The ancient art of coppicing
This January, volunteers from the North Norfolk Workout Group spent an afternoon coppicing with the good people from other local TCV groups – the Norwich Community Green Gym and the Great Yarmouth Green Gym. It was good to get together with some old friends, and to meet some new ones, as we all got stuck in, coppicing hazel trees in a woodland near Shropham.
Coppicing is an ancient woodland craft, which involves cutting trees right down to ground level, making sure that the woodland floor below the tree gets some much needed daylight, which helps the growth of wild flowers such as bluebells and wood anemones. The quick re-growth of coppiced trees means that there is an end product for the hardworking coppicer – the pliant hazel branches, once cut, can be woven together to make useful items, such as fences and garden supports.
Gorse-bashing in Salthouse
We paid a return visit to Salthouse Heath for an afternoon of gorse removal, opening up a stunning coastal view that has been hidden for many years. Gorse is a densely spiny, evergreen shrub which has bright yellow flowers all year round. As an evergreen, gorse can seem to form an almost permanent, solid structure on a heath, making life hard for more delicate species below.
In the past, gorse would have been regularly maintained by the local population for fuel, whereas modern heathland can easily become overgrown – which is where an afternoon of Workout Group gorse clearance can come in handy!
Cutting and burning in the Park
The Workout volunteers have been keeping warm this winter, working alongside the National Trust volunteer group, to clear the rides of Sheringham Park. The estate workers had recently cut down several large pine trees, and we got the job of clearing and burning the resulting brash.
Keeping public footpaths clear is an important part of woodland management, and we were glad to be able to lend a hand ? especially when there’s a nice bonfire to enjoy a cup of tea by…
This month, the North Norfolk Workout Group visited two new sites, the first being Beeston Regis Common.
As an SSSI, Beeston Regis Common is a rich area for wildlife with over 400 different flowering plants recorded, including many British orchids. In summer it is home to a variety of butterflies – green hairstreak, Essex skipper and brown argus among those spotted, as well as many birds such as chiffchaff, willow warbler and blackcap.
Many parts of the common have become somewhat overgrown by gorse, which despite being an attractive plant with vibrant yellow flowers and a strong coconut smell is also quite invasive as all us volunteers know. So we got stuck in to some gorse bashing, along with the help of Helen Dixon of Natural England (who manage the site) and Russell Cox from Sheringham Town Council.
The second of our new sites was Hainford Green Burial, where we had the pleasure of being reunited again with Mark from TCV!
The project at the site, part of which is already established woodland, is to turn it into a woodland burial park. This is being helped in part by The Woodland Trust’s Jubilee Project, which aims to plant 6 million trees to mark the Queen’s silver jubilee.
Of that 6 million, 4,800 trees in total are due to be planted on this site before it opens in July this year and on two busy days in February we did our very best to plant our share! We helped plant a good mixture of natives, including oak, silver birch, crab apple, Scots pine and lime.
All of us agreed it would be wonderful to come back in twenty years time to see the results of all our work!
Hedgehogs and Kestrels on the Heath!
The North Norfolk Workout volunteers have already created Great Crested Newt hotels this spring, and now it was the turn of the small mammals of Salthouse to benefit from our efforts… Villagers had already helped fell some large Sycamores from the lower slopes of the Heath, and now it was up to us to make use of the leftover brash. We cut and stacked the branches into habitat piles to suit a variety of small mammals -including hedgehogs (who need a snug spot to hibernate over winter) and many other mammals can now find shelter here all year round.
Our work also helped improve the floral diversity of the site, as the woodland floor is now open to sunlight, encouraging the growth of wildflowers such bluebells and ground ivy.
As we enjoyed our tea break (thanks to Ed!), we even saw a kestrel hovering nearby, eyeing the newly cleared site – maybe she was checking out the area for future hunting, to feed her soon-to-be hatched young….
Beeston Bump and Roman Camp Wildlife Walk
In late March, we set out on a lovely nature ramble around Sheringham , West Runton and Roman Camp. We never know what we’ll see as we walk, but we were lucky enough to see, amongst many other spring wildflowers: wood sorrel, moschatel, bluebells in bud, sweet violets, common fumitory, corn spurrey, stitchwort, blackthorn, lesser celandine, primroses and common storks bill!
We also had a perfect view of a sky lark singing just above our heads as we walked over the SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) Beeston Bump! A perfect spring afternoon ramble…
Last of the winter bonfires at the Park
All of the NNWG volunteers enjoyed a Friday afternoon treat this March, as we helped clear felled pine trees in the National Trust’s Sheringham Park, we got to have a cup of tea by one of the last of the Park’s winter bonfires! It’s always a peaceful moment, as everyone settles down for a relaxing brew by the fireside, after a few hours of woodland work…