With Lucy away last week another member of Trust staff, Shaun, was quick to snap up the Midweek volunteers, and set us to work on one of his projects.
Shaun runs Wild about Stafford projects and had called us in to help out at Kingsmead Marsh, a Local Nature Reserve in the centre of Stafford. It’s an area I’ve noticed before as a small patch of green between the busy Queensway road and the edge of the town centre but I didn’t know it was used for anything. Students from a local college have done some work there previously, cutting the reed bed for the first time in years and we were there to put in a board-walk, funded by the Borough Council, that will hopefully encourage more people to use the area.
The board-walk is made from recycled waste plastic, a great idea though ridiculously expensive. It does have the advantage that it will last a lot longer than a wooden board walk so in the long run will be worth the cost.
The first part of making the board-walk is getting in the frame. The frame is made up from posts and runner boards. We had a selection of different height posts, as the ground varied in its softness moving into the marsh. Lined up in the correct position using the runner boards as a guide the posts are driven into the ground using a maul or a post-driver. The runners are then bolted into place. Wooden spacers are used to ensure that the runners on each side stay the correct distance apart and we were using spirit levels to ensure that the board-walk stayed level.
Once we’d gotten so far with the frame a small group of volunteers started attaching the the boards that you walk on. These are screwed in, attaching onto the runner planks. There’s another spacer used to keep the planks a small distance away from each other though it requires a bit more thought when going around a corner.
By the end of Wednesday we’d managed to get a decent section of the frame complete and had the first section of the frame boarded.
On Thursday we split into three groups, one doing the right hand side of the frame, another doing the left and the third attaching the boards and lowering the slope right at the start of the board walk. This way we weren’t working on top of each other but all still had something to do. It worked out as quite a good system with us managing to complete another large section of the frame.
As we were working Shaun had told me to keep an eye on certain safety aspects. You’re not meant to wear gloves when using swinging tools (like the maul) as this increases the chance of slipping and hard hats are needed with the post drivers. The volunteers were pretty good at remembering to wear or not wear the right safety equipment though there were a few lapses later on in the day as we got stuck into the task.
The finishing touches for the completed part of the board walk was attaching the kicker rails. These are bolted on and prevent people from slipping off the edge.
The job was such a large one it required a few more days work, so I decided to put an extra day in on the Friday and went out with Shaun again to lend a hand with the Doxey volunteer party. It was interesting to be out with a different group and meet some new people. I got stuck in carrying on helping put the frame in. After a quick count of the remaining runners I realised we would get the frame finished that day. Laying the boards out and getting the final posts in we finished in the exact spot we’d thought when we’d measured the distance out. Success!
The board-walk ends out where the reeds have been cut and there will be a big viewing platform attached on the end. Hopefully that should encourage others to start using the area.
We ran out of time on Friday to finish putting all the boards and kickers on but with the frame complete that should be an easy enough task. Shaun is going out again today (Monday) and Tuesday with some more volunteers to put the viewing platform in and finish off. Once it’s complete there will hopefully be an official opening for the board-walk. I’ll have to go back once it’s finished to have a look at the completed board-walk and see what I can spot out amongst the reeds.