Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The NCV Barn: 13-02-2018

What connects the two pictures below?

The planned task for the NCVs this week.

They were supposed to be out working on Pancake Tuesday planting Sphagnum moss. 

HOWEVER...... the best laid plans of mice and men often have to change and, due to the weather conditions encountered at the meeting place near Ramsgill, they were!!

Snow was falling heavily and the road was getting covered over.
The prospect of ascending onto Masham Moor to spend the day on our knees in the snow and mud was NOT looked on favourably.

The alternative idea? Back to the barn to sort out everything that had been shifted to allow the shelving work to be done over the last two weeks.

First important tasks on arrival  - have a cup of coffee to warm up 
and get the wood burner going!

 The nature of the problem.
(NB Note the A frame welly hanger - more later!)

Stuff heaped in the middle of the floor and in front of the shelves.

Let's clear out everything from this corner 
and pull the new table down here.

Now it's clear let's fill it up again - only tidier this time.

This coat and welly hanger just needs to be moved into the end room.
Shouldn't take long.

Yes - good idea - it should fit through here OK.

No - it won't...

...whichever way around you try it.

OK. Well let's saw a bit off the legs.

No - still no use.

After a good deal of time, 
and many attempts at carrying this vital bit of kit in various directions, 
Jan solved the problem by taking more off each leg with an axe.

Whilst all these shennanigins were going on 
another group of NCVs were sharpening tools and 
setting saws at the other end of the barn.

Yvonne was wondering about helping out with 
the recalcitrant A frame but decided a bill hook was probably 
not the best tool for the job.

The last of many sweep ups and .....

TA DA! Clear floor space!

All reasonably tidy and accessible.
For now anyway.

Unfortunately it was James's last day out with the volunteers before he moves on to his new position with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. It was a sad time for everyone. We will miss him greatly. We sent him off with a photo book as a memento of his time with us and Tony, our very own poet, penned the "pome" below in his honour. Farewell James and good luck in your new role. We will miss your delicious cakes!!

Our James

Our James, a Searle, is never surly
Totes a beard that’s black and curly;
Even-tempered, never shirty
(Someone guessed his age at thirty!)
Knows about the flowers and bees
The birds and butterflies and trees.

The tasks that he selects for us
He organises without fuss,
Reminds us all the day before
Of time and place for Tuesday’s chore.
Is never known to curse or shout,
And thanks us all for turning out.

He’s the one who’ll never shirk
The toughest task, the muddiest work;
He never minds the hardest slog
In Fishponds Wood or Cow Mires bog.
He’ll swing a scythe and rake the swath
Or build a footpath up at Wath.

At Longside Farm he’ll lay a hedge.
In Hackfall Wood he’ll help us dredge
The Alum Pond, or swing an axe
To clear the fallen trees from tracks.
In bracken or in balsam he
Will set to work with wicked glee.

And when it rains, or sleets, or hails,
Or threatens equinoctial gales
He keeps on smiling, hands round cake.
How does he find the time to bake?

But now we hear he’s moving on;
A week or two and he’ll be gone.
The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust will gain
The benefit of James’s brain.

We’ll miss his cheerful laugh and chat
The bearded grin below his hat;
But wish him all the very best,
In every future wildllife quest.

By Tony Knowles – official NCV bard    

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Hackfall Woods - 06-02-2018

It is exactly 100 years ago today that women over 30 in the UK were given the right to vote. And look where it got the female NCVs - working side by side with our male colleagues, wearing the same uniforms, up to our eyes in mud on a cold, snowy winter's day in Hackfall Woods, wielding tools other than embroidery needles and generally being equal. Yes - women's suffrage has brought with it a lot of suffering as far as the female NCVs are concerned!!

But enough of politics. Let's move instead to what these brave women (and men) were doing in this challenging, though beautiful environment. The time for the NCVs' monthly visit to Hackfall had come round again, bringing with it the normal round of landscape maintenance tasks, 

 Snow showers kept turn out lower than usual - 
11 at Hackfall with two more at the barn (see later).

Temperatures for the workers were low and 
finger tips went numb whilst waiting for work to start.

However, everywhere looked lovely in the snow.

The photos below show equality in action.

 Tom did some lopping....

...and so did Sally.

Will wielded a spade...

...and so did Sally.

 David used a bow saw...

...so Sally did too.

Conor carried brash to the pile...

...and so did Maggie.

When large logs needed team work Ros E. lent a hand.

Please note here that it is a woman 
who is at the heavy end of the log!

