The Water Meadow Chronicles part 7 (January 2020)

Iain Carruthers-Jones gives his latest account of BWMG work parties. Earlier parts of the Chronicles can be found here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

We had a lovely morning for the volunteer session on the 18th January. The sun shone and it was brisk rather than cold to start with. By tea break time we were all comfortably warm because plenty of effort was needed for the tasks assigned. There were sixteen in the group including our young volunteer on a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme

Our brief this morning outlined “some ditch maintenance”. This work on the south Crankles involved having a go at the area around the ditch between The Crankles and the first meadow of No Man’s Meadow. The name Crankles comes from the shape of the fishponds used by the monks in the Abbey, now celebrating 1000 years this year. The type of work we would do would be determined by the depth of the water. A daunting prospect given the recent weather we have “enjoyed” and bearing in mind that this part of the Crankles had been under water as both the Lark and the Linnet overflowed their banks for a few days. Whatever, gumboots were an imperative. The second task was raking last years’ old growth away and putting it on the compost heap as well as some tree maintenance around the ditch. If there was time left we would make a start on clearing old tree guards and tree mulching. Phew!!

A possible extra hazard was that we would be working adjacent to the beehives which can’t be closed up in the winter due to mouse deflectors on their entrances. As it turned out, the temperature was low enough for the bees not to be flying.

It was quite a revelation to see just how much clearing was needed. This ditch has been neglected for a while and the area has many fallen trees, some of the larger ones were right across the ditch. Those volunteers who were able, helped to pull some of the easier logs from the deep mud which was both slippery and retentive. While this heroic work was going on the rest of us raked the vegetation which had been mowed earlier and putting our resultant arisings onto the now huge, compost heap nearby.

We were ready for our “coffee break” when the time came and there was banter among the group of setting a really difficult bog snorkelling competition – Sticky mud, zero visibility, very cold water: what’s not to just relish! On a more serious note, traces of oil were seen on the water surface of the ditch as it flowed towards and into the Lark. Whether this can be linked to the fly tipping event a few days earlier, is difficult to say, but it was distressing to see.

As the weeks pass and the work of the volunteers progresses I am reminded of the value of their work. They are getting pleasure from their collective efforts, but they are also helping to revive and create a wonderful green space for all to enjoy.

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