Friday, 24 April 2015

Stepping up on Henllys LNR

The increasingly variable weather patterns including intense rainfall and weeks of drought (mainly around Easter) isn't just difficult for our orchard. It also increases other pressures on Henllys Local Nature Reserve. With the most populous users of the LNR being dog users, combined with the increase in the popularity of owning a dog as well as recent restrictions of walking a dog on playing fields and school grounds have created a greater usage of the LNR. With a dog, responsible owners exercise them in bad weather increasing footfall when the ground is saturated (nb responsible dog owners also pick up their dog's poo and put it in a bin afterwards too). These have resulted in a cumulative increase of pressure on routes through the LNR and in some places this has lead to increased erosion and alterations in natural drainage from the main meadow down to the streams. In some places, this has meant that previously safe slopes have become more dangerous and with every new slip and slide, the situation is made worse. The worst of these areas lead down to where we do our winter coppicing work, ironically to provide sustainable sources to stabilise the stream banks from runoff during periods of intense rainfall and flooding.

As a group we regularly look at issues and try and work ways around them working with the Land Owners in the Countryside section of TCBC and in particular the County Ecologist Steve and Ranger Jon. We decided to act reactively and construct a set of basic steps from sleepers on the worst of these erosion points. We were also joined by two of Jon's volunteers Clive and John who also cooked us some nice bacon and sausages on charcoal made from locally managed wood.

Slope before
We started by measuring the length of the slope and worked out how far apart the steps would need to be to have as equal stepping distances as possible. Starting at the bottom, we roughly cut out the step with LNR spades, a mattock and Chillington hoes.

Ranger Jon digging out the first step
After adding the sleeper this was levelled off and put in line with the rest of the steps. Two tanalised wooden stakes were driven down in front of the sleeper to prevent the sleeper from slipping forward and these were predrilled and then nailed to the steps. Sometimes the stakes hit a rock, twist slightly or are diverted off the vertical, but as long as they are in the ground deep enough, nailed well to the sleeper and sawn flush with no trip hazard, we were happy. Some people use rebar steel stakes, but we like to use wood.

Nailing stakes to sleeper
levelling off the step
getting there with Brian and Phil
After we finished the flight of steps, just to make it a little easier, we added a short handrail at the lower end. Meanwhile one of Jon's regular volunteers, (John, 70) used a mattock to formalise a drainage stream near the bottom of the steps which has only arisen in the last 12 months.

Ta da
We were extremely pleased with the work we did with our new volunteer Phil particularly happy. However, none of us were as happy as Jess with her shelter.

Jess having a rest in the shade


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