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The Winch in the Willows

How many nice surprises can one work party deliver? The sun was glorious when we expected icy gales. Eleven people turned up with smiles when we didn’t hope for more than five or six. An up-front scoot for jobs around the Hindolveston site revealed that this beautiful little plot is looking good, with the ponds full and a real sense of balance returning. And those who made a tail-end visit to West Beckham, to finish the hibernaculum, stared at the sky in astonishment as at least six Common Crossbills passed overhead.

All that and I haven’t even started on what we did at Wood Norton... This once impenetrable watery hollow (I remember feeling queasy and uneasy as I slipped and snarled through the Sleeping Beauty thickets on my first visit), is slowly becoming more accessible. On Saturday, Ed and his trusty chainsaw, along with John and Peter R, cleared congested areas of willow around the ponds to let in light and help the biodiversity in those undeniably stinky pools to recover.

For shifting the larger submerged branches they were assisted by a slightly terrifying winch, which on its own accounted for most of the safety briefing. None of the cut-up branches went to waste. Trevor, Stu and Susan created what we are now calling a ‘corduroy path’ (hat tip to Ed), consisting of two-foot sections of tree trunk side by side.

Now packed under a layer of sand, this bridges a crucial section of path that had disappeared with the recent rise in water levels. Brian laid the groundwork for the next section, cutting into the steep muddy slope to create a more level base for wellies to pass. Elizabeth and Bev did the equivalent of fighting a sack of coathangers as they extracted smaller bushier sections of brash from the mountain of off-cuts and ferried them round the pond edges to Val, who used them as informal dry hedging to close gaps in the boundary. We were delighted to be joined as an observer by Norman, who lives locally and has agreed to take on the role of Wood Norton site representative. This very fun, very productive, work party will at least mean Norman has a fighting chance of making it around the site in one piece.


Bev Taylor

November 25th 2023


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