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You Want Us to Get Up How Early?!?!

November 17, 2010

A mostly photo-less blog, by Christina, John and Becky

That’s right, the Supersquad are now getting up crazily early to start work at 8am. Some of us didn’t know that time of the day existed, but we are slowly getting used to it. It’s all for a good reason though; it makes better use of the daylight hours and means we don’t have to drive back from the reserves in the dark. Plus we all like being very smug when we leave the office at 4pm leaving everyone else in there still working.

We only have photos of puppies

On bonfire night the team set to work, gorse bashing at Coombe heath, the girls (Becky, Ali and Christina) quickly set about creating a huge barrier of gorse cuttings so they didn’t have to see the boys (Sam, John and Josh) while discussing how they would all take Matt Baker home to meet their mums. The boys true to form, were undeterred by such a flammable barrier, they set about making a substantial fire, quickly stoking it to gas mark gorse.

The following Monday a Supersquad of Dean, Josh, Sam, John, Becky, Christina, went back to Coombe Heath to continue removing the very tall gorse that has taken over in a few areas and shaded out the heather and grasses underneath. This was also the day Ruby returned to us, as she has been on maternity leave for the past 10 weeks looking after her 6 tiny adorable (yet now very noisy) puppies. It was great having Ruby back, and in a few weeks time we’ll have the puppy Sam is keeping out to play with us so we’ll have double the fun.

The perfect mother

With Dean cutting gorse faster than we could burn it we quickly cleared a substantial area, and it started to look more like a suitable habitat for birds and reptiles.  The girls barrier from Friday was quickly burnt and with no discussions of Countryfile’s hunkiest hunks to distract anyone we all got stuck into the cutting, dragging and burning.

Tuesday was a very wet day but we still managed to resurrect Monday’s fire and try to keep ourselves warm while we worked.  We were joined by Neil and Steve (the mid-Dorset North wardens) and the tractor (who shall henceforth be known as Bertha) from HQ so Sam could mow the firebreaks to regulation width, which is a whopping 3.8 metres wide! Dean, once again was working for two it seemed, and he quickly cleared a large area through the middle of a block to act as a firebreak so the two smaller blocks could be burnt later in the season. The air was alive with the sound of bangs again, as the army were out practicing as usual, and the bangs were particularly loud on that day as the low clouds meant that the sounds echoed through them.  We had a very wet Ruby who decided to hide in the ranger and make a nest of jumpers to keep warm, while the supersquad had to suffer in the pouring rain. We all went through several pairs of gloves as we kept rejecting them once they got too wet; Becky went through at least 7 pairs of gloves in an attempt to keep her hands remaining warm. The reserve was now starting to look unrecognisable and the rain even stopped after lunch, and by the end of the day the fire had nearly dried us all out…..nearly!  Neil and Steve started on a different area of very ‘leggy’ gorse, and after a while we could see the smoke from their fire, it wasn’t as good as ours though.  Dean’s fire break was almost complete all it needed was for a few large Silver Birch trees to be removed so Sam could get Bertha in to mow down the stumps.

They are so cute (although not that small any more)

With the firebreaks cleared, all that was left to make them look neat and tidy was to clear the clumps left by Bertha, which is how the Supersquad’s Wednesday began. We then teamed up with Steve and Twiglet (another wonder pooch) for some more gorse cutting, by the time we joined Steve he had a roaring fire going and with the sun shining everyone was in good spirits as we cleared another section of ‘leggy’ gorse. Ruby joined Sam and Josh in Bertha as they continued mowing firebreaks, by the end of the day another  area of suitable habitat had been created and we even had time to toast some marshmallows (provided by Becky) over the end of the fire.

This week it was back to Coombe again on both Monday and Tuesday; but this time we moved to a different area which was dominated by birch trees. It’s surprising how much wood is in a birch tree, they look quite small but they have so many tiny branches that there was tons of wood to burn. And burn it we did, on Tuesday we had to make a second fire to cope with the amount of trees we were cutting down! Our second fire was absolutely massive, possibly even the biggest fire we have made. Bertha was also used to clear out all the scrubby stuff from around the area we were working. By the end of Tuesday the area was so different that when Neil and Steve came to visit, Neil didn’t know where on the reserve he was.

We have made a huge difference to Coombe Heath these past few weeks so if you pay it a visit you’ll feel like you are on a brand new reserve.

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