7-Jan-20

A work party of seven volunteers met at the end of Millfield in Seaton Sluice on a windy but relatively warm morning.

Photograph A. Millfield at dawn


The group split into two initially. One group of three went east from the Millfield path to tidy up some sycamores which were cut down towards the end of last year. This involved the chain saw and muscle power. The trees were cut into manageable lengths and then stacked neatly to provide habitats for small creatures and will rot down in time.


The other group of four continued clearing the sides of the path working upstream towards the new wooden bridge.


On completion of the sycamore work the two groups joined up and continued cutting back the path edges and gully clearance work from the bridge downstream on the north side of the burn.

Photograph B. Path clearance

Photograph C. Path cleared!


Wildlife interest: a photographer reported seeing a kingfisher near where we were working.

14-Jan-20

A party of eight volunteers reported to Newburgh Avenue in Seaton Delaval for a morning of river clearance. We loaded up the wheelbarrows with the equipment and headed off to a blockage just down the river from the bridge.

Photograph A. The problem


The first thing we had to check was the height of the river, because of the rain we have had lately. A quick check and the water level was OK, so we set up the winches ready to pull out the large branches. Four of the team donned their waders and started to remove as much of the loose driftwood as they could. Meanwhile the problem was to work out the best order for the branches to be cut by the chainsaw operator, as they were all intertwined like a game of KerPlunk without the marbles!

Photograph B. Chain saw in use


We soon had a plan and set about removing the branches. It was slow work as we had to winch the branches well up the river bank for safety – and to make sure they aren’t rolled back in by people being mischievous. There were one or two branches that had us scratching our heads as to the best way to tackle them, and we had to reposition the tether-end of the winch on a few occasions as the logs were digging into the bank as we pulled them out of the river.

Photograph C. Winching a log out


It was very hard work for the people who were on the river bank, as they had to hand-winch large logs inch-by-inch out of the water. They had to keep taking turns on the levers of the winches.


It wasn’t plain sailing in the river either: unfortunately on three occasions we had some one lose their footing and end up kneeling in the water – but it was a different person each time, and luckily it was always near the river bank. They were thankful that waders were on and no damage done, apart from loss of pride and being on the receiving end of a certain amount of ribbing!

Photograph D. Removing lesser branches


We removed as much timber from the river as we could, but time wasn’t on our side to complete the full task. We managed to get all the small pieces out, but a couple of the biggest pieces we have had to leave for next week. They are too big to get washed down the river by a sudden flood so, as a temporary measure, they were pulled to the river bank where they won’t obstruct the flow of the river.


As you can see from the photos we removed a lot of timber that was obstructing the river.

Photograph E. End result

21-Jan-20

A party of ten met up for a second week at Newburgh Avenue, Seaton Delaval, to finish last week’s task. We had some good news: we had a new starter in our ranks – a welcome development! With introductions over, we set out with three wheelbarrows loaded with tools.


We split into two teams with four volunteers finishing off last week’s task and the rest starting on a new job (see below). Two winches were need to remove the remaining tree trunk left in the river. A snatch pulley block was rigged up on a suitable branch above the trunk to be moved. This enabled the trunk to be lifted above the level of the river bank. The second winch was used to draw the trunk out of the river and onto the bank.


It was decided to leave one of the bigger branches in the river. This was pulled to one side to deflect the flow of the river and so reduce erosion of the river bank.


The rest of the party went about 100 metres upstream from the humpback bridge to start on another blockage. Our team leader had phoned the owner of the land to get permission for us to work on it, and she was kind enough to give permission for any branches pulled out of the river to be stacked on her land – and there was a lot to be removed!

Photograph A. Removing major blockage in difficult spot


With waders on, a few of us got into the river and removed any branches and rubbish we could before the rest of the team came with the winches. Great care had to be taken as to which branch was removed first, because it might be supporting the weight of another branch under the water – an obvious safety hazard.

Photograph B. Chainsaw in use


When we had removed sufficient material, we broke out the chain saw and cut and removed the bigger branches. With the help of the winches we managed to remove all the branches that were blocking up the river before it was time to call it a day. Incidentally, we removed about six bin bags of rubbish, to be taken away by the council.

Photograph C. Blockage removed!

28-Jan-20

A work party of eight returned to Newburgh Avenue, Seaton Delaval, for a third week to continue clearing river blockages.


Four volunteers braved the cold river by pulling on waders. They started by removing any loose items to be removed from the river. As usual the winches soon had to be deployed to pull out the bigger branches. Most had to be cut with the chainsaw as they were too big for our winches to manage on their own.

Photograph A. One of the blockages


The first location was where we finished last week – near the humpback bridge – but that section didn’t take long to finish, so we had to load up all the equipment and move along to the next blockage to be tackled. In all we cleared three different locations on the day before we were beaten by the clock.

Photograph B. Removing branches

Photograph C. Chain sawing a log


As well as pulling branches out of the river, there was a lot plastic items to be removed: bottles, a plastic tank, parts of a child’s scooter and a football as well as numerous plastic bags. These all had to be taken away at the end of the day along with all the equipment.

4-Feb-20

A party of eleven – including a new member of the work party – met at Thornhill Close, Seaton Delaval, for a morning of river clearing. The weather was nice for outdoor work: dry (but a bit muddy underfoot), dull at first then bright.


With wheelbarrows loaded, off we went for today’s task – downstream from the humpback bridge beside Newburgh Avenue.


While four members put their waders on, the winch was set up and all the loose branches were pulled out of the river and stacked up in a neat pile. Soon the chainsaw was called into action for the larger branches, and they also were dragged out. This was heavy work and we all needed to take turns on the winch which runs on manpower.

Photograph A. Chainsaw being used on logjam

Photograph B. Removing timber from river


As usual, floating rubbish had built up on the burn behind the logjam and had to be pulled out. The haul today: plastic bottles, a large plastic drum, carrier bags. Also found was something nobody had seen before: someone had dumped loads of unused charity bags – there were hundreds; enough to fill three bin-bags. This was photographed and we shall be in touch with the charity as they are paying someone to deliver them. All the rubbish collected is taken away and disposed of in a safe manner.

Photograph C. Charity bags


We moved down-river to another site mid-morning to start clearing on another blockage and then on to a third before we ran out of time half-way through clearing the third blockage situated behind the Holywell Community Orchard.


On the wildlife front we heard a woodpecker, and an eagle-eyed member spotted a stag across the river from the orchard, it’s antlers just coming through.