After spending last week in Huddersfield, and thinking I couldn’t go out this week as I’m now pet sitting for my mother whilst she’s on holiday, I was really happy to get an email saying that I was more than welcome to go out with the Wednesday volunteer group. This also means that on the weeks when I don’t have anything else on I can help out on both Wednesdays and Thursdays so can double the volunteering 🙂
This weeks task was cutting the reed bed at Loynton Moss (which I have been to before). The area of wetland used to be a lot larger but some of the land was drained back in the 70’s for agricultural use and now makes up the areas of grassland on the reserve. The reed bed itself itself is like a gigantic raft floating on water. It is mainly made up of two species of reeds. The primary aim the Trust has for this reserve is to maintain or increase the ground water level to maintain the wetland habitat and the species that make their home there. Cutting the reed bed is one of the ways of doing this; by removing some of the vegetation it prevents it drying up the Moss. This is the best time of the year to do it as any animals that may have used it for breeding will have left and in the winter it can get extremely wet or ice over. Only a third of the reed bed is cut each year on a cycle so there is time for the reeds to grow back and plenty of vegetation left for all the animals that live there.
The third that we were cutting was the one furthest from where the landy and trailer was parked so we required a few trips to get all the equipment down to where it was needed. The ‘Ferraris’ (the big grass cutters) had to be taken across the reed bed as they couldn’t go through the woods and then down the bank, so they cut a path through to where we were working. From what the more experienced volunteers were saying on the way there, reed cutting can be a rather messy business where you can end up drenched. Luckily for us the rain held off and it wasn’t too wet underfoot though it was quite spongy and bouncy to walk over.
Cutting and clearing the reed bed is pretty much the same as cutting grass in so much as that the machine cuts it down, we use the rakes to make piles and the pitchforks to move it into a pile where it can then get burnt. Raking and moving reeds is a lot tougher then grass though. My arms were pretty achy by the end of the afternoon and I was more then happy to put the rake down when it was time to finish. I must be out of practice. The Thursday group will be back there tomorrow and I think it’s quite likely we’ll be back there next week as well.
It was a little surreal at times. The reeds were way above head height, and before many of them had been cut down we were pretty much surrounded. I had the feeling that if I strayed away from the path I would be lost amongst the reeds for hours. Despite all the greenery around us there was very little noticeable wildlife (until you looked down and saw all the creepy crawlies) and there was the constant buzz of the ferraris and the strimmers. It was a really bizarre contrast.
Next week I’ll be back out with the Thursday group if I can survive a week with the psycho cat!