Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Bracken bashing at Helsby Hill on Sunday 7th August 2016

You can't beat a slash on a hillside in the sunshine. At least, not when it involves clearing a large area of bracken to protect an iron age hill fort, while soaking up the sun and enjoying views from the Pennines to Snowdonia.

We were on Helsby Hill, armed with slashers and a few saws and loppers, to attack the bracken that was threatening to overwhelm the ramparts of the iron age fort overlooking the village below.

Bracken, bracken, everywhere
As the bracken dies off in autumn, it draws the sugars from the fronds back into the root, which can grow strong enough to disturb the important archaeology beneath the surface. By cutting off the plants above ground, the sugars are lost and the root system is weakened, protecting the archaeology.

We had a large area to tackle, but thankfully we also had a large army to do so: 13 of us had turned out, even through Helsby is slightly further afield than many of the properties we attend. We set up base above the sheer cliffs above the village, and after a short safety talk ("Don't fall off!") we set to our task.

Andy shows how to master the 'casual pose with bracken slasher'
The bracken was thick and high, but progress was quick with the strength in numbers that we had. Within half an hour of starting, Neil felt we'd done enough to earn our morning break - we managed to get another 15 minutes done before stopping, but we were already making visible inroads.

After more slashing, more progress, and few dogs nosing around the bag that contained the chocolate brownies, it was time for lunch, during which Lisa was viciously attacked by a wasp, albeit without being stung.
"I was up there": Tim tells Lisa how he was first to reach the ramparts
After lunch we worked our way up the hill, with Tim probably claiming the honour of reaching the ramparts first. Eventually more people reached the top of the slope. John was less lucky than Lisa when he disturbed a wasp nest and got a dozen stings for his trouble.
MNTV shows the  bracken who's boss
By the end of the day there was not much bracken left for the Chester group to continue the work the following Tuesday. We had a quick photo at the trig point (Neil used my boots as ear-muffs) and headed for home.
Atop Helsby Hill

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