March 2022 update on the Marlpit
During Winter, the weather has been mostly good enough to allow us to continue our activities almost every Saturday, accumulating over 166 volunteer hours. Activities included edging paths, coppicing, and shaping hazel branches into support stakes for hedge-laying and preparing the pond base.
With the lifting of Covid restrictions, we welcomed three new volunteers in February. This has helped us to progress with spreading gravel onto our main path networks and continue to clear rubbish from the centre of the site.
We occasionally get to see some interesting wildlife, such as the Common Buzzard spotted flying through trees at low level.
Hedge planting along the boundary with St Andrew's Lane
The existing hedge along the boundary with St Andrew’s Lane was old and neglected. It was also insecure with dead trees in danger of falling into the road. In keeping with rural village style, we undertook to reinstate this as traditional hedge. We applied to the Norfolk “Plant a Million Trees” initiative and thanks to Cllr Mark Kiddle-Morris (Norfolk County Council) who secured for us, 240 mixed native hedging plants, complete with stakes and guards. The mix comprised Hawthorn, Hazel, Crab Apple, Dogwood and Cherry Plum. These arrived in mid-January and looked very healthy and ready to plant.
It was important to get these planted quickly so the roots could establish before leaf growth started. This was given priority and over the four following Saturdays our Trustees, working as two teams, carried out this work. One team cleared weeds and dead wood from the old hedge whilst the second followed behind planting the new hedge. In places, where the existing hedge included suitable trees such as hazel, we started laying these in the traditional style of hedge management. In some places Heras fence panels had been erected by the former owner Breckland District Council to discourage fly tipping from St. Andrews Lane. Although not very pretty, these are serving a useful purpose. In a few years when the hedge is established, they can be removed.
Winter tree management
Winter is the time to manage trees after leaf drop. As the site has been unmanaged for many years, trees have self seeded and some have grown in unsuitable places such as on steep slopes, in very shallow soil or beneath the thick canopy of mature trees where they will not thrive.
We have selectively removed small, unhealthy saplings, reduced the canopy and opened up the site with clearings and glades letting in light to assist the growth of strong new trees. This seems to have been successful with little damage during the recent storms, apart from a large shallow rooted mature elm.
Wildlife pond update
After the pond was excavated we allowed the soil to settle naturally before moving on to the next phase. As this is a gravel pit and drains freely a specialist membrane pond liner is required. Stephen Bowers has kindly provided some old, but good quality, carpet to use as an underlay to protect the liner from sharp stones. The liner has been purchased by trustee donations, but installation requires warmer weather so it is pliable and follows the contours of the pond. This will be a job for later in spring.
As part of this project, a professional tree survey has been commissioned and was conducted on site in January. The survey report is expected in the next few weeks and will identify all the significant trees, their condition and recommendations for any work required. This will inform a woodland management plan to ensure the ongoing health of the tree population and the safety for visitors. This is a important step forward to delivering this community woodland as an open access space for Necton.
Financing this project
Initial site clearance and tree surveys: Secured grants of £1,914 from Norfolk Community Foundation (January 2021) and £2,000 from Necton Parish Council (December 2020) are financing this element of the transformation.
General fundraising: Necton Area Trust has signed up to Breckland Lottery and SmileAmazon, and is also registered with HMRC for GiftAid, ensuring every eligible donation can go that extra mile for Necton. We welcome any donations that residents may wish to make – contact our Treasurer, Gabbie Joyce for more information on how to support.