Sunday, 24 January 2016

Extremes of temperature

What a funny old week. Last Sunday I attempted a short walk around the Stratford Nature reserve (my new local patch-within-a-patch!) but the extreme mud and waterlogging called a halt to proceedings.

Then partway through the week the cold snap hit - and this coincided with my handbrake cables freezing, so I was sat waiting for the breakdown people for nearly 2 hours. I was on my way to Dorchester for a team scrub bash - for those not familiar with such a term, it usually refers to a team day out destroying unwanted vegetation, to make way for the preferred vegetation, usually species-rich grassland. Much of conservation works hinges on some form of destruction!

We were heading up to Hog Cliff NNR - think I've mentioned it before in posts - and with the sun shining and a thick frost, it made for a beautiful setting for our destructive activities. The low winter sun picked out the ant hills, highlighting the NNR's importance for invertebrates as well as plants. However, upon the first approach to the fire, a big bit of ash went down the back of my glove and burned its way through 4 layers of clothing - only a very tiny burn to the skin, but very annoying on both the holey-clothing front AND paperwork!

Nevertheless, camaraderie and cake saw me through the rest of the day - we were clearing blackthorn, hawthorn and gorse off of the chalk downland here and with about 15 of us present, we made a big impact (including one 'specimen tree' being felled by a particularly exuberant - there's always one!). It was amazing to see the pyrotechnic tendencies of gorse - no wonder heath fires take hold so quickly and sweep in a destructive path, as it lights with a big 'whoosh' and leaping flames.

And this afternoon - if the rain holds off - we'll be attempting not to get lost in Bentley Wood once more - fingers crossed!

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