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Raking Progress at West Beckham Old Allotments

A number of the group of potential work party conscripts - sorry, volunteers - had been worriedly eyeing up the weather forecast over the previous few days. A strong headwind did not bode well for the morning’s task of raking up the grass after Peter R had mown the grassland with his trusty tractor. This spring cutting was to encourage the growth of wild flowers on this large site by reducing the level of nutrients in the soil. On arrival, the ten trusty volunteers, including a much welcome new recruit, Emma, assembled to hear the morning’s tasks. The wildflower meadows had been expertly mown with apparently never-ending piles of grass to be raked, lifted onto large tarpaulins and carried to one of the various heaps around the edge of the site.

Fortunately, overnight rain meant that the grass was heavier than usual and thus easier to rake and lift. Apparently last year’s very dry grass, in an extremely strong wind, meant that the volunteers were covered in grass cuttings flying hither and thither much of the time. The initial problem of staking down the tarpaulins required a range of techniques, from using canes to hold down the corners, using appropriately placed spades to hold down the sides and the more unusual technique adopted by one pair where one person lay spread-eagled while the other person looked for the spades and canes that they had mislaid in the grass, with the wind whipping up the tarpaulin. All good fun.

Brian and Wayne appeared to be on superdrive as they raked and shifted an enormous amount of grass. Or perhaps they’d had their Weetabix for breakfast (other cereals are available). I, Nick, Val, Carol, Emma and Peter were also on raking duties and we all worked together to clear a large amount of grass cuttings. The area looked great after we’d finished, bordered by the rows of waving daffodils in full bloom round the edges. (I’ll resist quoting from William Wordsworth’s poem.)

Nigel and Trevor continued working on the bird screen which remarkably was still standing after strong winds in the weeks after it was first constructed. Obviously good workmanship when it was first constructed. Guttering was fixed on and concrete pavers laid. Towards the end of the morning saplings were put in, particularly around the area of the bird screen. It was good to see areas of growth around one of the pond edges, covering up evidence of the pond liner. The level of water in the pond was very high.

Break time… well, thank you Trevor and Jane for providing some absolutely delicious food though I, for one, am still regretting the demise of the doughnut with its wonderfully artificial red oozing jam.

All in all, a satisfying morning’s work. The rain kept off and it was great to be in the fresh air with like-minded people working to achieve something better for nature.

Elizabeth Shadbolt, March 25th 2023.


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