Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Wood Hill Farm:12-03-2019

This week is, apparently, National Butchers' week in the UK. This is why the NCVs set to, with a variety of tools, to do a bit of butchery of their own. However, you need not be alarmed. No animals were hurt in the making of this blog. No - not at all. Instead they continued cutting out the remains of the very old hedge at Wood Hill Farm, a job started four weeks ago. 

Regular readers will know that the NCVs made a huge impact on their first visit and, since then, farmer Miles has been removing the stumps. However - there was lots more of the hedge to do, as you can see......
The body of the hedge lay quietly awaiting the inevitable.

Ros K. made the first incision with her butcher's loppers..

Soon the whole group was busy carving.

Andrew removed this particularly juicy leg of hedge 
and took it off for processing.

Very soon there were slices of hedge offal (or Hoffal) all over the place.

The incinerator was goaded into action - not easy in the rain.
However, Julia and Dave managed a blaze with just half a damp match 
and one stick of kindling.

At coffee time Julia was very pleased with herself, 
having bagged one of the very few decent places to sit out of the mud.

Master butcher Liz deployed the chainsaw to carve up the larger joints of hedge.

This particular side of hedge needed three NCVs to shift it.

The arrival of a box of delicious brownies 
during the afternoon lifted spirits.

As the day wore on the grass wore out.
The area around the fire resembled the Somme.
Walking across the mud required much effort.

It was clear that this NCV was going 
to have to do a bit of washing.

In fact it was hard to judge who was going to have to do the most!!

Back at the cars a valiant attempt was made to clean up....

 ...but even the power spray was struggling to remove the clag.

Also today.......
Three Kestrel boxes and three Bat boxes were delivered to Roy, the game keeper at the Summerstones Estate near Scarhouse Reservoir. They joined the three owl boxes delivered there a little while ago - all thanks to the hard work and the woodworking skills of Jan of the NCVs. It’s great to be able to report this sort of cooperation which can benefit the wildlife of Upper Nidderdale.

Owl box in situ.

An unusual site at Scarhouse Reservoir Dam taken by Jan after he had delivered the boxes.
It's clear that the reservoir has now filled up after last year's dry spell!!

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Ellington Banks: 05-03-2019

Pancakes? No chance!

It may have been Pancake Tuesday today but there were no frying pans being used at Ellington Banks today - only loppers and bow saws. The window of opportunity for removing encroaching scrub  is fast closing, so the NCVs needed to get a wiggle on and have a final go at the unwanted alder, willow and hazel saplings threatening to engulf the magnesian limestone grassland.

The task was a bit daunting on arrival.

But needless to say everyone just got stuck in.

 Brash piles started on our last visit got added to....

...and any nice straight poles were set to one side for transporting to 
Summerbridge nature reserve for our next training day.

Nice bit of 'threading' there Paul.

The cleaned up poles were carried off to Liz's trailer.

Dave used one of the poles to fight off a winged dragon 
that appeared out of the clouds.....

...and Andrew braved the depths of the crocodile infested swamp
to ensure that not a single sapling was left standing.

Brash was being generated by the ton 
and something more drastic had to be done.

Osian stepped up to the plate and laid the foundations for a fire.

With willing brash carriers like Andy to assist....

...he soon had a roaring blaze going.
The brash started to disappear very quickly after that.

Everyone congregated on the natural roadside bench for breaks.

By coffee time it was clear that we probably 
had just about all the poles we needed.

At lunchtime this was noticed on a post. 
Can you guess what it is?
(Answer at the bottom of the blog.)

Lunch over, Liz got busy with her chain saw 
on a couple of unwanted birch trees.

In a bid to ensure that the fire would start to die down before everyone left for home, 
John Black (the MOD ecologist) showed a small group of NCVs how 
to create a 'windrow' (a dead hedge to the uninitiated).

Within no time at all the group were on the case....

 ...and a few carefully placed twigs grew into a mighty hedge.

 Paul knocked in some stakes to steady the structure...

...and then - there it was. Complete.(apart from a little bit of tidying up.)
This will serve as a barrier and as a habitat pile at the same time. 
Much quicker to construct than a brash pile too.
John awarded the group a 10/10 - not bad for a first attempt!

 By 2:40pm, when the group knocked off, the site was
 looking a good deal clearer than when we first arrived.

And the fire was well on the way to being safe to leave.

Well done Tom - clearing your boots of anything untoward!

So - what was that stuff on the post???

It was the remains of frogspawn (seen here in one of the many small ponds in the area) 
that had been eaten by a magpie who,according to Liz,  
only liked to eat the whites - not the yolks!!
Apparently they regurgitate the indigestible tadpoles and leave them on posts.
Poor old taddies!

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Hackfall Woods:26-02-2019

Spring is coming!

Yes - the start of March is fast approaching. February is drawing to an end. The NCVs toddled off to Hackfall for their final winter task day this week. 'Woodland and landscape management' had been promised but, the NCVs asked themselves, did this include removing anything prickly, yet again? Let's have a look shall we?

The day was a gorgeous one.

The sluice from the top pond was less gorgeous and in dire need of clearing.
There may well have been some old bramble prickles in this lot.

But, prickles or not, the team made a grand job of it!

No prickles in sight for canal digger Anita who helped to clear the stream below.

Paul may well have been dealing with prickles above the pond where 
he tried out a novel way of removing an unwanted branch.

This little tree seemed to require a good deal of strength to shift.

No prickles on the bridge - just the winter mud.

There were no doubt some prickly patches along the way here.

In spite of the sunshine there appeared to be a lack of 'joie de vivre' at lunchtime.
Perhaps some nice wildlife sightings were needed?
Just on cue.....

 This lovely brimstone butterfly fluttered by.

And a gaggle of ladybirds was seen basking close at hand.

A glossy shield bug came to pay a call and a bee buzzed by.
All guaranteed to put a smile on everyone's faces,
 4 buzzards soared overhead on the thermals.
(That's on the thermals, not wearing thermals - no need for them today!)

Plenty of prickle free rubbish was collected.
Why can't people take their buckets home with them?
Why do people bring buckets to Hackfall anyway?

Or their plant pots and scrubbing brushes?

Not sure what these are the old bones of.
Perhaps a Hackfallysaurus from the early Jurassic period?

Using a new boot buddy, Sally made sure that any hint 
of a prickle was removed from her boots before she went home.

And finally -  news from the boxing world......

Last week NCV Jan made three owl boxes for the Summerstones Estate. This week he made three kestrel boxes AND three bat boxes too.  From now on he shall be known as 'Super Box Man'!

And here they are.
Great work Jan.