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A Double Work Party at West Beckham Old Allotments

I’m certain I wasn’t the only volunteer who had been scanning the weather forecast carefully in the days preceding our work party on Thursday October 19th. Storm Babet threatened to scupper all the plans for the day. In the event, although Scotland was suffering the effects of the storm, life in North Norfolk took on a calmer outlook.

The morning was fairly mild with little wind, and the occasional short bursts of light rain did nothing to hamper the efforts of the assembled labour force. There were 12 regular volunteers and 10 corporate volunteers from Marsh Insurance who arrived in force armed with big spades. They would be spending the whole day on the site. Some of them were returnees and some new to Felbeck Trust.

Their task? Digging a new pond from scratch over on the far side of the site. A new heavy butyl pond liner was trundled over in a barrow, and the corporate volunteers, after their task and health & safety briefings, rolled up their sleeves and set to work enthusiastically. Hard work digging out a pond but, in the future, there would be such great benefits for the natural world.

Marsh volunteers at work


The regular volunteers were organised into two groups. One was involved in moving the huge brash and dock pile to a nearby area to be burnt – moving the pile enabled us to prevent the toasting of six toads! Although we have had quite an amount of rain over the last few weeks, the brash and dock did burn well, perhaps owing to an expertly made bonfire.

Burning the brash


Ed, our tree surgeon, using his power tool, made light work of considerably lowering the height of the hedge behind the tool shed, thus reducing the possibility of the hedge/trees eventually coming down on the shelter. From this cutting work, all the Ivy was added to the bonfire and the Hawthorn was taken down to the side of the site for dry hedging.

Tackling the overgrown hedges


The other group of volunteers tackled the gaps in the long boundary hedge line. In the past these gaps had been planted with saplings, but perhaps because they were planted on theraised bank, the area was too dry and shaded for them to grow, so they had not taken. It was decided to use the Hawthorn to create a dry hedge. It took considerable skill to weave the branches in and out of the hedge, making sure that the finished structure was stable. The overall effect was brilliant, with the red berries adding to the autumnal picture.

The architect of the dry hedges shows off the final result


All in all, a very good work party with lots achieved.

Lots of people all there for one purpose: to do their bit for nature.

Hopefully not too many stiff backs from the pond digging!

Elizabeth Shadbolt

October 19th 2023

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