27-Aug-20

A party of eight volunteers met up at the gas pumping station on Wallridge Drive for a morning of strimming and branch removal. The eagle-eyed reader will notice a change of meet-up date this week because of Storm Francis, as Tuesday was a wash-out. A couple of boughs had fallen off an ash tree in the storm, with one standing vertically and blocking the burn, which could have fallen over the path so it had to be removed for public safety – hence the decision to tackle them on Thursday.

 

We split into two teams with four people heading to just below the steps at Dale Top, to assess the best course of action to make safe the fallen boughs. It was quickly decided to rig up a strap around one of the more sturdy trees and attach a winch. We had to the put a strap around the boughs and just winch it over towards the path. This done, out came the chainsaw and the branch was cut into smaller sections to make it easier to pull off the path. We had to reposition the winch further back from the path so when we pulled the boughs we could drag them across the path further into the undergrowth.


Photograph A. Before

Photograph B. Attaching winch-line

Photograph C. After


While we were there, we took the time to remove a bough that had fallen years ago. It wasn’t causing any harm but while we had the equipment there it made sense to clear the whole area as we didn’t know when we would be back with the gear. The area was cleared by mid-morning so we took the equipment back to the car and returned with strimmers to help with cutting the grass.


The party that had begun strimming path verges had worked their way down the incline beside the pumping station that leads down into the Dene and were making good progress along the path back towards the stairs at Dale Top. The entrance beside Concord House was also cleared while we were in the area, and it was soon time to pack up the tools – and wonder what next week will bring.

18-Aug-20

A work party of ten met this morning at the entrance to Crowhall Farm for a morning of strimming around the upstream meadow and surrounding paths. It wasn’t a bad morning: hotter down by the river path but cooler when working along the top path on the south side. At least the rain held off!


After an upwards glance it was decided to get started straight away and so after being designated different areas, off we went across the field, over the style and down into the upstream meadow.


Three pairs concentrated on the meadow while two pairs crossed over the upper wooden bridge and got started on the path on the north side of the Dene. One pair worked upstream on the north side reaching up to the waggonway while the other pair went downstream just past the waterfall to where the top path branches off and descends to the lower path.


Photograph A. Strimming by the upstream footbridge


Quick work was made of the upstream meadow by the three pairs, despite working in hot conditions and dodging a colony of bees and a couple of frogs, so it was decided that the two pairs that had finished on the north side should work their way along the upper path towards the gate next to the lay-by on Hartley Lane while the others finished the meadow.


With the meadow completed and time running out, two pairs then concentrated on the area near the artificial otter holt (burrow) which had been created so that if otters came into the Dene they could have a place to live (but unfortunately this never happened). Meanwhile the other pair joined the party on the top path.


While we were clearing the area around the lay-by, an old plastic garden seat and some polystyrene was found; this was taken to the lay-by and an email was sent to North Tyneside Council to collect it. We are telling you this because all of our local councils have easy-to-use websites that you can use to report any fly tipping you come across. This helps them to log any hot-spots of fly tipping they have, so that they can take the appropriate action.


Unfortunately we once again ran out of time, but we will be back – weather permitting – to continue strimming next week in some part of the Dene.


Photograph B. Rowan berries in the Dene


11-Aug-20

On a bright summer morning 10 volunteers turned up for a session of strimming at two different locations. A party of two went straight to the Dene Cottage to start strimming the lower estuary area as much as they could. The rest of the volunteers met up at the metal gate on Hartley West Farm road. These split into two groups of four, one beginning on the main path while the other went to the meadow to clear a strip either side of the path.


Photograph: strimming the meadow path verges


Some of you will remember we normally clear the whole meadow, but we will be coming back to it later on in the summer as it is a nature meadow where various wild flowers grow, and we have to wait till they die back before we can clear the vegetation ready for the daffodils next spring. By mid-morning the meadow had been finished, so the eight met up at the seat next to the stepping stones to work as far upstream as we could get in the time left.


One of the team found a pound coin and we couldn’t decide what to do with it, but as we were about to finish for the day there was a family at the stepping stones playing with fishing nets with two small children, so we gave it to the gran to get the little ones an ice-cream on the way home.

