Firwood First

Firwood Fold 4th April 2021

After months of nothing but Zoom meetings and virtual conservation we’ve unboxed our voluntreers and put them back in the real world: wellies, mud, dirt, and aching limbs, happy days are here again.

Our first post-lockdown task of 2021 is in the same place as the last task before the first lockdown of 2020, Firwood Fold. We’re still limiting our numbers on task and keeping everything clean and safe, but in the coming months we may be able get a bit bigger if all goes well.

April 4th 2021 – So, here we are, it’s the beginning of spring, and also Easter weekend, a time of rebirth and new beginnings and in keeping with that theme our first task was to clear away a year’s growth of gnarly bramble and to plant up some the hedge with some hazel whips to grow and thrive. And Easter wouldn’t be Easter without the Great BCV Egg Hunt, and as last year we didn’t get an Easter many thanks to Jane for picking up the goodies.

Hedges are great, they create wildlife corridors for all kinds of creatures to travel along, and also habitat for nesting birds. It’s estimated that a million miles of hedgerow has been lost since the 1950s, today’s little stretch might not fill that gap but a journey of a million miles begins with a single step, so we’re happy to keep on stepping up for as long as it takes.

April 11th 2021 – Our job today involved cutting back vegetation and trees from the path and clearing willow from the leet. Leets are also known as sluices, spillways, flumes but all are the same thing, a water channel generally used to provide water for industry. As we are in Sam Crompton’s birth place it would fit the historical theme and may have been something that inspired the 6 year old Mr Crompton to invent a better way of working, who knows. Speaking of better ways of working, today we had two socially distanced groups, BCV and Friends of Firwood, working on different parts of the site getting twice the work done without compromising safety.

Blackleach Hibernaculum

Blackleach Country Park 29th November and 27th December 2020

Gallery and text updated 09/05/21

This task falls under the category of pond work even though there was no pond to work on. Instead we were both clearing an area to create a pond and building a hibernaculum. A hibernaculum is a structure in which amphibians can safely hibernate. The word comes from the Latin phrase meaning a winter camp, originally used by Roman soldiers but now the word has been re-purposed for conservation.

This particular hibernaculum is made from a linear habitat pile made from brash with logs at either end. Ultimately the structure will be covered in yew branches (removed from a nearby hedge where it was causing problems), and finally covered in the soil that will be dug out to create the ponds.

Great Crested Newt
Great Crested Newt

29/11/20 – Today’s work involved our chainsaw operator cutting down some big old willow trees before the rest of the volunteers arrived. By mid-morning our chainsaw guy had finished work and left, leaving the site open for the safe six to come in and begin their work. This was mostly cutting up the brash for the habitat pile and stacking the logs for the hibernaculum’s entrance structure. The gaps between the logs will let the amphibians in but keep everything else out.

27/12/20 – Another team returned today to finish off moving the pile of brash and covering the the structure in yew branches. The structure had been widened a little to accommodate the remaining brash, well done Clayton.

10/04/21 – Finally, after several months, we were able to get a digger on to the site to dig out the figure 8 ponds and cover the hibernaculum with a layer of soil. This will both protect the amphibians from disturbance during hibernation and also protect the hibernaculum from vandals. So, job done. Photo of the the completed work supplied by Richard Marshall, the hibernaculum can be seen in the the final photo just next to the trees.

05/05/21 – After a week of heavy rain the two ponds had started to fill up with water, although Richard Marshall, the site’s warden noticed the levels started to drop by the next day. The hibernaculum itself is still being attached by vandals with several attempts being made to burn it.

National Tree Week

Longsight Park, Bolton, 6th December 2020

The Tree Council Logo

The Tree Council first established National Tree Week in March 1975 to support national replanting of trees after the outbreak of Dutch Elm disease. Each year over 250,000 people join in and plant trees across the country. National Tree Week is the UK’s largest tree celebration, annually launching the start of the winter planting season.

This year BCV has gotten involved with an event at Longsight Park, Bolton. Kids of all ages took part and planted over 300 trees in a neglected corner of the park. Using the tried and tested ‘T’ cut planting technique a mix of field maple, silver birch and sessile oak were planted along pre-prepared lanes. The trees were then protected using a first for us, cardboard tree shelters. The shelter seem a lot more durable that you’d expect and will protect the trees from grazing by deer and short-tailed field voles.

All photos were taken with parents’ permission. Family groups arrived at pre-arranged times to maintain social distancing and Tools were sanitised between uses. Thanks to T&C for organising and all the families for participating. Don’t forget to check Norman’s Christmas Cheer after viewing the photos, no captions this time, the photos speak for themselves. Happy Tree Week.

John Franklin

December 17th 2020

No year should end with sad news but this year continues to take more than it gives.

Our friend John Franklin has passed away due to covid complications.

John wasn’t just a volunteer, he was a shoulder anyone could lean on. You didn’t even need to ask, he’d just be there ready to listen to any problem you had. He’d encourage and support, and not judge. You couldn’t know John and not like him, John found many friends in BCV.

