Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Greygarth Farm, Dallowgill: 27-06-2017

"John's singing in the rain.
He's singing in the rain.
What a glorious feeling - 
It's Tuesday again..."

The weather forecast was a bit off putting this morning. Rain all day. But there was an important job to be done at Greygarth and 15 NCVs & students were ready and waiting to turn out in their wet weather gear to do their duty. 

And what, exactly, was their duty? A little clue - it begins with HBP. Yep - you've got it in one. Himalayan balsam pulling again. It's sprouting up all over the place and we want to catch it before it sets seed, as its explosive dispersal mechanism ensures an exponential increase in the population. Where this is near water courses (as in the case of the ponds at the conservation orientated farm at Greygarth) this makes it a real problem, as seed can get washed further downstream.

So - as soon as we arrived in the sleepy little hamlet of Greygarth we got to work. The photos give a flavour of the day....

One of the ponds that have been especially dug 
out for the benefit of wild life at Greygarth.
(The smudge is not mist just rain on the camera lens!)

Some of the balsam was easy to see.

The rest less so. Many tiny seedlings were
hiding within all the other vegetation - far more difficult to extract.

Everyone made a start looking for the micro-salad shoots. 

 Then it was decided to move across to prioritise 
the taller plants that were already flowering.

An NCV's eye view of the situation.

The rain eased off a bit for coffee time 
so hoods could be taken down.

But then the rains came down and the floods came up, 
making work down near the pond itself rather challenging.

Piles of trampled balsam plants started to appear everywhere.

At lunch time hoods had to remain firmly in place.

 John's umbrella came in handy at this point.

Today was the students' last day out with us - and Harry's birthday.
Thanks for your help throughout the year lads - and Happy Birthday Harry!

Some of the less OCD members of the group departed after lunch. 
But a band of 7 stayed on an extra hour or so, determined to 
seek out the hard to find plants. 
By close of play the area was looking reasonably free of balsam.

Ros E.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Azerley Estate, near Kirkby Malzeard: 20-06-2017

The Azerley estate was the venue for this week's task.  14 intrepid NCV explorers set  off  in search of one of our favourite plants, Himalayan Balsam.   

If you are wondering why we need to pull up balsam then find out more by clicking HERE. People say that although it blankets out other plants it is good for the bees. Whilst it is the case that bees do enjoy its flowers its presence stops them from visiting our own native species, which are then at a second disadvantage. It's no good - IT HAS TO GO!!! 

Balsam is easy to identify even without its pink 

flowers so, if you ever see a plant like this, pull it up!

It wasn't long before we were  fighting our way through the forest of balsam intermingled with equally huge nettles and blankets of cleavers.  

Can you spot the NCVs amongst the balsam?

There you are Dave! We wondered where you'd got to.

Melissa got lost in the jungle...

...so everyone got searching for her.

Balsam got piled up and up, VERY HIGH.

We're a tough bunch and although our arms and, in some cases, legs tingled with nettle stings we battled on knowing that a sumptuous lunch of pheasant sausages awaited us.  Our thanks go to Kevin Birch, the game keeper, and his wife Emma.  Very delicious sausages they are too.  Thanks also to Audrey for yet another tin of her world famous flapjack.

Knees under the table for a sausage butty.
Has Kath sprouted some antlers or 
is it a new hat she's bought for Royal Ascot?

Kevin showed us some of the items in the game keeper's freezer.
A white pheasant (left), a mink and a stoat in its winter coat (right).

By the end of the day we had cleared a  enormous area and were allowed to go home. 


...and after.


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Old Spring Wood: 13-06-2017

Pateley Bridge Pigeon Post
Quest for a bracken free woodland
By A. Hack - roving reporter

This week brought 13 NCVs to beautiful Old Spring Wood, above Summerbridge, to take part in the annual bracken bashing fest that (they hope) benefits the ancient woodland flora. This thug of the botanical world blankets great swathes of the woodland floor at this time of year and needs to be taught a lesson. 

The nature of the problem

Ideally plants would be dug up, roots and all. However - as NCVs wanted to finish this year's job before 2020 and get home in time for tea - the plan was to bruise the stems as usual (rather than cutting them). This way the NCVs hope that the plants will gradually weaken and give up the ghost. 

Here's one plant that has been correctly bashed.

The 'after bashing' picture does not look so different to the 'before bashing' shot
but at least the NCVs know that the job has been done. 

As the team moved through the site they were pleased to see a notable improvement in both the upper and lower sections of the wood. It appeared that years of hard work has started to pay off (although they've still some way to go to suppress the bracken plants' enthusiasm for life in the more sunlit glades). 

 The bashers moved steadily forwards wielding 
their hi-tech equipment to good effect.

 Various holes had to be avoided...

...as had ferns, bluebells, a bird's nest, day moths and fox gloves.

A new NCV joined the team this week - Andrew is an ecological consultant, so just the man to help them in their quest. Something else that helped was an almost constant supply of no fewer than three different kinds of cake. Thanks for this wonderful confectionery go to Alwin - wife of one of the NCVs - who spent the previous day slaving in the kitchen to provide something tasty to celebrate Tony's birthday. 

Three of the seemingly infinite number of cake boxes.

Morning coffee and cake at the top of the wood.

Lunchtime cake at the bottom of the wood...

... with Ros K. doing her Simon Rattle impersonation 
from her little log pedestal.

 Afternoon tea and cake back at the cars.

By this point Alistair was struggling to fit any more cake in.

By the time everyone decided that they had had enough and began the long trek up the hillside to the cars, large areas of the wood had been covered. There are, however, large areas still to be done on their return visit at some point this summer.

Onward and upward chaps!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Cow Myers: 06-06-2017

This week 7 NCVs returned to a place that they have not visited for a number of years, namely Cow Myers SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), near Galphay. Previously we have been called on to remove encroaching blackthorn, but this time we had to remove invasive weed growth (especially burdock) to allow conservation pony grazing to maintain the wildflower and insect rich meadows. The day was wet, the area was marshy and wellies were the order of the day - but everyone enjoyed themselves in the mire! 

Ann Poulson also visited to see where her ponies were collecting burrs in their coats.  The burdock was mostly under the trees, which is one of their favourite spots.  The larger plants were quite difficult to dig out as the roots were so long and there were a great many small seedlings which Ann thinks the ponies will trample down, thankfully.

The advance of the trifids - burdock has VERY 
big leaves which shade out other flowers...

...and EXTRA long roots.

Alistair was particularly pleased with 
himself once this beauty had conceded defeat.

Everyone got busy with spades or loppers...

...but every so often you just had to stop 
and wonder what best to do next.

Phil was happy in his work.

The list of interesting flora spotted was extensive and included Lousewort, Marsh valerian and Common spotted orchid as well as those shown below.

Bird’s-eye primrose

 Northern marsh orchid


 Common twayblade

Yellow flag iris 

The owner of the area, Tom Ramsden, met us with the key to 'The Witch of the Woods' cottage, which allowed us a dry coffee and lunch break.  And very grateful we were too.  It is a fascinating little cottage with much history which was renovated a few years ago.Tom is now looking for a tenant to look after it, mainly to keep it dry. It has no electricity or running water and no internet access. Anyone Interested?

The outside of the cottage and the brave NCVs.

 Inside - cosy, if not ultra modern.

 No fewer than two dining tables!

By the time the NCVs had finished the ponies could be assured of being able to graze without getting their coats full of burdock seed heads.