A mild spring day today, which we spent helping the Friends of Longford Park with various tasks around the border of the community allotment and in the wildlife garden. Thanks to all who came along to help, especially the new volunteers!

Hedgelaying – continued!

Today saw us in the same place and doing the same activity as last month. Another great crowd, another excellent day, and not one but two birthdays to celebrate among those taking part!

Today was our first activity of 2023 and it was great to be back with Ed, Cheshire East Ranger, on the Middlewood Way. We had a great turn-out with a total of 14 volunteers.

Hedgelaying is an ancient craft that has been practised for centuries, with many regional variations in style and technique. It is the process of partially cutting through and then bending the stems of a line of shrubs or small trees, near ground level, without breaking them, so as to encourage them to produce new growth from the base and create a living fence. In our case today we were doing this using hawthorn – being wary of the thorns! Thank you to Ed for the training and advice, and to all volunteers, both old and new, for doing a stirling job.

We’ll be back on Sunday 19 February 2023 for more of the same – get in touch if you’d like to join in!

2022 – short but sweet

Well, 2022 passed without much of an update from us. A hedgelaying activity early in the year had to be cancelled due to the weather conditions and then for one reason and another (mainly a shortage of everyone’s availability) we were not out again until November! However, we finished the year with two great Sundays: 13 November at Tegg’s Nose Country Park and 4 December at Spud Wood.

At Tegg’s Nose, we were working in a heathland habitat that is at risk of being overtaken by willow scrub. The rangers are trying to connect up heathland areas at the top of the park and the willow scrub shades out the heather and bilberry causing it to die back. We were blessed with a lovely bright day – perfect for enjoying the great views from this lovely site.

Invasive rhododendron was the problem we were tackling at Spud Wood. As last December, we worked on helping remove this well-established intruder and were able to make a good impact on a decent area. This should go some way to allowing the woodland to become a more diverse woodland habitat in the years ahead.

Naturally, the year ended that evening with a get-together around an outdoor fire (big thanks to Elaine and Dave for arranging), with food and drink aplenty!

We already have our dates arranged for January to March, so we’ll have more going on in 2023!

SMCV’s final activity for 2021 yesterday was a day of clearing rhododendron at Spud Wood, on behalf of the Friends group. There was only a small band of volunteers (a few human and one canine) – presumably everyone else was shopping for Christmas, or similar – but we made a good impact on a tract of woodland over-run by rhododendron, and had the pleasure of winter sun filtering through the trees!

Hedgelaying in the snow

Nothing like getting into the spirit of the season by feeling the snow start to fall, but keeping warm by hedgelaying! That’s what some of us did last Sunday on the Middlewood Way, continuing the stretch of hedge we had worked on four weeks before.

Last Sunday (31st October) was the group’s first day back in action since the start of COVID, and it was great to be out on the Middlewood Way, taking on some hedgelaying with ranger Ed. Unexpectedly, despite torrential rain before and after the event, there was no rain during our work and even a little sunshine! Big thanks to both the familiar faces and the new volunteers who came along. The section of laid hedge has now opened up views from the Way, and we’ll be back on 28th November to continue the same stretch.

The first activity of our new programme is coming up this Sunday, 31st October! We will be hedgelaying on the Middlewood Way so whether you’re completely new or an old hand, this is the chance to brush off your boots and brush up on your bill-hook skills. Hedgelaying is an ancient craft which helps the environment and is easy to get stuck into; here are examples of our past hedgelaying activities. Please contact us for more information or if you would like to come along on Sunday!

We are in the process of finalising our other dates for the months ahead and will update the Events page as soon as they are confirmed.

John Agar

It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of John Agar on 17 April 2020.  John was a very committed and enthusiastic member of SACV and right up until recent weeks he was a stalwart of the group, for many years our most frequent volunteer.  John was out with us most recently at Chorlton Water Park on Sunday 1 March, where he busily got stuck in to the construction of a willow arch.

John had a passion for the natural world and conservation and he especially enjoyed having more time to indulge these interests in later life.  In former years, John was a fixture on our residential weekends in the Peaks, until he “retired” from weekends away in 2013.  On those weekends, John continued his working life’s habit of very early starts, so by the time the rest of us were up John would inevitably have been for a walk to listen to the local birdsong as well as got the breakfast porridge, tea and toast on the go!

John was a founder member of the Friends of Chorlton Meadows, a group we have worked with many times over the years.  Having lived in Chorlton all his life, John was a source of fascinating memories of the changing local environment.

Since the loss of John, tributes have come in from the volunteers who have worked with him over the years: it is clear he was held in huge affection and warm regard, a vocal advocate for the natural environment, infectiously enthusiastic and always willing to share his knowledge with others, warm and welcoming to volunteers of all ages, good-humoured and good company.  He will be greatly missed.

Coppicing in Spud Wood

Today we were helping in a woodland a stone’s throw away from Lymm, called Spud Wood.  As in the past, we were working with The Woodland Trust and the Friends of Spud Wood.

This is a relatively new mixed broadleaf woodland, planted in the late 1990s.  It was planted on a former potato field – hence the name, which was suggested by local school children in a naming competition, and is a reminder of its historic use for growing Golden Wonder crisps!

We were coppicing hazel trees and, with the branches, creating a picturesque barrier along the edge of the wood, which cut off the ditch behind but should also prove a perfect habit for wildlife!

A great day out.  The weather remained nice and dry apart from a short five-minute burst of rain.