Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Willow Coppicing and HSBC saving the banks

Sunday saw 9 volunteers from HSBC in Newport helped to coppice a small area of willow in a corner of the reserve as part of a rescue package for the stream banks.

Firstly, they were given a short health and safety talk followed by tool care and handling. We then walked through the reserve giving the vols a brief description of the Local Nature Reserve's history, habitats, wildlife and conservation issues. One such issue involved the banks of the drains being eroded to such an extent that the most mature trees on the reserve were threatened by bank collapse. One incident has already happened where a large sycamore fell across the stream where its roots where soil around some of its roots were washed away. This was recently cut up by TCBC's Woodland Ranger and vols. However, there are several trees including some magnificent beech trees which are also under threat. The idea for today’s work was to perform some bank stabilisation by making willow bundles which are staked into the bank with living willow, which would hopefully root and decrease future erosion.

The coppicing involved cutting the willow, in clumps called a stool, as close to the ground as possible with saws.
The wood was then taken to the processing area where it was cleaned and cut to length for the fascines, really curly wood was left in a pile for later. Bundles of willow of about 6 foot length were tied using wire into long sausages called fascines.
Meanwhile some willow stakes were made from thicker pieces of cut willow that were not so useful for the fascines. The wood was cut to a spike at one end using billhooks. Nearby, a small group litterpicked the area where we were working and we collected 3 bags of rubbish (throughout the day). We then looked at the drain which was completely blocked with silt (much of this from the eroding bank) although we could hear a trickle somewhere. Dave mainly set to this with a Chillington hoe and some muscle.
We took some nearby logs to make a retaining wall for some of this collected silt and staked these into place. Right next to the drain on the hill, we dug a small hole which formed the base of the amphibian hibernaculum.
Once finished all the useless brash was piled in here and this was filled over with the dug up earth.
Finally, we made 3-fascines altogether and three of us slopped our way across the silty stream and staked the willow fascines into place.
For all of this we used material from just 5 willow stools covering a very small area.
Everyone had a great time and we look forward to the next one. which is pencilled on for Sunday 27th November 2011 at 10.30 am.

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