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Weekend Work Party at East Beckham Common

On a misty Saturday morning, 10 volunteers made their way to East Beckham Common. We had ambitious plans, so after a quick briefing we set to work, and were soon rewarded with the sun breaking through, resulting in many layers of clothing being shed as we beavered away.

Bev, Elizabeth, Benji, Maureen and Eleanor started off clearing round some hedging whips that had been planted previously, before filling in a few gaps in the hedge. Meanwhile, Trevor, Stu and Robert cleared away branches and dead vegetation to create a space where the tree planting team could plant up a new area of native saplings, purchased via The Trees Outside Woodlands Programme, which is funded by HM Government, and delivered by The Tree Council, Natural England, DEFRA, and five local councils including Norfolk County Council. Robert proceeded to wrestle with the roots of a mass of nettles intertwined with old baling twine.

Trevor, Eleanor and Stu then moved on to the construction of a post and rail fence to demarcate the upper area where we are carrying out much of our habitat management work, including the tree planting. Great care was taken with the spirit level to ensure that the rails were horizontal – nothing shoddy at Felbeck Trust work parties! The carpentry team also assembled a bench that will allow us to sit and enjoy the fruits of our labours in the future.

While all this was going on, Val and David stripped out the old leaky pond liner, enlarged the deepest area, dug down further – with the help of the trusty spike to break up the clay and flint layer below the top soil – and smoothed the edges. Eleanor and Benji cleared away any stones, sorting out smooth ones for the base of the pond and discarding sharp ones that could pierce the liner. The old liner was then re-laid as underlay and the new butyl rubber liner was put into position. It was now time to refill the pond with the water that Stu had bailed out at the beginning of the morning. The edges of the liner were secured with the excavated soil, and old branches that had been cleared earlier – nothing goes to waste. The final piece of the jigsaw was the installation of a piece of corrugated iron that had been donated to us. This will serve two purposes: to catch and channel rainfall into the pond, and as a habitat for amphibians and invertebrates, which will enjoy the warmth as the sun heats the tin. 

Of course, doughnuts, tea and coffee were consumed at half time, giving us a chance to enjoy each other’s company and admire each other’s handiwork.

A good work party is never without its wildlife highlights. We were surrounded by birdsong: Skylarks, Yellowhammer, Wren and Robin all trilling away. Our youngest volunteer, Benji (aged five – is this a new record?) was fascinated by a variety of mini-beasts: daphnia and midge larvae dancing in the pond water and a centipede scuttling from beneath the old pond liner. It was wonderful having Benji and Eleanor along for the morning – and they significantly lowered the average age of our volunteer group.

Val Stubbs

February 24th 2024


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