Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Visit to Orford Ness

Today we had our countryside staff day, where all the rangers in the East get a chance to meet up and have a nose around someone else’s patch. So this year it was Orford Ness, which is a simply amazing place. From nuclear bombs to incredibly delicate shingle habitats to the LIFE project that is helping them to manage the delicate wetland habitats on the Ness, there is so much going on.

Grant and the team down there showed us as much as they could in a few hours. It is only open for a few more Saturdays this year but well worth a trip if you can get there. Access is mainly by boat which is fantastic as you meet the rangers straight away and can get a great start to the day riddled with info and help. It is also good to know where you can go on such a large site and especially one where in some cases straying from the path could lead to getting rather to close to potentially unexploded ordnance.
The place had a real bleak charm about it today, I am sure there are days when it is boiling hot but today the old buildings and windswept marshes looked fantastic with the wind and rain.

Here are some pics:

Friday, 11 October 2013

We finally got a new owl box on Burwell fen and one bit of TB testing is done

Many moons ago we managed to get some old telegraph poles cut to shape and size and augured into the ground on Burwell Fen. On Monday we finally got one of the barn owl boxes up. The main reason for the two new poles it to give the owls that live in the barn the option to move out, if they do we may be able to undertake repairs and such like without disturbing them. There are three more barn owl boxes and two little owl boxes to go out when we get a moment, hopefully soon. 

We had the cattle on Bakers Fen go through the crush for the second part of their TB tests on Monday, all clear which is good news indeed. Once this was done we dismantled the pen and constructed a new pen, race, and corral on Burwell fen. This has been the main focus this week as the weather has not been ideal for cutting on the days we had it pencilled in for. We use metal hurdles which can be configured into all kinds of designs and a crush with an extra wide end to allow our highlands long horns to get through. Mind you some of them have very large horns that can take a few tries to get through and some of them just take a while to work it out even with short horns. 

We did manage to get some of the smaller areas that need hand cutting done, cut and cleared like everywhere else but with a brush cutter and rake. I very neat job indeed outside the Visitor Center.

A new trailer to go behind our ride on mover is also coming along well. It was once larger and has been cut down, and basically rebuilt. Just needs the sides putting on and a few more coats of paint. Once done we can stick a strimmer, fuel and such like in the back and get many jobs done while also mowing the path edges on the way there and back.

@vision_warden is me on Twitter, couple of more pics as usual.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Cutting, TB Testing and a big helping hand from the Environment Agency

We have continued to get our droves cut on the Sedge Fen this week, been getting ready for TB testing, fixed things in the rain, pushed back a load of scrub with help from volunteers from the EA and had a nice catch up with the Gardeners from Anglesey Abbey.

Top of the list has been the cutting as we have until the end of the month to get it finished, party to allow the plants to get a bit of growth on before the winter and partly as the water table will begin to rise and the bad weather will soak the droves meaning we would churn them up. Another job with some serious importance is getting our cattle TB tested over the coming month or so, we have set windows to get the tests started and completed. With three groups of cattle and one crush and set of portable hurdles it is a big job but one that we have been planning for a while to get done. Lots of moving of hurdles and contingency planning for the ifs and butts. More info on that as the work gets going.

 We had a bit of a breakage when one of our acrobats snapped in half. We take a lot of care of our machinery, pre-start checks and regular repairs for wear and tear but sometimes it is best to use some old gear and accept that the stress and strain will break it and have spares handy. So we had one working acrobat and 2 largely complete spares, now we have one and a half spare. 
 Fixing a wheel, sometimes 4 hands are better than two.

A volunteer group from the Environment Agency came to lend us much needed hand on Monday. They spent the day working with Ruby and Andy pushing back scrub along the side of Wicken Lode and on a section of the Sedge Fen. Many hands make light work they say, but many hands working very hard and enthusiastically got a great deal done for us. The before and after pics don’t really do it justice as you can’t see how far they went down the scrub. The reason for the work was to allow us better access down the left side of the track so we keep off the right side leaving it to horse riders and pedestrians. The scrub had grown over the track so we just pushed it back, not felling any trees. It will soon grow back but it will be far easier for us to keep on top of now the bulk of the work has been completed.

Having the Gardeners over from Anglesey Abbey was very nice on Thursday. A bit of team building and learning for them and a nice chance to spread the work of our work at Wicken with them and when possible just have a nice catch up. Richard, the head gardener over there for almost 40 years also brought some exceedingly tasty cakes.
Thanks to Vicki For these pics

So the week ahead is manly TB testing and cutting. Plenty to keep us busy.
As usual I am @vision_warden on twitter if anyone wants to keep in touch that way.