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Re-wiggling Gur Beck

March 7th. Spring kind of in the air. Primroses galore in Spurrell’s Wood. A Goldcrest by the outdoor classroom. Ten volunteers on the Sustead sites. And what did they do?

Well, first of all, David H led a team of three – himself, Carol and David R – in Gur Beck on Sustead Common, beginning an experiment in re-wiggling. This was achieved by driving in hazel stakes and weaving in supple hazel twigs to create small barriers protruding at an angle from alternate banks, to make the current wash against the opposite bank in order to cause erosion and, eventually, wiggling, thereby undoing the straightening that must have taken place in the 18th or 19th century. David’s knowledge of streams and rivers is coming in very useful.

Then a small group, consisting of John, Stu and Alan, cleared the channel carrying water from the roadside and the ditch through the scrape on the Surveyor’s Allotment and into the beck, thus allowing it to flow more freely; and, at the same time, repaired one of the small, wooden dams that restrict the flow and cause the scrape to fill up. They then moved on to the beck below the bird hide in Spurrell’s Wood, to build up the small dam there – a dam consisting of large flints.

Meanwhile, Val and Peter were checking the boundaries of Spurrell’s Wood – gapping up with hedge plants where necessary and planting new whips in gaps that had not been filled before. Many of the whips planted a few years ago were doing remarkably well; others needed re-staking, often after a battering from passing Muntjac; and a few had died and needed replacing. On the north side of the Gur in Spurrell’s Wood, on the boundary with the thatched cottage, nearly all of the whips planted there in 2020 had not survived, so there is further planting to be done there before the optimum planting period elapses.

Trevor and Roger tidied parts of the wood, scything and raking and moving, or removing, fallen branches.

We’re fast approaching the time of year when we cease working in the wilder areas of our sites to avoid disturbing both nesting birds and growing plants – so this will almost certainly be our last tidying session on the Sustead sites for a few months. However, this is not to say there won’t be plenty of work to do, volunteers! Felbeck Trust never sleeps!

Our next work party is at Stow Heath in Felmingham on Thursday March 21st – a site we haven’t touched very much so far, so an exciting place to work. Make a note in your diaries – and, if you are not already an active volunteer, come and join us: contact me at and I’ll sign you up!

Peter Maingay

March 8th 2024


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