13-Mar-12

Nine volunteers assembled for the normal Tuesday morning working session in Holywell Dene.


Following the work carried out on the path adjacent to the stepping-stones on 21st February, the party moved some distance upstream on the same path and commenced its refurbishment, moving in a downstream direction with the aim of eventually linking up with the previous work.


The line of the path was moved slightly inland away from the badly eroded riverbank. The soil and vegetation removed from the edges of the newly aligned path was used to back fill the willow revetment put in place a few weeks ago along the riverbank. The stone used as a top dressing came from another pile of the stone purchased by FoHD earlier in the year.


About a third of the path to be refurbished had been completed by the end of the session.


While all this was going on, teams were sent off to complete smaller jobs within the Dene. A detached length of barbed wire from a fence on the south side of the river was repaired, a dog ‘slide’ causing yet more bank erosion, was blocked and some tidying up was carried out around some previous work.

20-Mar-12

Eight volunteers assembled at 08.30 for the usual Tuesday working party in Holywell Dene. On arrival the volunteers split into three groups, each group carrying out a relatively small task before assembling for the major task for the morning.


1. Task 1 Soon the farmer will be putting the cows, with their calves, out to the fields after the winter in byre. It is important that they are kept out of the Dene and consequently the water gate under the stone bridge has to be reinforced with barbed wire.     

Photo 1 Water gate


2. Task 2 In the last year there has been a considerable increase in the number of horses being ridden in the Dene. From questioning, it is clear many of the young riders, who are mostly courteous, are unaware that they should not be riding on footpaths but only on the bridleways. The same goes for cyclists, except a few are anything but courteous and even resort to vandalising the “No Cycling” guidance signs. The damaged signs were replaced and a post erected near the downstream wooden bridge with guidance signs incorporated.   

Photo 2 New post incorporating signs


3. Task 3 Currently in the Meadow is an impressive display of the native English wild daffodil. Unfortunately, some visitors, with good intent but lack of knowledge, have planted the garden varieties of daffodil in various parts of the Dene. If left, these could hybridise with the native variety and would eventually take over. Over the years, we have been removing the garden varieties but, inevitably, some small bulbs are missed and today another batch was removed. It is an ongoing task.

Photo 3 Meadow- native daffodils                     Photo 4 Removing garden daffodils


4. Task 4 Small tasks finished, the group gathered on the northern bridleway, to the west of Hartley West Farm, and refurbished a relatively small section of the path. During wet weather, it was probably the muddiest stretch of path in the Dene. Today, the group cleared out much of the dried mud and then put on a thick layer of new stone. At 12.15 the group were on their way home after a very satisfying, valuable but tiring morning.

Photo 5 Preparing path by clearing mud             Photo 6 Re-stoning

27-Mar-12

Ten volunteers assembled at 08.30 at Old Hartley car park for the usual Tuesday working party in Holywell Dene. A new volunteer joined the group for the first time and was introduced to and welcomed by all the regulars. She regrets she cannot attend each week but will do so when her work shift pattern allows.


This week’s task was to carry out a ‘spring clean’ along a 1.5km stretch of woodland, between the upstream wooden bridge and the open ground east of Old Hartley car park, bounded by the river on one side and either Hartley Lane or the fence of Crow Hall Farm on the other.


The volunteers were split into two teams, one starting at the wooden bridge and working downstream and the other starting at Old Hartley car park and working upstream.


All the trees that have been planted in the last ten years were inspected and rabbit guards and stakes removed where appropriate: re-usable ones were taken to store, ready for another day.

Photograph 1 Removing rabbit guard from young Blackthorn


At the same time litter was collected and a very interesting assortment of items found. By far the biggest quantity of litter came from the hillside stretch adjacent to Hartley Lane and had obviously been dumped, thrown or blown over from the road.

Photograph 2 Litter collection in the woods


The final and most difficult stage was to get all the rubbish to a central point ready for collection by Council staff. The rubbish was assembled at Old Hartley car park and on the following Thursday morning it was removed, but not before the Council had received a number of reports of fly tipping in the car park!

Photograph 3 Tree guards and rubbish from morning’s work

6-Mar-12

Nine volunteers assembled for the normal Tuesday morning working session in Holywell Dene.


Following the work carried out on the path adjacent to the stepping-stones on 21st February, the party moved some distance upstream on the same path and commenced its refurbishment, moving in a downstream direction with the aim of eventually linking up with the previous work.


The line of the path was moved slightly inland away from the badly eroded riverbank. The soil and vegetation removed from the edges of the newly aligned path was used to back fill the willow revetment put in place a few weeks ago along the riverbank. The stone used as a top dressing came from another pile of the stone purchased by FoHD earlier in the year.


About a third of the path to be refurbished had been completed by the end of the session.


While all this was going on, teams were sent off to complete smaller jobs within the Dene. A detached length of barbed wire from a fence on the south side of the river was repaired, a dog ‘slide’ causing yet more bank erosion, was blocked and some tidying up was carried out around some previous work.

28-Feb-12

Nine volunteers joined forces with two members of staff from Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT), for the usual Tuesday session of work in the Dene. Actually the session was not normal because, in order to get the task finished, work carried on into the afternoon, only interrupted by a picnic lunch in the woodland basking in the sun and warmth of a very abnormal February day.


The aim was to build an artificial Otter Holt so that the nocturnal otter, travelling through Holywell Dene, has a safe resting place during the day. There is also a hope that a female could select the Holt for reproduction.


NWT provided the materials and FoHD the tools. The first task was to get tools, paving slabs, concrete blocks, sand and cement from the road to the site near the riverbank, no mean task. The site was then marked out, cleared of vegetation and digging the underground chamber commenced.


When the chamber hole was finished, the blocks were cemented into place and the paving slabs fixed to the blocks to form a roof. Meanwhile, two channels were dug to take the 270mm land drainage pipes that formed the entrance and emergency exit to the chamber.


The spoil was then put back over the whole excavation and natural vegetation used to hide the site.


21-Feb-12

Eight volunteers assembled for the normal Tuesday morning working session in Holywell Dene.


Work was carried out on the short stretch of path between the Stepping Stones and the remains of Hartley mill. (NZ334752)


The problem was that this path sloped from three directions to a low point, which collected the drainage water and associated mud. After heavy rain the path, at its low point, would be covered in water for three quarters of its width and, even when the water disappeared, there was a depth of mud to navigate.


It was decided to remove the mud and part of the small bank to form a soak-away, edge the soak-away with stone blocks and then put a new surface on the slightly realigned path.


The blocks used as edging came from loose stones lying inside the remains of Hartley Mill, while the surface stone came from a nearby pile, which FoHD had purchased in early January.