Return visit to Compstall

We returned today to Cheshire Wildlife Trust‘s Compstall Nature Reserve (where we were a fortnight ago).  We were continuing with the work to prevent trees colonising an open wetland habitat, doing more of the clearing and with a warming bonfire to follow.

Sunny day at Compstall

Today was our first visit to Compstall Nature Reserve, which is managed by Cheshire Wildlife Trust and is in the heart of Etherow Country Park.  This is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and we were working on a stretch of it not accessible to the public.  Our task was to remove encroaching saplings, mainly willow and alder, from an area intended to be maintained as an open wetland.  Although the ground was wet and soggy from all the recent rain, we were delighted to have bright sunshine all day – which showed off this diverse and lovely site at its best. 

We managed to get a lot done although there only five of us.  We are back here in a fortnight and more volunteers would be welcome!




Yesterday we were back in a familiar pond in Chorlton Meadows and with familiar company: members of the Friends of Chorlton Meadows, of course!  We’ve worked here several times in the past, and once again were clearing reeds to maintain an important section of open water, in order to keep this habitat as diverse as possible.

This past weekend was our third and final residential weekend of 2019, again with the Peak Park Conservation Volunteers.  We were back on the shores of Tittesworth Reservoir, and were pleased to see that the lakeside hedge we worked on last October and again in the January snow is well established and providing effective protection of the shore. In a hot and sunny late summer day we did further work on the hedge to keep its rampant growth under control and to extend it further along the water.

Sunday was a greyer, wetter day but nonetheless we made good progress with a new stretch of hedge in a different location, opening up views of the lake while also protecting the shore and enhancing the wildlife habitat.

An excellent weekend all round!

Today we were in action at Chorlton Water Park.  We were working first on some path resurfacing following water damage, then repairing two sets of steps.

Steps in Kenworthy Wood

Today saw our volunteers visit a new site in south Manchester. We were helping in one of the corners of Kenworthy Wood which lies alongside the complex of motorway junctions hereabouts. It gives quiet access to the meandering River Mersey and useful shortcuts between suburbs and also shelters the thread of the Trans Pennine Trail (National Cycle Network route 62) as it links Southport to Hull via the likes of Chorlton and Didsbury. It’s a great green space with remnants of a small orchard amidst the exuberant summer ovegrowth.
We were helping repair a long flight of wooden steps close to a reedy pond situated deep in a hollow ringed by trees at the edge of town.  The task involved scraping back the encroaching grasses and wild flowers which are slowly absorbing this track. All the rotten planks and pegs were levered out and hefted to the side to be taken away.  Six new pre-cut planks were inserted and levelled and pegged securely.  And finally we wheelbarrowed new hardcore down the steps (carefully!) and tamped it in to seat the planks.
What had been mooted as a two-day task was completed by mid-afternoon including time for a tea break and lunch! A good day with a helpful breeze.

It’s that time of year again: time for tackling invasive Himalayan balsam!  Yesterday we were out with Cheshire Wildlife Trust volunteers at the Sinderland Green site they manage (actually a National Trust site) to help with the continued battle against the invader.  Good progress has been made at this last site in recent years, so parts of the woodland are pleasingly free of balsam – all being well it can continue to be pushed back further each year.


Replacing a boardwalk

This weekend we were back near Tittesworth Reservoir working with the Peak Park Conservation Volunteers.  Sadly, parts of a boardwalk we helped construct back in 2011 have now been condemned as having rotten supports, so this time we were replacing parts of the structure with a path.

We also had a chance to check on the progress of the hedge we worked on this past February and last October, and were pleased to see it’s doing well!  See updated pictures here.

A berm at Barton Moss

Sunday was a brightish and surprisingly chilly spring day with a frigid southeasterly blowing across Barton Moss and among the conifers of Hollinwood Scout Camp. This was our third visit here – we were given a warm welcome as ever and huddled around the Burco for a brew and biscuits before tackling our work which was a new activity: to create a Hugelkultur Berm(!).

Basically this is a method to create a raised mound for vegetative planting in areas of wet ground. The principle is to improve the drainage of the ground on the berm and to promote healthy plants. The ground of Barton Moss is flat and very wet even in dry weather. The earth is deep, rich and dark but a little too wet for any trees other than alder. So to create this feature you start by digging down (c. 15″) and removing the turf and soil. This is piled up alongside the ditch, with sods kept separate from the soil. Next the ditch is packed with chunky blocks and branches of wood to create a slight mound above the surrounding ground. This is the foundation of the berm. Now the soil is piled on top of the wood creating a long mound. The earth slips into the gaps of the wood and starts to mound up. One the soil is used up the sods are placed upside down on the surface; this helps hold the soil in place and allows the grass to decompose and feed the soil ready for planting later on. The edge of the berm is supported by horizontal logs, pegged in place to help keep the soil on top of the sunken timber.

The resulting feature creates a well drained planting area above a slowly decomposing buried pile of logs. This decomposition creates warmth and enhances release of nutrients into the soil.

This was an unusual but engaging task and on the day we completed it successfully. One volunteer also had time to go and re-tag and check the stakes of the saplings previously planted by the Scouts. We had a great lunch alongside a warming fire. Many thanks to our host at the site and to the volunteers who turned out!

Coppicing at Spud Wood

Today a few of us were out at Spud Wood, a Woodland Trust site.  We were continuing the coppicing of hazel we’ve been doing over the winter, in the better than expected weather! Buds are starting to burst for spring so this is possibly the last of the coppicing for this year.