Sunday, 23 October 2011

Gadr Farm 13th October 2011

The day didn't start too well since the fair weather that had been forecast turned out to be misty and rainy and visibility was definitely limited. However I set out with high hopes, a pair of wellington boots, some waterproof trousers and a packed lunch. Gadr Farm is well hidden in the countryside quite close to Trellech but Sarah's instructions and Sarah's signage ensured it wasn't too difficult to find. Gadr Farm is not large, about 160 acres and is based around sheep, timber and the caring governance of Alan Morgan an inspirational farmer who has put a environmentally sympathetic approach at the heart of his farming philosophy. So after a quick introduction from Alan we gathered up a variety of loppers and garden tools for the day's task. But first a diversion.  Now where would you look for newts? Not usually under a rotting old door lying on the ground but that's where Allan had discovered they liked to hide after the breeding season so he and Sarah gently levered up the door to reveal several great crested newts, a common newt and a couple of toads.

The task in hand was managing the overgrowth of reedmace (commonly although not accurately called 'bulrush') in a number of ponds on the farm. Besides being important wildlife habitats these ponds provide an opportunity for the many visitors Alan allows on his farm to go pond dipping and they were also the carrot that Sarah had dangled at us for later in the day. Now there is mud and there is MUD, and I think it is fair to say that we found MUD in abundance in the first pond we tackled. A nice thick red mud that was crying out to be made into pots. Fortunately the pond was quite low in water because of the relatively low rainfall this year, which meant a lot of the reedmace was easily accessible. So we dug out the roots of the reedmace, which bear a strong resemblance to the tentacles of some weird octopus-like creature and which seemed to travel for metres across the pond bottom; we splashed around in the pond edges and we generally got smeared with red mud some of which, I swear, ended up my nose. 

After a couple of hours of this activity the pond margins were much clearer and the pond banks were heaped with reedmace ready for composting. Thankfully Sarah called a break for lunch which we took by another pond which still contained water. This pond also allowed us the opportunity to do some of the aforementioned pond dipping. It is testament to the car that Alan takes with his agriculture that the pond was rich in invertebrates like mayfly larvae as well as damsel and dragon fly larvae, beetles and waterboatmen (bugs) and a host of microscopic fauna and flora which we were able to glimpse though a couple of small field microscopes.

After lunch the weather had warmed up and so had the tasks. Whilst some of us lopped back some overgrown willow branches the rest of us tackled more reedmace in a dried-up pond. This work was hardly easier that the morning's task since the bottom of this pond was hard and stony, but with spirit, determination and a few bruises it too was cleared.

As a new volunteer to WVAONB I have to say these activity days are great fun, you meet a host of interesting people, do some good physical activity and visit parts of the countryside you might not visit otherwise and feel that you have put a little back into the community that is so important to maintain. 

Guy Moody

Friday, 22 July 2011

Volunteers Celebrate Forty Years

'Hands on History' walk
Phil Mundell walk leader assisted by Chris Barron and Elaine Savage (photographer).

April to June has has been a whirlwind of events. Wye Valley volunteers have been at the heart of a huge range of activities; leading and back marking walks, manning exhibition stands, erecting marquees, directing traffic and dressing up in an amazing range of  historical costumes. All of these activities have increased the public understanding and enjoyment of out unique landscape and heritage. Thank you one and all. Here are a few pictures lending a flavour of the events.

The Market House Ross
           Bridget, Jenny and Sally, adding period flavour to the 'historic progression'. 

Georgian Day June 2011

Friday, 20 May 2011

Annual Volunteer Celebration

                                                 The Wye Valley AONB's own 'Time Team' in action

On Thursday the 12th of May 2011 a group of sixteen Wye Valley volunteers accompanied by the AONB team joined forces with Herefordshire archaeology to take part in a dig on the Iron Age Hillfort site at Little Doward.
The group walked onto the site from the Great Doward passing King Arthur's cave on their way to the summit of the Hillfort. Neil Rimmington from Herefordshire archaeology explained the significance of the site and how recent excavations have informing their current  understanding.

Once at the top the group split into three separate task groups. Controlling vegetation on the ramparts and taking part in the dig.

The group managed to knock back a large area of bracken growth from the site and will return in June to continue the good work.

                                                Base camp for the picnic

                                           Neil Rimmington explaining the archaeology

                                                    Extending the excavation.

Works on the Wye Valley Walk

Wye Valley AONB volunteers have been working on the Wye Valley Walk to improve access to the viewpoints, newly conserved  as part of the Overlooking the Wye Project. This portion of the walk takes in the designed eighteenth century landscape created by Valentine Morris and celebrated through the Picturesque movement
Historic features along the path include the Alcove, Grotto, Platform and Giant's Cave. Between these fascinating features, walkers are now able to benefit from a broadened pathway on some of the most challenging sections of the walk.

There is still more work to be done and we will return to this job later in the year, giving the group the opportunity to assess how the improved surface has fared over the busy summer months.

                                                                All hands on Deck

Thirteen volunteers toiled with spades mattocks put the path back onto it's historic line.

                                                          Consolidating the new surface

Monday, 11 April 2011

Hedge planting at Staunton Meend

Thursday 10th of March
The Wye Valley AONB Volunteers planted approximately 150 meters of new hedge today at Staunton Meend. The  hedge, comprised of; hawthorn, blackthorn, dog rose, field maple, hazel and cornus, will improve the boundary on the Meend while at the same time providing a great habitat for a range of British wildlife.

The first task was to clear back the scrub from the planned new hedge and mark out the line of the new hedge with canes. The  hedge was planted in a double staggered row, with the inclusion of shelters around the  'whips' to protect them from the hungry rabbit population.

The job was completed by 3:00pm- many hands make light work!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Monday, 21 March 2011

Wye Valley AONB Events

Bushcraft Experience

Young People in the Wye Valley tuned into nature and practiced essential camp skills to make them independent in the outdoors!