For our last session of the year, we met at the car park opposite the Merry Miller pub – the venue for our Christmas lunch next weekend – and made our way down the path armed with hard hats, bow saws and loppers to Cothill Fen. The session was led by Kevin, with Judy Webb from Natural England instructing us with the morning’s tasks.
As we came upon the fen, it was quickly apparent what a change had taken place since the last time we were here at the end of September. Natural England volunteers had done a huge amount of scything of brambles and general clearing and Adrian had built two reed causeways across the fen, which had filled out nicely with water. The original National Trust post from 1916 had also been rediscovered and placed next to the gate onto the fen.
In a change from our usual fen-work, there was no raking today. Instead we were to stick to the boundaries on both sides of the wet area continuing to cut back the hazel coppices, holly and other growth. It was also discovered there was a spindle tree which might be allowed to flower given enough light.
It turned out to be quite a hair-raising first half, with tall growths of hazel being cut down, and ‘timber!’ shouted at regular intervals. Thank goodness for our hard hats! But then: disaster. When chopping down a coppice next to the spindle tree, the spindle itself fell sideways and it was discovered it was rotten at its base. With a half cut tree next to a precariously balanced spindle, Judy stood guard to warn walkers of the impending danger until help could arrive in the form of Judy’s colleague, Steph.
We had a lovely tea break, where Kevin presented recently engaged Andrew and Joanna with a card. Very touching! After some considerable wedding talk, we then set to work, mainly on the other side of the fen, to further clear coppices and undergrowth to make way for wild flowers. There we discovered King Alfred’s Cake, yellow stagshorn and clustered bonnet fungi, plus a medium-sized frog was spotted in the leaf litter. Judy was pleased we’d piled together the dead wood as it provides vital habitats to insects, which means more birds. She pointed out that in any woodland about half the wood should be dead, as 90% of the biodiversity lives in that wood.
Sunshine broke out intermittently through the clouds during the course of the morning, and it was only as we arrived back at our cars that a gentle patter of rain started up. All in all, a great last session to the year!
|Meeting in the car park.|
|Joanna completes her membership form.|
|The recovered National Trust post.|
|Judy makes a point.|
|Lesley cuts the coppiced trees into sections.|
|The ever more open fen.|
|What a drag! Kevin rearranges base camp in order to remain a safe distance from the dangerous tree.|
|The precariously balanced trees.|
|Tea, coffee and grapes.|
|Carolyn coordinates January's AGM buffet contributors at break time.|
|The medium-sized frog makes a cameo appearance.|
|Bare trees and ivy.|
|King Alfred's Cakes.|
|Yellow Stagshorn fungi.|
|Dieuwke has stacks to do.|
|Not loud but brash.|
|On it like a Clustered Bonnet fungi.|
|Lesley with some Christmas wreath-making materials.|