Anderton Centre: Winter Resi

26-28th January 2024

Another jetty photo
Another jetty photo

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. Over several years we returned to do other work to help both improve the site for wildlife and as an outdoor education centre by planting trees and hedges, repairing walls, building footpaths and habitat management. This year we returned again for our Winter residential, or resi as we call it. Our work this season would involve repairing dry stone walls, laying hedges, planting hedges, and felling dangerous trees.

The trees we were removing had died through disease and had become brittle and unstable. As the site is used by visitors to the centre they posed a danger to safety and so need to be cut down. Tom used a chain saw to fell the trees which were then cut up stacked on habitat piles out of the way.

The wallers repaired several sections of wall along the front of the reservoir. Why the walls had collapsed is anyone’s guess: livestock rubbing against them, people climbing over them, tree and root growth, land movement, or a combination of factors.

The hedge layers were a bit stuck for work but managed to do a few bits. Any gaps in the hedge were filled in by new plantings.

Well that’s the work bit done, but the other reason people go on resi’s is the social angle. For those staying over-night there was plenty of time to fill, and most of that time was filled with beer, banter and being silly. After work on the Saturday we hurried through the cold and dark to The Bay Horse. Like Hobbits at the Prancing Pony we sampled the ales and then had to change rooms, not because of hooded figures with pointy swords but because the room had been pre-booked by another party. After much merriment we rushed back for Lynn’s evening meal. Meaties and veggies both being catered for with Quorn and ham, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, carrots, fruit crumble and custard, cake, flapjacks and more beer. After food there was fun. Jenga, card games, weird impersonations, more beer, and running from sleep. Eventually sleep caught up and said, ‘Your it, close your eyes and count till dawn.’ Which we did.

The morning came and kicked everybody out of bed into the kitchen for breakfast and second breakfast. Between breakfast and dinner, or lunch if you prefer, we finished off the walling and planting. Then cleaned up, packed up and made or merry way home.

Many thanks to Rick, Tom, and Caroline for organising, the Anderton centre staff for having us back and to everyone who attended the weekend. Special thanks to Lynn for catering, doing a great job as always.

Anderton Centre: Habitat Management

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.

Fawcett Mill Fields: There and Back Again

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.

Rich and Sam
Rich and Sam

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.

Red Squirrell
Red squirrel at Fawcett Mill Fields.

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.

Happy Birthday, Carol.
Happy Birthday, Carol.

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.

The packhorse bridge.
The packhorse bridge.

Also, thanks to Francis for three of the photos.