4-Aug-20

A work party of eleven volunteers met at two different locations in Seaton Sluice today. Two people went straight to the harbour end of the estuary and the rest met up at Millfield. All eyes were looking towards the heavens as it was a dark, damp morning and everyone was guessing how long it would be before the rain came.


The two volunteers at the harbour end headed for St Paul’s Church area to start strimming and clearing the path that runs from near the church down to the estuary. They continued clearing the path under the A193 road bridge and then headed upstream as far as they could get.


The other nine met up at Millfield for two jobs, three pairs of two continued where we left off two weeks ago heading downstream in the area beside the new wooden bridge. The main problem was a wasps’ nest which was disrupted, causing a lot of angry wasps to come out to see who had disturbed them! The first we knew about it was when one of the members got a sting on the hand. A wide berth was given to the area until they settled down again, but not before another member had got stung on the head. Both stings were treated straight away with the spray from the medical kit we carry at all times.


Photograph A. Strimming


The other three volunteers headed for the area where we planted willows a while back and started to thin them down and weave them together to try and form a natural barrier to stop dogs running down the bank into the water and eroding the bank.  Some of you will know the area about 100 metres upstream from the wooden bridge next to the wooden seat.


To weave the willow trees you first cut off any branches you don’t want, then bend the tree over 90 degrees so it is running parallel with the ground, and then weave it through as many other nearby willows as you can – the same as a cane basket or seat. You build up the layers as high as you can with the branches you have cut off. You can then push them into the ground and they will grow back into any gaps, so nothing gets wasted. After a couple of hours this was completed and the volunteers returned to the main party.


Photograph B. Willow-weaving (before)

Photograph C. Willow-weaving (after)


Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse and it started to rain heavily, so it was decided to halt proceedings for the day and return at a later date. So, we gathered up the tools, returned to the FoHD car and then headed home for a hot shower and some dry clothes.

28-Jul-20

A work party of eight volunteers met at the metal gate on Hartley West Farm road on a bright morning for a morning of strimming paths and fettling a fallen tree. We split into pairs, one to tackle the tree and the other three pairs to start strimming. The strimming duos were each allocated an area to work in, so we were self-distancing like seagulls on a fishmonger’s roof!


The fallen tree beside where the gabions are had been noticed when the team leader was on a walk yesterday, so he knew what tools and help he required. It wasn’t a large tree but it had blocked the entire path. As he cut off the branches with the chainsaw, his buddy dragged them away and stacked them in a safe place. It didn’t take them long to clear the path and return the tools to the Friends of Holywell Dene car, then get a strimmer and rake and join the main party.


Photograph A. Fallen tree


The strimming effort started where the top path comes down to meet the lower path just below Hartley West Farm. We went up the incline, working our way along the path until we reached the wooden seat, then we descended back down into the Dene beside the middle wooden bridge and back along to where we had started to make a circuit. Unfortunately we ran out of time to complete the full circuit but there’s always another day to complete the job.


Photograph B. Strimming and raking

Photograph C. Strimming


It was nice to see lots of families enjoying the Dene, with a few asking questions about the area which we answered to the best of our ability.

21-Jul-20

After a break of seventeen weeks due to the Coronavirus crisis the working party was given the green light by NCC to restart work on Tuesday 21st July subject to safe working guidelines.


Six volunteers met at Hartley Lane car park on a fine sunny morning to commence well overdue strimming of the path edges.


Volunteers work in groups of two, one strimming and the other raking up the cut vegetation and dumping it away from the paths. One group started at the car park and worked downstream while the other two groups worked upstream towards the stone bridge.


In addition to strimming, overhanging trees, shrubs and brambles were cut back using a combination of a hedge trimmer, loppers and secateurs.


On the wildlife front, a mole was found trying to dig into the side of a path – without much success. In order to keep it safe from passing dogs and flying strimmer blades it was moved away from the path, however, it was determined to dig in a certain spot and returned.


Here are a couple of illustrative photos.


Photograph A. Strimming

Photograph B. A mole