Six regular volunteers – who like to think of themselves as the “core team” – spent another happy and productive day at Wenhaston on Wednesday. Jobs that have had to be put off, because of the birds’ nesting season, can now be done. A series of (very) dead elms, both to the north and to the south of the trackbed walk, threatened to fall on passers-by, as in most cases, all that was holding them up was their entanglement in other adjacent trees. We have been advised that removing the dross will allow the live trees – mostly oak and hawthorn, with a little holly and alder – to mature in comfort.
Toby, our über-strimmer – operated yet again through the station site and along the trackbed. He was observed to be a little crestfallen when, happy with the results of his day’s hard, tiring and noisy work and in the improvement to the site, he saw one of our agricultural tenants top-cut 4 or 5 acres of the pasture in half an hour. There was a tractor involved, though!
John carried on the seemingly endless task of raking the track path, separating brambles and rotten wood from woodland plants, and disposing of the former. The rest of the gang got stuck in to the restoration of the driftway crossing gates – both gateposts on the south (non-operational) side are now very firmly in place, and await the gate (a traditional Suffolk type, with original fittings). Digger brought the rubble – for packing around the posts – from the Blyford Lane entrance in absolutely the smallest dump truck I have ever seen in my life: I can just imagine the reaction of a typical set of civil engineers if they saw it.
Then we tried to raise one of the original fence posts by 4½ inches, to take account of the general rise in the land since the railway closed. This turned out to be a nightmare. Because the posts have been there for well over 100 years, we didn’t want to dig them up and put them back higher: also, they do (in many cases) define the legal land boundary. So – we thought – we could “tweak” the posts a bit, thus allowing all four fence rails to be put back. James had the (seemingly) simple idea of using a dead elm as a long lever, with a trunk as fulcrum, roping this lever firmly onto the post, and everyone pushing on the other end – a lever “of the first order”, with a multiplication of force of about 6 to 1. The elm broke, of course. And then another one did it again. It’s amazing how resistant a tree can be to sawing (it’s like trying to saw a steel RSJ), while giving up on a little leverage immediately.
So then we tried with a long crowbar, on a stone as fulcrum, the tip being forced into the timber of the post. No chance. Then Bob tried digging all round, contending with perennial nettles, stray barbed wire, and the gravel and flint fill that the SR’s contractors had put in in 1879, but ground (literally) to a halt. Digger’s Heath-Robinson bucket digger was tried – chained to the top of the post and pulling upwards, then using spikes in the top of the post. Not a millimetre of budge – this for a very aged fir-wood 6” x 3” post of which only 2’6” was actually in the ground. We decided that it really really wanted to stay where it was – and anyway, what with the crowbar holes, the dents from various thumpings, and the slashes from the chain and spikes, the post was looking a little the worse for wear (luckily, we have many more in better condition). One more try, next time, with a car jack, and we will have to give up, and have a (slightly) lower fence. No – there are no photos – it’d be too embarrassing.
Rebounding from this frustration, we made a start on tackling the section of trackbed path between the driftway crossing and the eastern boundary of the wood. Although this was cleared through, last winter, to form a very narrow, winding and partially-obstructed path, it’s not really up to scratch for older or disabled members. We have only 5 months until the birds start nesting again, so we will need to get on with it.