Winter News Roundup

Its been a very busy Autumn and early Winter for the Conservation Group.  As we near the festive season and look forward to putting out feet up, here’s a summary with photos of everything that’s been going on, click on any photo to enlarge –

Reserve Pathways and Bridges
This substantial project, aided by the Tyne and Wear Community Foundation was completed at the end of November. Contractors with heavy equipment cut the pathways, laying stone and topping with fine chippings before machine rolling. This surface will continue to harden over the winter for a lasting result, more usable by those with buggies and wheelchairs than the old muddy paths. The new pathways are a long-awaited improvement to the Reserve:

The large bridge over the pond was dismantled and refurbished, while a new small bridge was also built for the lower pond. Both bridges are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and buggies. The lower pond area has also been dredged and extended to create a larger shallow pond that will have a dipping platform, ideal for future educational events. This should be built and in place by Spring 2018.

Thanks to all the volunteers who helped us on the bridge building days, it was fantastic to see people turn out to help:


Charcoal Burning
Our new charcoal burner was commissioned on 25th November, when we burnt a batch of willow, coppiced from the Reserve earlier this year. Under expert guidance we prepared, loaded and lit the burner. After a substantial amount of smoke initially, the furnace settled down and after a few hours we had a batch of usable charcoal, ideal for art, or we may use some for a future BBQ event. Willow charcoal burns quite quickly and we may make some hardwood charcoal to sell in the future, but we’re happy with our first attempt:


Exmoor Ponies
We have two Exmoor Ponies on loan from the Moorland Mousie Trust for the next few weeks. They are doing a great job of munching through all the scrub, helping to leave an environment which will encourage meadow plants in the Spring. They are very well tempered, but please keep dogs at a safe distance and on a lead as you wander through the Reserve.


Building Bridges on the Reserve

Come along Saturday 11th November10am to help build a new bridge and repair an old one!

As part of the project, funded by Tyne and Wear Community Foundation, to improve access for everyone in the nature reserve, the new path has been put in and we will be building a new bridge and widening the old bridge by the pond. So come along and share your skills or learn new ones and help make the nature reserve a place everyone can explore and enjoy.

Apple Day – A Sweet Success

The Conservation Group were delighted with the turnout and support for Apple Day on Sunday 15th October, which this year saw an extended range of activities aimed to broaden the appeal of our community orchard.  Having secured funding for new equipment including an apple crusher/press from the Community Foundation, this was our first opportunity to engage the community by taking part in making apple juice.

In the Orchard, the steady production of juice proved to be great fun, with lots of participants collecting, chopping, mashing, pressing and bottling!  Children especially loved turning the masher wheel and seeing the apple pieces drop into the bucket below, while those a little stronger could turn the press to extract the juice.  

We were also fortunate to have on hand local experts Tom and Peter from Wylam Community Orchard and Jon from the 69 Orchard, who shared their expertise in identification of varieties, tree husbandry and apple juice production.

In the autumn sunshine, families with younger children enjoyed interactive storytelling and apple art activities, while at the Village Hall, tree rents were paid and delicious homemade cakes devoured alongside refreshments.

The Conservation Group would sincerely like to thank everyone who contributed to make the event such a success, including the cake bakers, kitchen volunteers, tree rent takers, John and Tom who gave their time, expertise and loaned equipment, Malcolm the storyteller, Veronika for childrens’ art, Karen for the silk painting. Special mention to Steve ‘Scrumpy’ Hilton, who put in hours of preparation work behind the scenes, which included making the successful grant funding application for the apple press and new equipment.

Below is a gallery of photos taken from the event to enjoy, just click to enlarge: