January 2012 Workday.
5th January 2011: Today is the first Thursday of this New Year and also the first Wilden Marsh workday of this year. Around twelve of us, with ages ranging from late teens to seventy plus, descended on the south end of the marsh with bow saws, long handled pruning secateurs, and Dave with his chainsaw. Today’s task is to clear branches, fallen and growing, from around the fences and checking that they are cattle proof.
A bright, clear and relatively warm morning soon deteriorated into a cold, grey, windy and overcast afternoon, with occasional rain showers. Howling winds bend the tall mash trees to unnerving angles. Strong gusts launch dead branches from the tree tops as I eat my Christmas cake lunch. Luckily, the branches were not large enough to cause damage to me, or my cake; which is just as well, as I would have been forced to move from my couple of square feet of reasonably dry ground. Before lunch, we had found it a mistake to spend too much time standing in one spot: wellies sink into the mire with surprising speed. Having your wellies held fast in mud while the high winds do their best to lay you flat, is not a good experience; at least, it’s not for those who haven’t the luxury of wearing waterproof trousers.
After lunch, it was deemed too windy and too dangerous to resume work in the woods. We reverted to ‘clean-up’ duties. This involves collecting as many pieces of dead wood as we are able to find, and stacking them tidily in large piles to rot. If the wood pieces and twigs are not collected, they will take root during the growing season, and we will have the backbreaking job of pulling them out, roots an’ all, at the end of next summer.
Walking alongside the River Stour this morning, I saw a couple of mink rolling about on the river bank. They weren’t fighting; they were playing. They ran off in different directions as soon as they made eye contact with me. I have a special pair of glasses that hide my eyes from animals, but I didn’t have them with me. I didn’t have my camera with me either.