It will be a bit of a slow start on the Greenway this year due to me fracturing a couple of ribs, again!!
However, here is a list of rather tasty jobs that I have planned for the first quarter of this year.
We have two new circular community benches on order. I propose that we put one just north of Potsford Dam where a rectangular bench sits, and the second one where our last rectangle bench is, south of Potsford Dam. The first bench will give users a good view of Dunsmore Heath looking south-west and the second bench gives a really good view of Cawston reservoir and Cawston wood. The two displaced rectangular benches can be pushed down the path a bit. More of this later.
I would like to push the first rectangular picnic bench south of Potsford Dam to where the steps lead down to the reservoir, so it acts as a waymarker as to where that path is. This will need a bit of cutting back of scrub to make space for it.
Now, this is where we go a little off the path. There is a path that runs off the greenway just before Dunchurch Station, it picks up a track that goes past Windmill Cottages and then pops out on Cawston Lane in Dunchurch. Having run it a couple of times last summer, it is pretty overgrown. I would like to really open this up and make it very user-friendly. I would want the last of our displaced benches placed where the path leaves the greenway, again, to act as a waymarker and the other displaced bench placed somewhere between this and the last communal bench.
This gives us an extra 0.7 miles of Greenway to look after and also gives Sustrans the time to sort out the drainage under the A45. From a walking or running point of view, it gives a load of different options for various loops back through Cawston wood, or Bilton village, or venture further out to Dunchurch village and enjoy refreshments at The Dun Cow.
Our last workday of 2018 happened on Wednesday this week. A litter pick that had the whole two miles of the path covered. Aaron, Victoria, Tom, Marcus and myself picked up a good three or four sacks of rubbish and means we are looking good going into the New Year.
I was getting left behind at one point…
…but I had a good excuse…
…beautiful fungi, the fungi season has started, one of my favourite seasons.
We have plans for 2019 which include hedging the edges of the greenway and have a grant from the CGF for two more community benches. This means that we can push a couple of the rectangular benches down the path towards Dunchurch Station. I am in two minds as to getting a proper notice board and publish what we are doing. The over-riding factor being that the greenway is a platform to form a hobby and either join us on workdays, or just monitor and record the flora and fauna. The end result hopefully will be people forming connections and friendships over a mutual interest. This invariably leads to solving mental health issues like isolation and loneliness.
And lastly a twist…
It’s Christmas, we are on our last workday of the year, Aaron was first to notice a Star of David on a brick by The Bear bridge.
And then we spotted another one…
This one had a W in the middle of the cross. The railway was built in the 1850’s and it would be interesting to find out what significance this is.
But hey, Happy Christmas to all of our volunteers and all of the users of the path. Looking forward to next year and really pushing on…
We have done a job in the area where the community bench is. Aaron, Marcus and myself finished off our work in this area.
Last year we put up bird-boxes and feeder stations. We have planted trees and now we have pushed back the scrub and seeded with a wildflower and grass meadow mix that is put together to attract butterflies and moths.
What we hope to get is this…
But turning over and disturbing so much of the soil in this area, means a lot of dormant seeds might be nudged into life. The trick in the spring and summer will be to gently weed out anything that looks like it is going to crowd out everything else. Willow-herb and nettles being top of the agenda.
Hopefully, if this area turns out to be what we think it is going to look like and attracts a lot of butterflies, bees and other insects, then we can gradually scallop the scrub at either end and extend to make a wonderful meadow area.
Shots up and down at the entrance shows how different it is, just a few hundred feet along the path.
The idea is to be able to walk along the wooded bit and then break out into a colourful meadow area with loads going on, sit at the bench and enjoy just being there. Maybe start recording the flora and fauna on iRecord and meet others with a like-minded interest. Share a flask of coffee and hopefully be able to make a platform where friendships can be formed as new hobbies are developed.
Well, that is where my mindset is at and drives me to do what I do.
Thanks all who made it today, and thanks to Nick from Sustrans for popping along and giving us a bit of direction.
Next week is just a general tidy up and litter pick.
We have got the meadow seed mix and it was nice to split the session into ripping out bramble roots and seeding the area.
The seeds are from a farm in Alcester, Warwickshire, so you cannot get much nearer than that. It is nice of them to supply a postcard that gives is an idea of what we will look like next summer.
The slog of pulling roots out is almost over.
There are a few bits left to grub out, but not a huge amount. We seeded the areas that we have cleared and hopefully it will make a huge difference next year.
The area where the newly planted trees are, presents us with a new challenge. There are an awful lot of plants growing and it seems a shame to start ripping through this. I think Marcus and myself felt that it was better left, and just clear any scrub that encroaches.
I think we have just two more workdays before Christmas. It would be good to get this area done and dusted before the end of the year.
Today I got there on time!! A miracle, some might say.. lol
I thought it might be worth adding the back story to what we are doing. I ran the idea of removing scrub and replacing it with a wildflower meadow mix, past the Sustrans’ ecologist last year (Sustrans are the land owners). Sustrans thought it was a great idea to be planting wildflower seeds and worked out a management plan for the work that we are now doing. The seed mix has UK provenance and is from a reputable seller called Habitat Aid. So if anyone is wondering why the area looks like a bomb site, I assure you that it is work in progress and in accordance with the management plan given to us by Sustrans.
Mick, Marcus and myself turned up for another gruelling morning.
This bare ground represents three man-hours of work. It is really slow and hard work.
If we do not get the bramble roots out it will simply be brambles again next year.
The last bit to do is around the bench and then the section with the trees that we planted last autumn, and rediscovered when we rolled back the scrub. And this shows how vigorous and smothering the scrub is, if it is left unchecked.
So basically, that gives a potted summary of what we are doing, why we are doing it and the reasoning behind it.
A nice bracket fungus to finish.
Great work today. I reckon we have two more sessions of pulling the roots up. After that it will be much softer work because we don’t want to be disturbing our seed mix.
If anyone wants to come along and help, you are most welcome. Many hands and all that!
OMG, today was a killer… We went over the cleared ground on one side of our mini-meadow to remove all the bramble roots. Our choice of weapon was the mattock, which is like a pickaxe but with a flat edge as well as a pointed one. It was really hard work!!
Four and a half of us made it today. Marcus, Chris, Kerrie with a flask of coffee, me, and Ruby, who is the half..
Next week we are going to seed this side with our wildflower meadow mix, and then start on the other side.
We will need to section this into three or four lots and then spend a week pulling out roots with the following week seeding it. If we are just pulling out roots every workday it will just become a horrible chore.
The rest of the time was spent tidying and stuff.
If this area looks anything like what is in my head, it will be amazing, and then we can just add 50 square metre blocks onto each end, every year, as we learn how to manage the area throughout the summer.
Wednesday 23rd 10:00 to 12:00 – Install new bench south of bird-feeder clearing and carry old bench down path towards Dunchurch station.
Wednesday 30th 10:00 to 12:00 – Install new bench where last old bench is, south of Potsford Dam and carry old bench to where path leaves greenway just north of Dunchurch station.
The rest of the winter works program will revolve around these benches and pushing back scrub. This will encourage wildflowers to grow and pollinators will then move in. We can boost the widflower offering with our meadow seed mix.