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Spurrell’s Wood Work party - Sustead on Wednesday 14th December

On a bright but cold and frosty morning we met in Spurrell’s Wood, the temperature rising from a chilly -3 C at home to the balmy 3C in the wood. Ten hardy volunteers initially met, our numbers swelling to twelve by coffee break. Volunteers were clad in an interesting assortment of multiple layers of warm clothing, although at points some people felt sufficiently warm to remove their knitted hats.

Sunlight poured through the branches, glistening on the frosted grass as we listened to the variety of tasks in the morning’s work programme, and we were treated to the beautiful sounds from a skein of pink footed geese overhead adding to the ambience.

Some of the work was the finishing off from last week’s corporate work party when a day was spent hazel coppicing. Poles were sorted into long straight lengths suitable for path edging to form dry hedges, while others were put aside for weaving in and out of the dry hedging. Around the stools of the coppiced hazels we made a brash barrier to deter muntjac deer nibbling newly developing hazel stems.

In order to protect our rare, Norfolk Blue Comfrey some volunteers were occupied in deconstructing an old barrier and replacing it in a position whereby walkers through the wood would be guided away from this plant. Others were busy scything and clearing bramble patches and scrub to allow woodland grass plants to grow near the stream on the Surveyor’s Allotment. A barbed wire fence by the stream on the Common was released.

Our tree surgeon on site for the morning made light work of some larger tree surgery that was best left to someone with the equipment and appropriate insurance. He removed the branch overhanging the gated entrance to Spurrell’s Wood and worked on beginning to remove the very large oak branch overhanging the north path near the bird hide.

Break time awaited us and we were treated to seasonal festive fare - sausage rolls and mince pies. This was a very welcome break and a chance to chat with everyone and spot the frequently repeated visits to the bird feeder of a pair of marsh tits.

Unfortunately I was so engrossed in the repair of a section of dry hedging that I failed to notice the three whooper swans flying literally over my head high up in the sky and only became aware of Trevor’s loud shouts of excitement. Note to self: look up occasionally, otherwise you may never know what you might be missing!

We were so fortunate with the weather, which was really a perfect wintery day-cold but not too cold, bright sunlight which showed off the wood and the field beyond to their best advantage, a proper Christmas card scene! Snow did arrive, but not until the end of the morning’s work.

It was a brilliant morning, lots of achievable work completed with clear benefits for the natural world, spent in the company of like-minded people.

I thoroughly recommend it.

Elizabeth Shadbolt

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