Volunteering days are very much becoming my favourite days of the week! You just can’t beat spending the day outside, in interesting company, doing something that you know is benefiting our wildlife.
Today saw us heading back to Loynton Moss to cut back the willows that are encroaching onto the fen. We were there a few weeks ago cutting the reeds, but the big grass cutting machines can’t deal with the willows very well, so they need cutting with loppers and bow saws.
I had only been able to make it to the first day of cutting the reed bed a few weeks ago so I was pretty impressed with how much they had cut. Despite it only being three weeks ago, and it definitely being autumn now, there were lots of new growth evident as bright green shoots against the pale brown of the old reeds.
We were cutting the willows as they grow out on the fen and can cause it to dry up. Once they are cut the stumps are painted with a herbicide, dyed blue to make it easy to see what has been treated. The Trust only uses the herbicide when the weather is good so that it doesn’t run off, and with it being applied directly to the cut willow, it shouldn’t impact on other vegetation.
Cutting the willow itself is relatively easy compared to some of the other work I’ve done whilst volunteering. The stalks of willow aren’t very thick and it’s easy to find as the leaves stand out amongst the reeds. The most difficult part of the job is locating the base of the plant amongst all the other plants and detritus. We had to cut the willow as close to ground level as is possible. This prevents stumps forming and means that next time the machines are used on the area they shouldn’t get stuck! This did mean a lot of today was spent down on my hands and knees with a view like this:
Though it wasn’t all bad as when the sun was shining looking up meant views like this:
Later on in the afternoon the weather changed and it started to rain. At that point we called it a day; we’ve cleared a decent amount but there is still some left so if the rain holds off tomorrow we’ll be heading back there for some of the same.
As I’ve come to expect at Loynton there wasn’t much wildlife in the form of vertebrates but there were plenty of creepy crawlies around. Laura and I seemed to constantly have a ladybird companion and a harvestman decided to join in our lunch and spent the whole time crawling over one of the other volunteers.
I may have some very exciting news concerning the beetle in the picture above in the near future so watch this space!