Monday, 23 April 2018

Log splitting in the Styal woodyard - 22nd April 2018

Eight of us went to Styal for a day in the woodyard processing logs to make firewood to be sold to people in the village with log burning stoves.  A large amount was cut down to a size appropriate for burning in the stoves, either by the use of axes or the two tractor-mounted hydraulic log splitters.  A good day was had by all of us.


Friday, 20 April 2018

Five go to Snowdonia: Fires, Frogs and a whole lot of Fun (13-15th April 2018)

Daniel, Ally, Hazel, Neil and introducing Weekend Newbie Laura
Guest starring Rangers Andy and Geraint
My journey south started with a bus ride into Edinburgh in rather Scottish weather.  I boarded my train bound for Manchester and realised as I departed Waverley that Edinburgh Castle was not visible due to the mist surrounding it.  The weather did not really improve as I headed south.  I was to be met by Neil who, as in previous years, had offered to pick me up from Manchester Piccadilly station.  My thanks to Neil for this.
We wended our way towards North Wales for the annual "Spring in Snowdonia" weekend.  As we got further towards our destination I noticed that the Scottish mist had finally caught up with me and hoped it was not going to stick around for the whole weekend.  Once Hazel, Neil and I had settled in for the evening Hazel decided that a jigsaw was called for so ignoring the advice of NT Volunteers from “All over the place” in the visitors’ book to "Don't bother with the flower jigsaw" she chose the flower jigsaw (!)  Daniel and Laura arrived at 9.30pm and we received news that Pip and Mick would not be joining us for the weekend.
Good news!  The mist had cleared the next morning and we had a day of warm dry weather with the sun finally making a proper appearance towards the end of the day.  We were up early to meet ranger Andy for our day’s work in the Penmachno Valley.  We followed him in his pickup truck for the short drive there in Neil's Roomster and Hazel’s Yaris.  The brash we were burning were small hazel, oak, willow and hawthorn trees that had been chopped down by contractors who put in a new stock fence last week.  Andy started a fire for us all to burn the lopped trees and we worked away for an hour and a half until Daniel called time for a break at which we ate Ally’s delicious chocolate brownies.
We carried on working and Andy started a second fire because there was another pile of trees further away so we didn’t have to drag them so far.  We ate our lunch in the sunshine, Daniel sitting on his National Trust three-legged stool.  Neil had attempted to sit on his three-legged stool at break time but as he could feel it and himself sinking into the wet ground he did not reattempt to sit on it for his lunch.  After lunch most of us headed to fire number two to work around that.  We worked away until Daniel called the day to a close at 3:30.  We finished the whole area that Andy had wanted to clear and sat enjoying the sunshine until the fires had died down enough for us to leave them. During the day we spotted five frogs on the worksite with Neil spotting the first one.  Also spotted was what ranger Andy presumed was a blackbird’s nest, a wagtail and buzzards.  Hazel told us to look out for celandine and golden saxifrage.

Upon departure from the worksite it was decided that we would stick with tradition and get an ice cream from Cadwalader’s in Betws-y-coed.  We all got ice cream including Hazel who wasn't even there.  Our flavours were Malteser (Neil), Chocolate (Ally) and Daniel (Strawberries & Cream).  Laura got very excited when she found out there was dairy free chocolate ice cream as she is a vegan.  We got Hazel some Strawberries & Cream in a tub and took it back to the basecamp for her (it wasn’t totally melted) as she had left the worksite early to make dinner.
Dinner was Chunky Vegetarian Thai Curry with rice followed by Apple crumble with custard/cream.  It was delicious – a big thank you to Hazel for cooking it.  That evening we did more of the jigsaw, read the newspaper and dozed whilst listening to a selection of Neil's CDs including Cliff Richard, the Cast of Oliver and all time Musical Hits.
Sunday dawned cloudy and cool.  Daniel went for a run at 6:30 while the rest of us slept soundly in our beds.  Once he had returned and the other four of us were up we breakfasted on bacon rolls and left the basecamp at 8:50 to meet ranger Geraint at the worksite which was at the other end of the field from where we had been yesterday.  There was a bit of a steep slope to get down to the worksite so Ally decided the best way to tackle it with bowsaws in one hand and cake in the other without falling over was to slide down it - result!  We spent the morning again lopping the brash and trees.  Geraint got two fires going so that we didn't have to drag the trees and brash quite so far from the other end of the field.  Much to Laura’s amusement, on our lunch break Daniel managed to fall off his three-legged stool.  It was so elegantly executed that he could have won a gymnastics gold medal at the Commonwealth games!  We ate the leftover brownies and Laura told us how much she had enjoyed the weekend.  Afterwards we finished off the dragging and burning and the fire got higher and higher with all the cuttings.  We completed the clearing and burning which is what Geraint wanted so watched the fire start to die back and left Geraint to make sure it didn’t spread and burn the field completely.  Back at the basecamp we tidied up the dorms, washrooms and kitchen, declared war on our sleeping bags and suitcases, divvied up the leftover food.  We headed for home at 3pm trying to avoid getting caught in the traffic coming out of Old Trafford - Manchester United were playing at home (and lost 1-0 to West Brom to hand the Premiership title to Manchester City).

