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Hedge-laying Work Parties Winter 2011 / 12


December 03 & 04
January 14 & 15

Three into two does go!

How long does it take to lay 155 metres of very overgrown hedge? Well the pre-work party expectation was 3 weekends which neatly filled the gap between restoration work party seasons. Well it didn’t quite work out like that....

The hedge in question was situated on the 650 metre length between Malthouse Bridge and the dropped Schoolhouse Bridge. The Society first worked here in Winter 2008/09 when about 160 metres at the Malthouse Bridge end were completed in four weekends. The aim of this winter’s work was to complete the remaining length between the two bridges - with the exception of 30 metres or so under electricity wires which we were prohibited to touch. The hedge itself had clearly not had any attention for years but nevertheless was probably the best one we had worked on in the years we have been hedge-laying. The only problem was a deep ditch behind the hedge which made work from that side precarious.

Margaret had a plan! The first weekend in December we got rid of every stick of timber that was either too thick to be of use or the wrong type. This meant removing anything bigger than about 100 mm in diameter. There was an excellent turnout of 20 volunteers on both days, including 6 new recruits, and we were able to tackle the whole of the stretch to be laid. Despite the presence of five chainsaws on site much of the timber had to be felled by hand to complete the work. The result was a very large quantity of firewood, which experience told us would vanish within days, and an even bigger quantity of brash, which experience told us would not. We went away for Christmas very happy with progress.

When we returned for the January we had a surprise. The logs had, as expected, grown legs and walked, but much to our delight so had the brash. For the latter belated Christmas present we must thank the W.R.G. work camp who had worked the other side of Schoolhouse Bridge over the holiday. It must have been one hell of a bonfire!

With the unwanted wood out of the way, progress in January was rapid. In the absence of big stuff we were able to get on with laying the hedge at a cracking pace. Another healthy turn-out helped progress with 22 on Saturday and 20 on Sunday. The group consisted of restoration volunteers, winter-only hedge-laying enthusiasts and a few enhancement volunteers. The last few trees were dropped on Saturday and progress was such that we completed the whole 155 metre stretch in the weekend. The only remaining job was to dispose of the brash on the bonfires on Sunday. This was a popular job given the temperature which only rose above freezing for a couple of hours each day. Despite a fair proportion of volunteers being new to the craft, the quality of the result is a testament to our growing proficiency and Margaret's exacting standards.

So in two weekends this year we completed the same distance that three years ago took four weekends. The February work party was therefore cancelled much to the disgust of the Saturday evening habitués of the Cross Keys.

Thanks are due to Mike for a huge effort on the paperwork necessary to account for recent changes in the H+S regulations so that the work party could go ahead. Thanks also to Rich for the upmarket welfare cabin and his usual excellent tea, cakes and sympathy. Oh and one other thing.... The Society has acquired a mascot – a stuffed lion – who can be seen below.

If you are in the Pant / Crickheath area, or are just walking the towpath, please have a look at our efforts. Maybe you can be persuaded to come and join us next year!



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Frost and fog on Saturday The 'join' with what we did in Feb 2009
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Saturday Gang Finished hedge
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Rival webmasters were spotted taking photo's ! It was almost warm on Sunday
Next year