The volunteer group enjoyed 22 action-packed days in 2017. We worked on cliffs and footpaths, in woods, orchards, allotments, and by the sea. This is the Green Gym, keeping fit outdoors and feeling like a Roseland Ranger.
Our volunteer group follows a varied programme of countryside tasks on Thursdays, twice monthly. Harry drives the truck to the site with our tools – and more importantly, the chocolate biscuits! After an hour and a half of strenuous work, crib is a welcome break and our lunchtime picnics invariably have a fabulous view of the sea. Recently we’ve uncovered historic military features at St. Anthony Head, and have improved access prior to WW1 centenary events in 2018.
We cleared vegetation from narrow ditches – WW1 army units might have used these ‘slit trenches’ for training purposes. Or maybe they provided a route from the old jetty up and across the cliffs for supplies coming by sea? Near the lighthouse we exposed a WW2 searchlight platform and some steps whilst a few of us worked in the rock cut ditches near the bird hide. We cleared armfuls of gorse – removed from the eastern ramparts by Phil and Harry during the regular cut every other year.
Our conservation tasks were often in Towan Field, managed carefully to remove vegetation so that soil fertility is reduced. Eventually a meadow will become established, with diverse wildflowers flourishing in the absence of competition from larger plants. Alexanders, a large weed with beautiful pale green flowers, but very long roots, grows prolifically there. We dug out hundreds of Alexanders, then piled them onto trailers which the Rangers drove away. It felt exhausting at times, but it’s a great location, and the biscuits and cake were delicious!
Similarly, the grass was cut and left in piles to dry in the field until a sunny Thursday in July when we raked the hay with pitchforks and tossed it up onto the trailers. This was my favourite day – blue skies and seas and a friendly group of people…and the work was easier than digging Alexanders. On other summer days we enjoyed cutting and raking bracken on the cliffs of the Blouth and the Jacka – this helps the coastal grassland flora to flourish, creating greater biodiversity.
We’ve also pruned apple trees, pulled ragwort, surveyed Pacific oysters and cleared footpaths in woods and on clifftops. In 2018 a new project to build a stone hedge will keep us busy near Nare Head.
Our group enjoys a happy, energetic and interesting time! If you like the sound of this and want to join in, please email Harriet.Davies@nationaltrust.org.uk