To sum up the weekend I will leave you with these words: although we were a small party we got a lot of work done, much fun was had but not enough sleep was had.

Thank you to Daniel for organising the weekend and thanks to rangers Andy and Geraint for organising the worksite and task.

See you next time, MNTV!


Monday, 9 April 2018

Dismantling carriage driving obstacles at Erddig - Sunday 8th April 2018

After a rather misty start to the day the six MNTV and ten Merseyside and Chester volunteers eventually met at Erddig (leader Christine being in the wrong car park!) in what turned out to be a really nice day.

Our task for the day was to remove what looked like equestrian jumps but where actually obstacles for carriage driving events which Erddig no longer host.

We all got stuck in and had soon moved most of the cross sections which were piled up ready for burning - Neil you would have been in your glory.  Before brew Andy H got the fire going and it was soon blazing away although it needed to be coaxed along for a while.  That left us with the uprights which took a lot of physical effort to dig round and lift out.  Some were up to 15" in diameter and where buried up to 4 feet deep in clay and mud which was below the river water level.  We didn't quite clear all the fences but left just two.

It was nice to meet up with our colleagues from Merseyside and Chester again and we had a really good day.  We shared our brewtime cake with them which being as we were in Wales had to be Bara Brith and Welsh Cakes (homemade).

James (Lead Ranger), who unfortunately had to spend most of the day on car park duty as they were so busy, was really pleased with what had been achieved.  At the end of the day we all left a little tired but very satisfied.

Thanks to everyone for the hard work and good company.


Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Rhody bashing at Hayfield on Sunday 25th March 2018

After a very cold March, it finally felt like spring as we enjoyed sunshine on a south facing hill just above Park Hall near Hayfield.

The walk up was extremely steep, as was the worksite, and it was difficult to avoid slipping at times. But we took care, persevered and gradually accumulated some large piles of cut rhody. Due to a new Trust directive, the piles are no longer being burned, but are being left to rot down.
We had lots of avian company: at lunchtime we had buzzards circling above, and some peacocks from the houses below came part way up the hill to spy on our work. And every now and then, the faint sound of sawing was joined by the cry of pheasants on the other side of the wood.

By mid afternoon it felt properly warm, and we’d cut well into the thicket of rhody sitting under the larger woodland trees. So we packed up our tools, tiptoed back down the slope, and had enough time to detour to view the old open air swimming pool near the hall, before heading home.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Rhodybash at Lyme Park on 18th March 2018 - cancelled

Sadly, today's workday was cancelled by the ranger on Friday night due to the amber weather warning for snow and high winds making working in the woodlands dangerous.  This is the second workday we have lost to bad weather since 1st January.  In the event, Lyme was closed on Sunday because of drifting snow blocking the driveway.

Hopefully the sun will be shining next Sunday at Hayfield and on 20th May when we return to Lyme Park.


Monday, 12 March 2018

Footpath work at Bosley Cloud on Sunday 11th March 2018

Just three MNTV volunteers turned out to continue footpath work on Bosley Cloud, although that wasn't a problem as we were also working with a larger group of Congleton volunteers.

The popular walk to the top of The Cloud has led to the paths becoming eroded and widening as people seek to avoid muddy and waterlogged ground. To combat this, Tim the ranger has been installing raised log borders and drains along the path. 

We began by cutting down some unwelcome birch trees on the heath and using them to make a brash border to discourage people from leaving the existing path.

At lunchtime we took the short trip to the top of the hill to enjoy views of the Cheshire countryside. We then joined Tim and the Congleton group working on the log borders.

This involved digging down through compacted sand and grit which felt like it had almost become sandstone, putting in upright posts along the border of the path and then laying long logs on top to create the actual border.

By the end of the day we had put down about 80 yards of brash and 30 yards of log border. We'll be back in May to continue the work.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Work in the wood yard at Styal on 4th March 2018

Eight volunteers braved a day which started cold and with some snow still around from last week's 'Beast from the east' snowstorms.  We were working in the yard at Styal processing wood for firewood to be sold to the residents of the village.

To do this we worked with the wardens (one of whom, Alex Bond, used to be a member of MNTV) to split the wood using two tractor-mounted splitters.  The more energetic of us used axes.

At the end of the day we had reduced the pile of logs by a considerable amount and the pile of drying wood in the shed had increased greatly.