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One wet day on Winfrith!

October 20, 2008

Today was a special day.  It was just another monday to many, but for Dorset Wildlife Trust it was the start of 2 weeks of full on volunteering tasks – the start of the Make A Difference Day fortnight.  For the staff from Serco it was also a special day – they were out enjoying a day in the countryside!

The team from Serco - every one a star!

The team from Serco - every one a star!

First up, I suppose I should explain what all this stuff about a Make A Difference Day project that actually lasts for two weeks….   Let’s call it MADD for starters, before I get writers cramp!  MADD is a national push to get people involved in volunteering projects organised by the Community Service Volunteers (CSV).  The date is set at 25th October this year, although they allow MADD days to fall on any day a week either side.  Me, being a greedy so and so, decided that just one day was never going to be enough – so have used every day of the two weeks as a MADD day.  There’s tons going on – if you click on this link, MADD tasks it will open up the calendar so you can have a gander.  If anything grabs you as a ‘I really must have a go at that!’ task, contact the organiser (usually me) and I’ll add you to our list for the day.

Anyway, back to today.  Toby and his gang turned up bright and early at the layby on gatemoor road, ready for a day of hard but incredibly satisfying work.  The drizzle was still hanging in the air and the forecast for the day was not great – with heavy showers later on, before more persistent rain came in.  Picked a great day for it then!

Sarah, the DWT Rivers and Wetlands Officer, walked the team down the track to the site, while I sped off ahead in the Ranger.  The cows on site greeted me with glee and came running across thinking I was bringing food or something!  Luckily the farmer turned up then so they settled down and left us to it..

The Ranger - with fetching Autumnwatch logo

The Ranger - with fetching Autumnwatch logo

First task of the day was to clear some cut scrub that had been stacked since September.  The strong breeze soon got the fire raging and in almost no time at all the first of the piles had been cleared and everyone was off to get the second completed.  This was a breeze!  Despite the overnight rain, the wood was burning away merrily – and we even managed to get the spuds in for lunch later!

A good fire made light work of the brash

A good fire made light work of the brash

On to the next task then – clearing gorse and birch from a ditch further down the Reserve.  Very soon we had a huge pile of cut gorse, and I even managed to get a fire going on the second strike of the fire stick – we were on a roll!

The roll soon came to a bit of a standstill though….

Having piled on the gorse, which initially went up in huge flames, the fire quickly died away, and before long we had a bonfire of about 12 feet in height – with no fire!  The problem was that the hearty of the fire had simply burned out, leaving no fuel or heat to maintain the flames.  The solution? 

Have lunch!  The jacket potatoes were ready, and they always take priority in a crisis…

Jacket potatoes!

Jacket potatoes are served!


Back to the fire – Start again, and use some wood to get a good fire established before getting the gorse on.  This was the only excuse that some of teh team needed – the call for some birch was soon met with the sound of some of the trees crashing down!  We were going to come back on another day with chainsaws for those, but these Serco bods are made of strong stuff and with a bow saw in their hand no silver birch was safe!  The upshot of it all was that we did get the fire going, after much tender loving care had been expended on it – and it then started to devour anything that was thrown on to it. 

Now that's what I call a fire!

Now that

 Gorse, bramble, birch, alder all got turned to ash in no time -and the result along the ditch was staggering. 

What had been a choked and overgrown ditch had now been opened out completely -and the landscape itself had also been opened up hugely.  This was the aim for today, as part of a wetland project to improve the entire site for wading birds – and they really don’t like to feel enclosed..

The ditch getting cleared of Gorse and birch

The ditch getting cleared of Gorse and birch

With that, the rain started again and it seemed a good time to stop.   It proved to be a very good decision as, by the time evryone had reached the cars it had set in rather well and all of us were starting to get rather wet.  Bernie was worse off than most though, as he realised that his coat was still down at the fire site!  Don’t worry too much Bernie – I’m sure it will dry out again at some time, although the pocket was literally full of water when I picked it up later!

A huge thanks to the team at Serco for all their efforts today.  We achieved a huge amount and it’s always good to be out with a bunch such as them – fun to be with, and very hard working! 

That’s day one of MADD over – tomorrow is a deer count and building a bat roost, and the rain should have stopped by then!

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 20, 2008 10:54 pm

    Brilliant job! The first day of MADD, shame it wasn’t better weather… but tomorrow is going to be sunny (they say!) so the bats and deer are in for a real treat (along with a load of “MADD” volunteers). Wish I could be there but I’m helping Amanda out with the website tomorrow. Good luck! Jane

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