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Going cheep

‘Soggy but successful’ is how Nigel and Andrew S described their two-man work party at East Beckham Common, in preparation for the mini BioBlitz there this weekend, scything a high sea of nettles and carefully uncovering by hand any new hedgerow plants to avoid unintentional death-by-scything.

Meanwhile the first Sustead work party in some time carried a detailed task list, with path clearing at number one, followed by all manner of interesting and important jobs. When our ten volunteers braved the rainy morning and arrived on site though, it was obvious that the warmth and wet of recent weeks had driven a growth spurt so impressive we would be lucky to get beyond the first item on the list. A veritable jungle greeted us, with dangling brambles ready to snag our hair, frothy cow parsley glueing white specks onto trouser legs, long wet grass soaking us from the knees down, and the gloriously fresh and fragrant air of woodland after a downpour. With a more modest to-do list agreed, scythers Nick S and Alan began clearing the paths around the three sites that make up the Sustead cluster, with Mike, Andrew G, Fran and Stuart raking up the cuttings and towing them away, Elizabeth and Bev taking on the eye-poking stuff, Vision tackling overgrowth in the ‘donut’ (the Common’s spiral hedge), and Peter M supervising and scything.

Nick even found time to give a lesson to our would-be scythers – and clearly we will need all of them if this sort of growth keeps up. It was a morning when you wished the blog had an audio function: first, for the joyful intensity of all the bird sounds, again jungle-like in their own way, the amplifier turned up to eleven. And second, about an hour in, when that fresh rain turned into a torrent, for the hammering drippy ploppiness of millions of raindrops hitting millions of leaves. I believe people pay good money for recordings of those sounds to help them relax. Our scythers were careful to leave flower clumps intact, including cowslips that have appeared on the north boundary of the wood. And one of the highlights must surely be the full throttle cheeping from a bird box near the Spurrells Wood hide, and an adult Great Tit jumping warily from branch to branch and waiting for us to leave. We did.

Bev Taylor

May 16 2024


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