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Lucky 13 at West Beckham Old Allotments

On Thursday May 4th, 13 of us gathered at West Beckham Old Allotments on a sunny but chill morning to carry out a variety of tasks. The volunteers ranged from “old hands” to more recent recruits and a newcomer – welcome Mike!

The primary task was to protect the saplings planted in the north west copse, where deer have been breaking off the existing tree guards and feasting on the bark of the young trees. Peter had done some emergency work a few days earlier when the damage was originally discovered, but the troops now set about securing thicker and taller tree guards to thwart the nibblers. When this had been completed, the team moved on to the rest of the site, checking the welfare of other trees and hedges that we have planted over the past few years, and installing additional tree guards to any that looked vulnerable.

After a break for tea, coffee and choc chip cookies – and of course a good old chinwag – we split into a number of smaller groups. Sophia, Elly, Barb, Mike, Brian, Roger, Susan and Stu continued to tend to the saplings. Seán and Andrew dug holes to plant three more mature Silver Birch trees which had been donated to Felbeck Trust, while Wayne ferried buckets of water to give the trees a good drink. Brian raked some bare patches in the wildflower meadow area and sowed some Yellow Rattle seed; the seed has been in my fridge for months to assist with germination and although it’s a bit late in the year for sowing the seed, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Meanwhile, Stu spent some time digging out some garden throw-outs from among the stinging nettles. Sophia and Barb wheeled a bag of Turtle Dove seed to the supplementary feeding area and scattered the seed; Turtle Doves are likely to be returning to North Norfolk any time now, so it’s important that we keep up our feeding regime in the hope of attracting a pair to our reserve.

Back at the tool-shed, wire wool, washing-up liquid, WD-40, 3-in-1 oil and copious amounts of elbow grease were applied to secateurs, loppers, shears and scythe blades – now all shiny and ready for action. As well as being an important job to get done, this also proved a great opportunity for a good natter. In the meantime, Nick fixed the light in the composting toilet and then joined the tool-cleaning crew, cleaning and sharpening his billhook in preparation for hedge-laying later in the year.

By the end of the morning, we had achieved all the tasks on my optimistic wish list. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and most of us went home with armfuls of daffodils picked from the field, which had been a daffodil plantation in a former life.

Val Stubbs, May 4th2023


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