Life Goes On…

We are ahead of our winter schedule, which is probably a first in all of the ten years that we have been doing the greenway.

Marcus, Chris, Aaron, Kerrie, Mick and myself made it today and seeded the last three of our four bench areas, and also made a couple of smaller clearings between bench #1 and bench #2 and seeded these as well.


The wildflower seeds are – Yarrow, Hedge Garlic, Cornflower, Lesser Knapweed, Oxeye Daisy, Wild Carrot, Teasel, Vipers Bugloss, St John’s-wort, Field Scabious, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Wild Parsnip, Common Sorrel, Red Clover, Dark Mullein and Tall Mullein.

The grasses that came with this mix are – Meadow Foxtail, Crested Dogstail, Cocksfoot, Red Fescue, Yorkshire Fog and Common Bent.

This seed mix is supplied by Habitat Aid.


We also sowed Lady’s Bedstraw and Hedge Bedstraw to help our bloody-nosed beetle colony.

These seeds are supplied by Sustrans.


And lastly, at bench #4 we added Foxgloves, Poppies, Cornflowers and other wildflower seeds to really boost the flower colours and drag in as many pollinators as possible.


So to recap, we have four bench clearings, and two extra scallops between bench #1 and #2. The spring and summer work plan will be focussed on weeding out any unwanted plants that try to dominate in these clearings.


Next week we are working from Potsford Dam, heading south, to site our other benches and ease the scrub between the bridge and bench #5.


We still have enough money in the seed kitty to buy another kilogram of the wildflower mix, but we need to hold fire until the end of the summer, just to see what happens with the work done this winter.

Lots of questions about the trees up the path. I am sure all will come clear over the next few days.

Great day, loads of banter, lots done!


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Hedge Laying with Storm Gareth

The problem with Google is that there are plenty of examples of how to make a hedge or even regain control of an overgrown hedge, but when it comes to turning an unruly line of trees into a hedge, it is not quite as forthcoming.

So Marcus, Martin and myself persevered with what felt right.

We collected a load of whips from bench-clearing #2…


Spaced them out at bench-clearing #3…


And then planted them…

Apart from forgetting to talk on the video, I think we did OK.

We can encourage the whips to grow into the hedge and kind of see how it shapes up over the spring and summer.


I still feel that a lot more of the trees need to be cut back (don’t worry, tree huggers, they will become part of the hedge) but I think that is a job for the autumn.

Views are good from our bench.



After this, we worked on the scrub in bench-clearing #2.



Next week we are seeding this area with lady’s bedstraw and hedge bedstraw. The whole area should be full of yellow flowers in the summer and literally buzzing with insects and other wildlife.

Personally, I would like a couple of seeded scallops between bench #1 and bench #2 just to encourage as much wildflower growth as possible, and if it is manageable, we can do the same between the rest of the benches.

Great day, great company, great work.


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Who Let The Dogs Out!

Urgh! Here goes… A confession. I have a massive phobia of dogs!

People say, oh you don’t like dogs, then? It is not that I don’t like them, I am just very scared of them.

But after someone told me that phobias are irrational, I decided that it was time to try and overcome mine.

Eight dogs later, yes, I made “friends” with as many as eight dogs, I made a little step forwards. Thank-you to all the dog owners who helped me with this.

The workday was good with four of us braving the lull from the storm. Mick, Aaron, Martin and myself cleared the last bench area.


We extended this area to about the same size beyond the tree, and also on the other side of the path. We are going to seed with lady’s bedstraw and hedge bedstraw at the end of the month.


These whips won a reprieve and will be transplanted into the hedge that we started last week. Everything else had to go, though. We need dappled shade at the very least.


I cannot stress enough, the benefits of getting away from a screen and into the green!


We moved the bench to the other side of the path. When the lady’s bedstraw flowers it will be a mass of yellow and smell like honey. I am madly looking forward to just sitting at the bench and watching and photographing the wildlife in the summer. I think we all need to start enjoying the fruits of our labour, as well as the labour itself.

Next week we can go both ways. We can scallop towards the bird-feeder clearing and sow more wildflower seeds, or we can transplant our whips. Either way, we can meet at this clearing and I will bring a spade and loppers so we can decide on the day.


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Life on the Hedge

A cracking turn-out with Marcus, Reece, Aaron, Kerrie and myself armed and ready to tackle our hedge challenge. Supplies were plentiful with gingerbread men, fudge and coffee on offer throughout the morning. I don’t think we quite got to the bottom of whether gingerbread ‘men’ is politically correct in this day and age, but much banter surrounded the little people.


We cautiously selected poor and struggling specimens, as we slowly removed the knotted mess that the unmanaged growth had given us.


We still have plenty of trees in the hedgerow and maybe a few more need to become part of the hedge. This will allow the remaining trees to really flourish.


My one concern is that the hedge becomes a bit top-heavy. It might be worth trying to lay a couple of the younger trees to fill in space at the bottom. I will google advice.

But we are where we are, and we have the start of a living hedge. It is a good enough length to allow us to learn how to manage it and encourage horizontal growth, rather than vertical.

On the other side, we created a stacked dead-hedge.


After spending time watching Warwickshire Wildlife Trust coppice and dead-hedge earlier this week, I can see that our dead-hedging is way off the standard. Hopefully, ours will drop a bit and become a bit denser.


However, it is a lot better than what we started with.

We can encourage the already present holly to grow into our hedge and dare I say that there are a fair number of blackthorn and other whips that we could transplant into it.


Well, that’s about it for this week. A nice area to seed with lady’s bedstraw and hedge bedstraw. It will become a lovely spot to watch our hedgerows develop and become populated with wildlife.

The rectangle picnic benches have been moved, so my OCD has calmed down a bit and I feel all is well with our general progress.

