16 November 2018

The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions, so my failure to write a blog every week has taken me a fair way down that path to Hades, given that it must be at least three weeks since I wrote the last one.

Those last few weeks have been hugely busy, with applications for grants passing backwards and forwards between us, clarifying this and altering that, in our pursuit of financing current projects.  It was a situation where we were, to echo the late, great Arthur Haynes (what, you’ve never heard of him? Well, I suppose this is harking back to the 1960s), “up to our necks in muck and bullets”.  It is amazing to realise how long it takes to fill in forms, not to mention the forms that are generated by the initial forms – for example, one of the bodies we are applying to might, it seems, take exception to the fact that our bank account bears our original name, the “Hreod Burna Parkway Preservation Group”, while the Trust is now called, as you know, the “Hreod Burna Urban Forest”.

So here we are filling in the form to request a ‘change of title’ in our bank account and cheque book.  Should I point out to that grant-giving body that the bank has a spelling mistake in the word ‘preservation’?  Probably not a good idea to do that.  But you wouldn’t believe how much information you have to give the bank on that form – the dates of birth of all the Trustees, their addresses (fair enough) and then, not just how many years they have lived at that same address, but the number of months too.

It is, therefore, refreshing to reflect on how many things have been happening over at our mixed woodland.

It’s really hard, by the way, to talk about the area in ordinary conversation.  You can’t say, ‘I’m just going to walk the dog over at the urban forest’, as it sounds just a bit pretentious, not to mention la-di-da; and neither can you say, ‘I’m just off with the dog over to our Hreod Burna place’ or even ‘’Me and the dog are going for our walk over in the mixed woodland and meadowland’.  All of these, while accurate, might lead to other people looking at you somewhat askance.  Can’t somebody come up with a good idea for how to refer to it, and I’d rather avoid, ‘pleasure ground, public walk and open space’ as well.  Referring to HBUF is often the default.  It doesn’t really trip off the tongue, though – ‘I’m taking the dog for a walk in H BUF’.

So, back to the refreshing reflections now.  The three willows that were giving us a bit of concern have now been coppiced and/or pollarded and the pathway through the woodland behind them has now been opened up.  Don’t worry about the coppicing/pollarding, willows are sturdy creatures and will soon shoot again; just look at the willow beside the weir to see the truth of that.

You will notice, too, that more work is taking place on the footpath surfaces through the woodland.  We spent a lot of time, and many volunteers gave of their wonderful energy earlier on this year, on creating a cut through the bank leading from the weir so that there might be a level path for anyone using wheels to be able to take a circular walk through the woods.  We were foiled by the weather to some extent, where the hoggin we had originally put down at one point was solidified by the cold and snow before we had a chance to level it out properly.  But now, over a period of weeks, this work is going to be tackled once more and we should end up with a much more satisfactory surface.  Watch this (or, rather, those) space(s).

Those more discerning than I, alas, who notices things only if someone points me in the right direction, will have remarked upon the seven whips that have been planted in Ballman Field.  These are two rowans, two silver birch, two hazelnut and a holly.  Five of these were a gift from a lady who, having applied for trees from the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy programme, which initiative started in 2015, subsequently moved into a flat with no garden.

A group has also been let loose in Tiverton Field.  Our redoubtable members have been labouring for some weeks, no, months, together with help from groups from Nationwide, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, and Community Payback teams, to mow, clear out litter from the stream, clear brush and blackthorn, and generally work towards the start of creating another wildflower area.  This is not so straightforward as just sowing the seeds, but requires a lot of patience, hard work and expertise.  We are hoping to get a bit more expertise on the case soon.

And that’s quite enough for now.  See you next week?

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