Friday 11th to Sunday 13th August 2023 – Habitat Management
The Anderton Centre was built in 1990 on the site of Anderton New Hall. Anderton New Hall was built in the 1870s to replace Lady Hall which itself was demolished when Lower Rivington Reservoir was constructed in the 1850s, Anderton New hall survived until the 1930 when the derelict building was demolished. Lady Hall may have been built in the 1600s and was located near what is now the A673 at the bottom end of Lower Rivington Reservoir. The New Hall was built to replace Anderton Old Hall which was present on a site near Old Hall Farm not far from Crown Lane, Horwich. The Old Hall dated back to around 1281 and may have been demolished around the time of the Civil War.
The areas around the Anderton Centre are largely man made- farms, reservoirs, manorial estates, tree plantations, fields and ponds, but they have become home to wide range of species from crows to cormorants, from rabbits to roe deer. Regardless of how common or rare each species is it has a place in the world and even the most everyday or mundane maintenance helps them to keep it.
BCV’s involvement at the Anderton Centre began in January 2007, at the time the site was dominated by rhododendron. It took us 4 years to clear the terraced grounds. This year’s residential is the first summer resi since 2015. Our weekend was spent mostly repairing dry stone walls and trimming hedges, with a little bit of planting thrown in. Walls and hedges not only create boundaries but also benefit wildlife: dry stone walls create hiding places and refuges for small mammals and amphibians; hedges provide wildlife corridors, nesting habitat and sources of food.
Thanks to the Anderton Centre management and staff for having us back; Rick, Tom, and Caroline for organising; Lynn and Trish for cooking; finally thanks to all who turned out to help out.
When we first came to the Anderton Centre on Lower Rivington Reservoir in January 2007 the site was dominated by rhododendron. It took us 4 years to bring Ragnarok to this poison sea of green, using bow saws, mattocks, winches and brute muscle power. When we finished we sang songs of victory and sadness as it seemed to be the end of days for our Anderton resis. But it didn’t end.
Like warriors fighting eternally in Valhalla we came back to do battle for many years more. We beat back the balsam and remnant rhodys; we planted trees and hedgerows; we laid paths and laid hedges; we dug drains and built walls; we drank beer and ate food; we cut down trees, we skipped and jumped. The last time we visited this heroic site was in January 2020, and now three long years later we have returned.
We arrived on the Friday evening as night fell and made Anderton our home. The next day we set out to test our prowess against the tasks set before us. Although the frost giants took mercy and spared us snow and ice, the god of rain decided to have some merriment and made the ground a mud bath. But nothing could stand in the way of the bold and stout hearted BCV: trees were planted and hedges were trimmed; drains were dug out and a path was made. It was a path that Grendel would fear to tread, filled with branches, boulders, and a raging torrent, but we saw the day through with aching limbs and creaking backs.
As the sun dropped beyond the horizon Trish and Lynn brought forth foods worthy of the mead halls of Asgard, and just like the good old days when spirits were brave and Monday was but a dream, we caroused late into the morning telling tales of past victories, and remembering our fallen. BCV are not just volunteers we are brothers and sisters in arms, we are family, we are eternally bound; BCV is our heart and soul and Anderton is our spiritual home. It was good to come back and harder to return to the everyday when it was done. But August beckons and another day of blood and beers will be upon us once more when we will return to this land of heroes.
Many thanks to Anderton staff Colin and Gary for having us back and looking after us; to Rick, Tom and Caroline for organising, and to all those who came, saw and conquered.
Fawcett Mill Fields, Cumbria 26-28th November 2021
Many Meetings One of the things that had been a feature of the BCV calendar for as long as anyone can remember were the residential weekends, or as we call them Resi’s. Our last resi before the time of Covid was in January 2020 at the Anderton Centre, since then those weekend retreats had been badly missed. So, when Sam and Rich offered us the chance to swap landscapes of brick, concrete and tarmac for those of high hills, steep valleys and gushing rivers we couldn’t say no.
