Thursday, 26 January 2012

Vista Management

25th January 2012

Another mild day with temperature of 9o Celsius at 9am. The weather certainly has been kind to us volunteers so far this winter. There were two tasks to be completed today. Phil Younger set off to Snipes Dene with Dave, Lorna and Matthew to burn rhododendron prunings, whilst the rest of the group set off for the Monument to pull up silver birch seedlings on the hillside above the Lily Pond. The idea is that there should be a clear & uninterrupted vista from The Lily Pond up to the Monument.
When we arrived at the Monument a large number of molehills were noticed. Terry and Mike quickly got to work flattening them out (the molehills,  not the moles!), to improve the look of the area.
Flattening the molehills

More molehills to flatten

An A-board was then set up to explain to any visitors the nature and reasoning behind our task.

Keeping our visitors informed

The team then made their way down the hill, and spreading out across the hill began to work upwards removing small silver birch saplings, and any other saplings likely to obstruct the view. It wasn’t quite as easy as we had been led to believe; some of the saplings had been pruned in previous years and this meant that the new growth was on fairly large roots. We had, therefore, to revert to digging them out using garden forks.

The Team in action
Mary was given the additional task of asking any passing visitors for their views on our conservation efforts. So, equipped with a clip board (in true management style), she eagerly set about her task. I just hope the comments are favourable.

Laura takes a break in the sunshine
Another task completed we all headed for home, I wonder what's in store for next week?

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A Tale of Two Teams

Wednesday 18th January 2012 was another mild day, if somewhat overcast.

Team Meeting

One team set off to clear the leaves from the Ha-ha which runs along the length of The Avenue. What is a Ha-ha? Well, a Ha-ha is a type of ditch in which one side is vertical and made of stone, while the opposite side is sloped and turfed. It allows an unobstructed view from The Avenue whilst creating a barrier to livestock.

A Cross-section of a Ha-Ha

The Ha-Ha Clearing Team

The leaves were loaded into large sacks
then taken away to be composted.

The second team set off for The Lily Pond. There was a fine drizzle of rain as we set off but this had stopped by the time we reached the Lily Pond. John began by scything tall grasses  behind the Pond, which was still frozen after several very frosty days. Laura (a European Volunteer from Moldova) and I began raking up the cuttings and adding them to the dead hedges at either side of the pond. Our peace was soon shattered by the arrival of Bruce and Mike with petrol driven strimmers!

One of the dead hedges topped with grass cuttings, runs
from the edge of the pond to the nearby trees.
The strimmers arrive!
Raking the longer grass cuttings, bracken, horsetails etc was fairly easy but the shorter grass cuttings were more difficult as the tines of the rake tended to snag on the tussocks of grass.

We were treated to shortbread biscuits at our coffee break which were kindly provided by Mike.

Once the scything and strimming  were finished we headed back to the walled garden where we had an early lunch break. After lunch, we collected more rakes and headed back to The Lily Pond to complete our task.

Laura takes a breather.
By early afternoon, true to form, there were breaks in the cloud and brief spells of sunshine - well it was a Wednesday after all!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Wednesday 11th January 2012.

Another fine Wednesday and mild for January with a temperature of about 10 degrees Celsius.
There were several tasks for the landscape consevation volunteers today. Matthew headed off to chop and bag logs, John took 2 "volunteers" to dredge weeds and some of the reeds from The Lily Pond. Phil, Dave and Johnny set off to strim the grass on the bank upto the Banquetting Hall, whilst the remainder of us headed off to prune laurel bushes.

A laurel hedge has been planted along one side of the ride down from the Banquetting Hall, it's purpose being to guide the eye down towards Gibside Chapel.

Dave Prunning

Mary Prunning

Whilst we got to work with the delicate task of prunning the laurel bushes, Keith began cutting up a larch which had fallen down. We used secateurs for our prunning (a change from the usual loppers and bow saws!), and tidied up the prunnings into sacks as we went along (another first for us!).
Hopefully the laurels will bush out sideways to form a nice looking hedge with the trees behind it.

After a coffee break and fortified by flapjacks and cookies provided by Dave & Lorna we returned to help Keith cut back a small holly tree and some hawthorn bushes to complete the vista.

Just before lunch we spotted a red kite circling overehead, it was probably just checking up on us!

Keith cutting back the hawthorn bush

The Finishing Touches
After lunch at the Stables, we headed off to the bank below the Banquetting Hall to begin raking up the grass which had been cut by the strimming party in the morning.

Dave & Johnny Strimming

Phil with strimmer, Mike raking

John Grundy appeared and asked for 2 volunteers with pitchforks to go and help clear up the pond dredgings at the Lily Pond. Terry and I drew the short straws. The dredgings were muddy & smelly. After we had loaded them onto the back of the truck we helped the others collect up some of the reeds from around the periphery of the pond which had been scythed by John and added them to the dead hedge.

John with his Scythe

Dave & Terry