Let's put the issue of equality to one side and make it clear exactly what was achieved today. 

The overhanging holly by the Grewelthorpe pond 
was cut back to the fence line.
This will allow walkers to use the whole path .

Invasive scrub and brambles were 
cut down alongside the pond.

Litter picking was done as the NCVs walked from one job to another.
This particular bit of extreme litter picking shows just how determined David is.

The biggest task of the day was cutting down and brash piling scrub 
that was encroaching the view from Mowbray Castle.

James demonstrated the Looney Tunes method of tree pruning.
You have to dangle from the branch that you are cutting off.

Sharp eyed Maggie spotted these tiny little orange fungi.
Ros's fungi ID app on her phone keyed it out as Velvet Shank.

Additional News:

On Monday and Thursday last week a group of 6 NCVs and Nidderdale Birdwatchers visited both the Y1/2 class in Summerbridge and the Y5/6 class in Dacre Braithwaite schools to support them when doing the RSPB's Big School Birdwatch. Good times were had by all and the children managed to work with the adults to identify and record many species of birds. Not a single penguin or ostrich was recorded, so that's promising.The children of Dacre Braithwaite were so keen they've since asked the head teacher if they can start up a bird watching club. Result!!

Also - Apologies to Jan and Andy - last week they toiled away in the barn making another great set of new shelves and didn't get a mention in the blog. The 'Newt Quarterly' ignored them totally. So - just to put the record straight - here are the shelves they constructed. Nice one lads!!

This week Jan and Phil continued with the shelving project....

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Ellington Banks: 30-01-2018

Newt Quarterly

The  journal for newt lovers everywhere.

This week was a good one for the great crested newts that live in the ponds on the MOD training area of Ellington Banks near Ripon. Although an area of land that is used for military purposes seems an unlikely home for such rare creatures, thanks to the efforts of MOD ecologist John Black and a 22 strong band of NCVs, it continues to be a sanctuary for them. They don’t seem to mind the army cadets running by, all dressed up in camouflage gear. Nor does the sound of rifle shots put them off. A suitable pond is a suitable pond and as long as the training happens outside the pond’s boundary fence then the newts are happy.

So what is it that the NCVs were doing to ensure that the newts (and many other plant and animal species such as Skipper butterflies) continue to thrive in their unusual abode? The simple answer is – removing and burning encroaching alder, birch and willow from the wildlife rich limestone grassland at this Site of Importance for Nature Conservation - an ongoing job for the last three years. If the ponds get over-shadowed by trees then the newts won’t be happy. They need sunlight to survive. So far results are good. In May 2017 no fewer than 11 of the 12 pond eDNA samples contained traces of newt DNA. 

In order to ensure that the sun’s rays penetrate the watery depths this is what has to be done......

First up - a health and safety briefing about leaving 
any smoke grenades found lying around severely alone!
Note the record turn out of NCVs - Ellington Banks is obviously a popular venue.

 The nature of the task ahead - 

 - lots of lopping and sawing was needed....

 ...so lots of lopping and sawing was done.

I spy with my little eye 2 NCVs.

And there's a pile more over there!

Graham soon had a good bonfire on the go...

...and everyone contributed plenty of fuel to keep it burning all day:
 The bundle carrying approach.

  The dragging technique.

 Teamwork in action.

The standard bearing method.

Most people took their coffee break sociably by the fence.
Another had to miss out on all the fun...

The loneliness of the long haul fire watcher.

On a couple of occasions the chainsaw had to be brought to bear. 

Stand back folks - there she goes.

James moves in for the final kill.

Gradually a hectare of land was cleared. 
(That's 2.7 acres in old money.)

Ponds were revealed...

...and interesting fungi came to light.

Other wildlife related news:

Last Friday a group of 5 volunteers from the NCVs, the Nidderdale Birdwatchers and High Batts Nature Reserve spent a very noisy evening in the company of the 6th Ripon Scout group. It wasn't that the scouts were misbehaving. Just the opposite. They were doing exactly as they were told. 

During the course of their weekly meeting they managed to work in pairs to build no fewer than 40 nest boxes, using the kits that some of the NCVs had prepared for them before Christmas. This in addition to making bird feeders and spending half an hour learning about bird identification! It was a very enjoyable evening which involved large amounts of hammering, and Baden-Powell would have been proud. It is unlikely that any lasting damage was done to everyone's eardrums but it was probably a near run thing, and they all looked a little breathless at the end.