Fawcett Mill Fields is Rich Greenwood and Sam Kitchen’s new venture, holiday accommodation in buildings that were once part of a water mill. The mill buildings date back to the early 1700s’s, but a mill existed on or around this site as part of Gaisgill Hall as far back as the 1300s. Sadly, previous owners had buried the mill machinery under concrete in less enlightened times, but many other features still remained including the Grade II Listed packhorse bridge over the Rais Beck. It was in this setting that we became Rich and Sam’s first guests, and in return we would be building a dipping platform and laying a hedge.
Seventeen volunteers made the journey, all of us taking at least one lateral flow test in the previous 24 hours, the only unwanted thing to come with us was Storm Arwen. This Arwen was no Elven princess, and as the last of us arrived at Fawcett Mill high winds and snow were already battering the buildings and coating the roads in glittering white. Thankfully Sam and Rich had prepared hot meals for us all, it was like reaching Rivendell after being chased across the moors by howling wraiths; this last homely house was to be our home for the next two days.
In Glades Beneath The Misty Fell After a night of socialising, and not much sleep our day began with breakfast, followed by second breakfast in some cases, and preparations for the day ahead. The plan was to begin work on the dipping platform on the other side of the packhorse bridge, so we gathered the tools and set out. Over night the temperature had gone from cold to really cold, and the icy chill could be felt even on double gloved hands and double socked toes, but we weren’t going to be put off by a little cold weather.
As we looked at the beautiful countryside it was clear that the site had a wealth of wild life: blue tit, great tit, coal tit, robin, nuthatch, blackbird, chaffinch, and dipper were some of the birds present, but earlier Sam had seen salmon leaping up the waterfalls, and there was also a magical red squirrel that disappeared into the trees not to be seen again all weekend. We were in nature lovers heaven, and we wanted to make it ours.
The site of the dipping platform was at the end of a small pond and the first job was to remove the vegetation and level out the soil. That done we hammered twenty wooden posts into the ground to support the platform. Sounds simple but the rocks beneath the soil made a straight forward job into hard work, as a result some of the posts were a little bit misaligned, but with a bit of ingenuity we managed to make it work. After fitting a weed suppressing sheet around the posts, joists were screwed in place and the posts cut down to size. Finally boards were fixed and fitted to make the platform’s surface, the work being finished on Sunday morning.
Meanwhile, another team worked on laying the hedge at the side of the road. A ragged hedge was trimmed and treated to the BCV hedge laying style creating habitat for birds. Trees were cut back and pruned and everything made neat and tidy. As with the dipping platform the work was spread over two days but both jobs came to an abrupt end as the snow began to fall, but more about that later.
A Long Expected Party The weekend wasn’t all work and no play. As it happened the trip coincided with Carol’s 75th birthday, so a celebration was arranged. Cakes were brought and decorated by Jane, songs were sung and mugs of beer were drunk, as too were most of the volunteers. As the round moon rolled behind the hill there were riddle games and guessing games, and leg pulling and hair pulling long into the night. One by one the celebrants drifted off to bed and slept the sleep of heroes.
Many Partings Sadly all things end and the weekend’s fellowship was broken by the return of Storm Arwen. As we finished fixing the last planks of the dipping platform and the last pleaches of the hedge the snow began to fall heavy and thick and the risk of being snowed in was suddenly very real. The team quickly packed their bags and gathered up the tools. With the help of Rich and Karl, a quad bike, and bag fulls of salt we made our escape down slippery roads back to the world of concrete, brick and tarmac.
Many thanks to Sam, Rich and Karl for their hospitality and superb meals, we all look forward to coming back soon; thanks to Tom and Caroline, and Rick, for co-ordinating everything; thanks to Lynn, Justine, Katrina and the cooking crew for breakfasts, second breakfasts, and lunches; thanks to all of the volunteers who made it a great weekend; and finally thanks to all of the drivers for getting all of us safely there and back again.