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  • Writer's pictureGabbie Joyce

September 2022 Marlpit update

During the last six months, trustees and volunteers have been busy both within the woodland and in the village, providing over 370 volunteer hours.

12 March – Open Day preparation - litter picking & risk assessment.

19 March – Open Day preparation – path strimming and eye-level branch management.

20 March – Spring Open Day.

24 March – Headteacher from Ashill primary school and Cllr Wilkin on a guided tour of the woodland.

27 March – trustee work session; wildflower seed sowing, planting for the future.

16 April – Volunteer Welcome Session.

18 April – trustee work session; planting up the fernery, with donations from two residents.

23 April – volunteer work morning.

07 May – volunteer work morning.

11 May – volunteer work morning.

17 May – Necton School pre-visit site assessment with deputy head and year 4 class teacher.

19 May – Necton School year 4 visit.

26 May – trustee work session. Purchase and delivery of two trailer loads of sand for main entrance path.

11 June – volunteer work morning.

18 June – volunteer work morning.

25 June – Fun Dog Show. A fundraising event for NAT (and Help for Heroes).

01 July – volunteer work morning.

01 July – Necton school pre-visit site assessment with staff for year 1.

02 July – Necton Open Gardens. A fundraising event for NAT.

08 July – Necton School year 1 visit.

11 July – Ashill School pre-visit site assessment.

18 July – Ashill School year 6 visit.

23 July – volunteer work morning.

06 August – volunteer work morning.

13 August – volunteer work morning.

20 August – volunteer work morning.

These activities have enabled the Marl-pit Project to engage widely with our local community, raising the profile of the woodland area specifically and the value of protecting our environment more generally.

Spring open day

The purpose of the open day on Sunday 20th March 2022 was to show local people what had been achieved to date. Over 135 local residents visited the site, many bringing their dogs.

Read more about this event on our website and listen to our podcast capturing views and thoughts of many who visited that day.

Working with volunteers

At the open day, several residents expressed interest in volunteering at the woodland. We currently have eleven volunteers, with six regularly (at least once a month) coming along to our volunteer work sessions. Within this volunteer base, we have a variety of conservation, land-management and arboriculture skills to support activities.

One of our significant summer projects was hard landscaping of our main entrance path, involving breaking and distributing hardcore, spreading sand, and compacting the surface to a profile that allows accessibility for mobility aids. This task was carried out over several sessions and successful thanks to donations of hardcore and equipment from residents as well as great muscle from our trustees and volunteers.

In August, we were working on tree management. Two small dead trees felled and cleared from the area that will be the pond. Dangerous low-level branches from the goat willow and cherry tree removed as well as two large dead elm trees. This work was informed by the results of our Tree Survey and form part of good tree management.

We have experienced one of the hottest and driest summers, and our recently planted hedge along the St Andrew’s Lane boundary was watered on a few occasions. With no water on site, this was a logistical challenge that our ingenious volunteers resolved with hosepipes and watering cans.

Wildlife on site

One of our volunteers, Steve, is our wildlife photographer and his patience over the summer has provided him and us with some lovely images of birds living within the woodland.

Donations in kind: Over the summer, residents have provided suitable hardcore, equipment, water, plants and seeds. In June we received 3 new birdboxes left by the gate by a mystery doner. These will be installed over the next couple of months, in time for prospective bird viewings.

Working with local schools

Our trustee, Fraser Bateman, has been instrumental in developing a connection with local schools. Parish Councillor, Genine Curtis has been volunteering with Fraser on some of these school visits. Here he reports on activities with Necton primary school and our new relationship with Ashill primary school.

24 March – Headteacher from Ashill primary school and Cllr Wilkin on a private tour of the woodland. Iain Brown, a teacher working at Necton School in 2021 was involved with the first ever school trip around the Marl Pit. This year, Iain is the form 6 teacher with Ashill School and he introduced the school’s head teacher, Steve Creasey, to the site in preparation for a visit for his pupils. We took the opportunity to invite Breckland Cllr. Nigel Wilkin along as well to show how work is progressing and the interest that it is generating among local schools. They were all suitably impressed and Mr Creasey was happy to agree with Iain's suggestion for a visit later in the summer.

17 May - School pre-visit with Mark Hodder – year 4 class teacher and deputy head Necton School. Each planned visit requires a pre-visit site inspection to assess risks and control measures.

19 May - Necton Year 4 School visit. 31 students divided into two groups each with 4 adults supporting. Mark Hodder issued tree identification sheets so pupils could mark off various trees as they walked around. The students worked in small groups and helped each other to identify the trees, they also asked questions about the wildlife and habitats which we were pleased to answer.

01 July – Yasmin Dodd from Necton School pre-visit for year 1. This visit would include a child in a wheelchair so the usual route was modified to avoid the steepest slopes, but still allowing access to all points of interest. The risk assessment was amended accordingly.

08 July – year 1 from Necton School visit. 31 students went round in pairs with 5 adults supporting. We talked about the history of the site, gravel extraction and how nature had reclaimed the site when it was abandoned. Yasmin had prepared a work sheet based on the map we supplied so that the students could record their journey around the site, noting bird boxes, log piles, various trees, the pond site, fox earth etc. We also talked about the rubbish that had been dumped and how we all must be responsible to keep our environment clean and safe in the future. Students were fully engaged and very well behaved – a credit to the school and staff.

11 July – Iain Brown Ashill School pre-visit inspection. Again attention to risk assessment.

18 July – Ashill School year 6 visit. After an initial introductory talk and walk, the 8 students were divided into 4 groups each with an adult to conduct a tree survey. This involved selecting suitable trees, identifying them from leaf type and then measuring their circumferences. This information was recorded for subsequent uploading to Treezilla. The students were very keen to take part and worked quietly and efficiently at their tasks and understood the importance of the work they were doing.

Necton Village School is keen to use the woodland more often for nature study and other outdoor class activities once it is open to the public.

An image from Treezilla - 27 trees in the Marl Pit have been added to the database, thanks to Year 6 students at Ashill primary school.

Treezilla is a citizen science project that is aiming to encourage members of the public, local authorities, business, local groups and other organisations to collaborate in mapping, measuring and monitoring trees across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

Looking ahead to autumn and winter

We will be focusing these tasks over the coming months;

  • Steps – to improve access between the shadey fern area up to the fallen oak on the high path.

  • Wildlife pond – once the liner is fitted, approximately 25,000 litres of water will be sourced to fill. A small selection of carefully chosen plants (oxygenators and marginals) will be planted, these will help maintain a healthy water balance and provide natural cover for wildlife.

  • Jubilee tree planting – working with the Parish Council, trees will be identified, purchased and planted close to the pond. Seating will also be installed.

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