As we look after so many sites, it’s always useful to hear from visitors about any trees that are down or hung up across paths or boundaries. If you spot any then please get in touch with a detailed location and rough diameter of trunk, so we can work out what kit and staff we need to bring. It’s also useful to leave a contact number so we can call if we need help locating it. Please get in touch on either 01252 331353 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Before and after transformation
At the beginning of the year Blackwater Valley Rangers and Volunteers began the tough job of improving the path at Swan Lake Park in Sandhurst. With the path at 900m long, 2m wide and a whopping 12 inch ditch to fill this was perhaps our biggest task to date. It was no mean feet, but the site being a well used SANG (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace) we could not have the paths unusable.
Before and after transformation
The paths were first created by digging a route and filling it with wood chippings. By the time we had inherited the site the paths had turned into effectively a long ditch filled with mud and compost. We had tried for several years to combat the muddy paths by digging ditches with machinery and by hand but this proved not to work. To combat the problem we had to bring the height of the path to the same level as its sides so that water could drain off. With 900 metres of ditch to fill this involved a lot of aggregate and some hired in heavy machinery with the staff training for said machinery to boot!
Swan Lake Park car park
As positive use of the site is what we want to encourage we tried our best to keep the site as open as possible. We did have to close the main entrance during busy periods of work due to health and safety with diversions in place in place to the next nearest entrance. All other entrances and the entire path remained completely open.
Stu loading the tractor with aggregate
Our method was to get the aggregate (recycled material from nearby works) delivered to the car park. Stu would then use the tractor/excavator to load the 2 dumpers which would then be driven by Andrew and I onto the path to dump the aggregate. The aggregate would then be raked onto the path by our champion volunteer Paul who would make sure it was level and even. Charlotte, Andy and Andrew would then compact the aggregate using a roller or wacker plate.
Andrew (in many layers to combat the cold!) driving the dumper, ready to pick up the next load
At our peak we were shifting around 80 tonnes and progressing 100 yards a day. Unfortunately some days were significantly slower due to the nature of the path bringing about some big issues. Were we could we worked backwards so to not drive over the freshly laid path. But with a lack of access points and the danger of driving over wet and muddy paths adjacent to a lake we just had to on some sections. Charlotte, Andy and Andrew also created grips and culverts to aid drainage. Other issues we faced included machinery breaking down and poor weather conditions.
Mike and Paul raking whilst Charlotte driving the dumper
What was instrumental to this task was the help we received from rangers and volunteers. Thank you very much to everyone who helped. Stu, Andrew and volunteer Paul who were there from beginning the end. Andy and Charlotte who regularly came out to help. Laura who helped us with the multiple finishing touches required. Also SPA Warden Vicky, Students Matt and Jeremy and volunteers Mike, Duncan and Jon who spent longs days helping us with multiple jobs.
Paul, Jeremy and Charlotte raking on different parts of the path
I am delighted to say the path re-surfacing is now complete! Please visit Swan Lake Park on Swan Lane, Sandhurst and enjoy.
Swan Lake Path entrance
Swan Lake Park entrance and before and after transformation
We will be back in summer once the path has had time to settle and dry in order to further improve any wetter areas.
Assistant Ranger Jenny
Yesterday the volunteers, Jenny and I headed down to Moor Green Lakes to cut back one of the scrub islands on the north east corner of Colebrook Lake North. It’s important to retain this meadow which is awash with betony in the summer. Without this annual cutting of encroaching scrub this valuable meadow would soon be lost. The volunteers did really well clearing over a tennis court sized area near the raptor box. You can view the improvement from Colebrook Hide.
Island of encroaching scrub removed from meadow
Duncan and Sean also helped us drop off some rotten logs ready for installing a stag beetle stumpery near the Blackwater Valley Path. If you’d like to help out then the volunteers will be cutting back along the ochreous stream (between the 3 lakes) and installing a stumpery on Sunday 12th March, meeting at 10:30am in the Lower Sandhurst Road car park.
This week our usual volunteer group joined the group at Tices meadow to created a team 19 people strong including Andy and I. It was a beautiful day and there was even time for a spot of bird watching.
Armed with bow saws, loppers, a brushcutter and a chain saw the Willow really didn’t stand a chance and we cleared a huge area. We burnt all we cut and treated the stumps. This will enable the reeds to spread and hopefully out compete the Willow in future.
All round it was a very productive day and I know how pleased Richard was with the results. Thank you to everyone whom attended I hope you enjoyed the day as much as I did.
Assistant Ranger Charlotte