We are at bench 2 on Monday next week, clearing scrub and preparing the ground for seeding.

Lovely day, great company and great work.


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Record Bench Build

It was only a matter of time until the professional bench-builders hit the trail.


I would say that this one took Aaron and myself about 45 minutes to build… Ahem, sorry, did someone say, 1 hour and 45 mins? Only the throngs of people passing-by will ever know the truth.

The old rectangular bench needs to be hoofed down the path towards Draycote at some point. Time is short so we can probably just move it a few meters away from the new bench for now and then find a new home for it in the summer.

Whatever, the old benches cannot stay next to the new benches. It is playing havoc with my OCD just to think about them so massively out of place.

As with the whole picnic-bench theme, we promised to give each bench site a different appearance. We have the bird-feeder and mini wild-flower meadow bench, we have the views across The Heath and pollinator-attracting wildflowers bench. This bench is in a natural clearing and the edges are going to become hedges, so maybe we should call it the hedgerow bench. The name hasn’t really grown on me yet, though!


On this side, we need to cut the trees down to a five-foot height and then encourage the hedge to thicken up over the spring and summer.


The other side will need even more encouragement. Luckily, I have secured a ‘hedge-pack’ from The Woodland Trust to enable us to put in decent hedges along the edges. This will not be delivered until Autumn though, so we will just have to do the best that we can until then. We can dead-hedge with the cuttings from the other side, for now.

We can seed with our wildflower mix and specifically, hedge bedstraw. This will create a corker of a wildlife spot for wildflowers in the sunny aspect, and fungi in the shaded one.

The fourth and last bench, well, it is actually the second bench in the run, just needs a bit of scrub clearance and then seeding with lady’s bedstraw. If we have time we can make scallops up to the bird-feeder bench, and seed with more lady’s bedstraw. This will encourage our bloody-nosed beetle population to flourish and expand southwards.

In the autumn we can do the same with the four picnic benches south of Potsford Dam, and then it is just a case of encouraging the different aspects of each bench area, and scrub control.

The way I am seeing the next five weeks-

Wed 27th Feb – Create the hedge at bench 3 and move the old benches a bit.

Mon 4th Mar – Work on the hedge at bench 3.

Wed 13th Mar – Clear scrub at bench 2.

Tue 19th Mar – Clear scrub at bench 2 and scallop towards bench 1.

Wed 27th Mar – Seed all areas from bench 1 to bench 4.

We also need to do a bit of remedial work on stumps at the underpass and I think the bat-boxes need slightly longer landing ladders.

A quick look up and down shows the path between clearings.



We still have loads of trees between clearings, however, there is a good view along the path so people don’t feel enclosed and intimidated whilst walking along it.

And lastly, I spotted a brimstone butterfly just north of the bird-feeder clearing on Sunday, and whilst out on my travels over the last week, I spotted Chris, Reece and Linda, so just to let everyone know that our extended greenway volunteer group are all fit and well.


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Visit from the mothership

Great to be joined by David from Sustrans, today. David brought gifts, in the form of cookies and our much needed Lady’s Bedstraw and Hedge Bedstraw seeds. We now have enough seeds to really encourage our Bloody-nosed Beetle population along the path.

I have said it before and will say it again. It is always hugely welcoming to have someone from Sustrans join us on a workday. It makes us feel part of a bigger entity, and it is useful to get a little push in the right direction now and again.

Today was split into two halves. Marcus and Aaron built our new communal bench, whilst Mick and myself grubbed up roots in our new clearing. David helped in both camps.


The ground is now ready for our pollinator-attracting wildflower mix. We will sow this in early spring, along with some bedstraw seeds.

We ideally want a clearing like this, with a bench and a view out across Lawford or Dunsmore Heath, every 200 meters or so. This takes us nicely from the bird-feeder clearing right down to where we join National Cycle Route 41 just before the old Dunchurch station.

I can see us getting four of these clearings ready before spring, the rest will have to be in the autumn, which is good because we don’t want to be spreading ourselves too thin across the summer.

The bench, as always, took a bit of thought whilst putting it together.

We just need to reposition the old one down the path next week.

Great day today and finally enjoying a bit of winter sun.


And we have plenty of trees and scrub between clearings, so fear not, anyone who is worried that we are losing too much ground-cover.



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Green Time v. Screen Time

Oh, the irony, sitting here at a screen extolling the virtues of getting away from a screen and replacing it with a bit of green time!

It was Marcus and myself again today and we finished the scrub clearance in our bee clearing.


Fear not, scrub lovers! The scrub extends beyond the ridge and picks up again on the left. Any small mammals will still be able to seek cover from owls and the like.

We now have our pizza slice window looking out across the heath.




We will get a bank full of rosebay willowherb in the summer and will seed the top ground with our bee friendly seed-mix. This includes foxgloves, cornflowers, vetch, poppies, and a host of other colourful wildflowers.

To watch the changing landscape in the background and the frenetic bug-life in the fore, will make this a favourite destination.

Next week is our last week in this spot and we will need mattocks to pull out the bramble roots – joy!! And then we move northwards to our third destination bench where we will be clearing scrub and planting with lady’s bedstraw. This will help to off-set the cleaver loss in the bird-feeder clearing and give our bloody-nosed beetle colony a permanent home.

This should take us to the end of March and the start of spring, when everything starts to grow again.

Other jobs to do – get our new benches on site and reposition the old benches. Get our observation bench for the bird-feeder area (from Dunchurch) and get it sited on the opposite bank. Set up an easy-to-post-photo interface via Instagram or whatever, so sharing becomes easy to do.

Well done if you made it this far! It probably sounds like the ramblings of a mad-man who is trying to create a little bit of a haven for both humans and wildlife.

And remember, lose the screen time and get some green time!


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