After the terrible conditions of the last machine hire week, when the Trust returned the digger and dumper to Harford Plant Hire (a very supportive firm) in a pretty sad condition, we have had a much better and more constructive session of access roadway building.
For those who wonder why a railway is doing this – the Trust sold the surplus land at Wenhaston so it could be properly farmed, and without the new roadway, we’d soon have no access to the trackbed except by walking (and even that not in the wettest winters): also, there will be cattle on the pastures, and cattle and Trust volunteers, plus visitors to Events (perhaps with their dogs) do not mix.
So we had to provide a vehicle-appropriate trackway and all-weather footpath over some very soggy land indeed. Advice from our farming neighbour produced a method – terram geotextile first, then reject stone (basically flint) to allow the surface water through at some points, and recycled materials on the rest (it is part of the Trust’s Charitable Aims to use recycled fill where possible).
We also needed a car parking area to keep staff and visitors’ vehicles off Blyford Lane, which is both narrow and busy, and to provide a turning area for buses and coaches, and an unloading area for materials to improve the trackbed itself.
So the intrepid gang of volunteers, to whom no challenge seems too much, have been loading, laying, raking, spreading, and rolling the surface this week, using around 120 tonnes of sub-base very efficiently provided by PW Waters Ltd of Lowestoft. The skill of the volunteers in safely operating such a varied collection of machinery (two dumpers, a large “360” digger, and a roller) is impressive, and will stand the Trust in good stead when we start building the actual railway. Groundworks are, after all, groundworks, no matter for what purpose.
By Friday afternoon, we had completed the job, although it’ll need to settle down and be rained on, with a bit more raking, to be at its best. We now have a decent-sized all-weather car parking area for Members (who after all “own” this land), and should be able to get to the trackbed itself almost all year
Meanwhile, contractors Keith Hall of Stoven have been constructing stock fencing along the new boundaries, and a very nice job they are making of it. We will at last be able to prevent access from the footpath (at the east end) if we wish: we don’t wish, really – but as the planners prevented us providing the permissive path we wanted in 2012, we need to keep control over access to the land. As James always quotes (probably much too often): “good fences make good neighbours” (Robert Frost, ‘Mending Wall’): visitors to Blyford Lane (and note you need to be a Member to walk the land, except at Events) can now see the area of permanently Trust-owned land – around 5 acres (we don’t hold with hectares)
Come and see us on the Open Weekend on June 18th and 19th from 10 till 4 each day – no charge – and maybe join the Trust and help our happy (well, usually) gang of volunteers. If it’s any incentive to join, there are always biscuits or cake provided to working volunteers – like Napoleon, we know troops “march on their stomachs”. And this (very hard, dusty, heavy, and boring) job is over – more interesting things are on the horizon.