He volunteered not only with BCV but also The Wildlife Trust, and the Trust’s Men in Sheds group, a group that helps isolated men find a place and a purpose in the community. John’s ability to connect with people helped these lost individuals open up and find themselves, he probably saved many men from lives of misery and despair with just a few simple words.

John was someone whose friendship and humanity should be aspired to by everyone. His loss is a tragedy for his family, friends, the community and all who knew him. Love and condolences to John’s family, we are all thinking of you.

John’s funeral was on 7th January, at 12:00 noon at the west chapel, Overdale Cemetery. Only a limited number of people was allowed to attend, 10 family and 9 from the volunteer groups John was part of.

The family has asked for donations to be made to the British Lung Foundation in John’s memory, if that is something you would like to do.

11/04/21 – Planting John’s Orchard
As a mark of remembrance the Wildlife Trust decided to dedicate part of Seven Acres Country Park to John Franklin. The site was one of one’s favourite parts of the Country Park and he would often visit it with his wife, Evelyn.

Eighty trees, including hornbeam and birch, and various fruit trees, were planted across 2 days by members of John’s family and members of the various groups John was a part of, including BCV. There are also plans to install a bench at a later date. Photos have been added below along with photos of John working with BCV.

Many thanks to everyone who has left comments below.

If I Had A Hammer

St. Michael’s School, Green Lane, Bolton 15th November 2020

It has been announced that a new GCSE in natural history is to be launched in 2022. Brilliant news, but one commentator claimed that it kids would choose it as an easy option as all it would involve would be going out and walking around fields. They need a proper science like geography. Hmmm…..

Any GSCE that would need to cover, at the very least, biology, ecology, geology, geography and human impacts on the environment is not an easy option, it is a multi-disciplinary science. Any one who has done an Environmental Science degree will tell you just how complex natural environments and our relationship with them are. So, thumbs up to the kids who will take up this challenge for a better planet. Having said that, many schools in Bolton have already embraced nature within their curriculum.

St Michael's School 2001
St Michael’s School 2001
St Michael's School 2014
St Michael’s School 2014

St Michael’s School, Green Lane, Bolton first started to develop their outdoor classroom before the term existed, in those days they were just called school gardens. In 1990 the school asked the newly formed Bolton Wildlife Project for help with designs and costings to improve their grounds. In 2000 extensive boardwalks and ponds were installed in joint tasks by The Wildlife Trust and Bolton Conservation Volunteers. BCV returned in 2014 to restore the pond and some of the boardwalks. In 2016 the school won a Platinum Green Tree School Award from the Woodland Trust after pupils planted hundreds of trees throughout the grounds. Which brings us to November 2020 and BCV have returned again to do a bit of a tidy up.

Over the course of the lockdowns outdoor classrooms have suffered from lack of maintenance. On today’s task one of the boardwalks had netting nailed into place to prevent slipping on the wet and slippery wood, and the pond was dredged of leaves. Part of the boardwalk was so unsafe it needed to be replaced, but that’s for another time. The biggest problem on today’s task was working in such a confined area, everybody who could wear a mask wore one, with exceptions on medical grounds. Still, the job got done and there’s plenty more left to do here and at other schools.

A Cut Above

Coppicing at Doffcocker Lodge, 8th November 2020

At the start of Lockdown 2.0 looked like BCV would be locking away the tools and hanging up our gloves for the duration but at the eleventh hour Bolton Council said we were good to go.. so we went. This time it was Doffcocker Lodge Local Nature Reserve, Bolton’s first, and for many years only LNR. The lodge was originally built to supply water for Bolton’s industry and made use of the site’s elevation and plentiful water supply from the numerous springs and streams running into the valley. Today it is a haven for bird life including kingfisher, reed bunting, willow tit, and an occasional stop over for bittern.

Doffcocker 2015
Doffcocker 2015

Our task today was harvesting osier stems from one of the 3 compartments on the northern shore. Coppicing, as it’s called is an age old woodland management technique that exploits our native trees’ ability to regrow after being damaged. Cutting these trees down causes them to regrow new shoots and stems which can be cut for firewood, charcoal making, or craft materials. In this case we’re coppicing a type of willow called osier to harvest stems for use in hurdle weaving projects at local schools. All of the willow that was cut will regrow and in doing so create habitat for birds and invertebrates. To prove it, we found a number of nests nestling between the willow stems.

Doffcocker Nest
Birds nest in willow coppice

So our super six set to work, only stopping to take a 2 minute break at 11 o’clock for Remembrance Day. In previous years our mass turnouts would have cleared the whole compartment in an afternoon but with our numbers limited to six we only managed to cut about two thirds- but we also created a dead hedge, harvested masses of stems, planted some sticks that should grow into more willow trees, and tidy up some rubbish. In three year’s time we can harvest here again. So, not just a win-win, but a win-win-win.

Incidentally, Doffcocker is derived from the site’s Celtic name meaning The Black Winding Stream. I bet you really wanted to know that, so now some photos.