|Welcome Back to Gazen Salts|
|Welcome Back to Gazen Salts|
|This summer was pretty quiet so far as volunteering. Since the last episode of Tales from Gazen Salts back on the 21st of July or seven weeks ago, and of those seven dates, l only managed to be present for five due to other commitments with worms or doctors and health. I was there also for the last Saturdays of both July and August.|
Holidays or lousy weather [as in extreme temperatures heatwise] prevented volunteers from turning up for Wednesdays. So the jobs that were to be done were relatively small because although the avian breeding season was ending, we still had to be mindful of any young waterfowl in the nesting areas.
There was also a considerable change in staffing on the 8th of August as we lost the warden of the Reserve – Tom, who was made redundant by the committee due to a lack of funding. They did offer him part-time work of twenty hours a week instead of the contracted forty hours, but he had to decline.
He is married with a child and lives in Margate some 12 miles away, and given the price hike of fuel, a part-time role of twenty hours wasn’t viable. His last day was the 12th August.
I officially applied for the part-time role on the 18th August, but it’s an awkward topic, and l may write on this in a different series at another time. I would love the opportunity to work here, and l know l have the right experience, but it might be that l am not ‘good enough for the role in certain eyes.
i haven’t heard a thing in three weeks from anyone regarding my application which is a bit disheartening. But as said l will write on this in more detail another time.
It could become pretty uncomfortable somewhere in the future, and depending upon how they handle that, l will then decide whether l stay or whether l too leave the volunteer project. Time will tell in this situation.
|For the July and August period, the tasks carried out were minimal and usual – chippings of paths and general maintenance of the pathways themselves – cutting back any overhanging bushes and weeds.|
However, there was a considerable backbreaker of a role in excavating the round pond, which l will cover in the next episode.
The 12th of August isn’t that long ago, just under a month, yet in that short period, the Reserve has gone downhill. You can tell there isn’t a full-time warden present. Mike is there as a conservationist, and he gets a bit done concerning feeding the birds and other tasks, but he is seventy-seven years of age and can’t be expected to run the role of warden. Nor does he want that challenge, either.
Many projects are planned to start this month and will run through to March next year. Still, as said, we are just seeing the end of the birds breeding season, so the chores currently being managed are minor, and the bigger stuff will begin in October.
Two of these small projects have been the ‘Cottage Garden’, which began two weeks ago and the Gallow’s Field Open Day preparation. The 24th of September is the second planned Open Day for Gazen Salts. Our last one was back in November and was successful, given the abysmal weather on that Saturday. It rained all day and was freezing.
|The Cottage Garden is in its infancy stage presently. But it is to become an educational walk-through zone for school parties. It is sited out of the actual reserve and near the car park by the Warden’s building. You can see in the images above and especially the first image that the area is a sort of out-of-way area filled with surplus materials from the reserve itself.|
|It all needs sorting out. However, that will be done between now and the end of November. The ‘garden’ is to be a small space that will have some herbs and wildflowers growing, which will, in turn, encourage wildlife and insects and pollinators and so on.|
But to achieve that – my expertise was called upon. The soil in this area is not excellent, and they wanted to prepare the grounds and have a hands-on ready-to-use material to dig into the existing soils to enrich the soil beds. What was best to achieve that?
Compost and, more importantly, ‘ hot compost soils’. The latter is because l can create a compost pile from scratch and have quality compost ready in eight weeks. The secondary role of the compost set-up is to serve as an educational show how’ model.
I created a three-bay compost operation to produce a tonne of compost soil every 8-10 weeks to be dug into the existing soils. You can see a minimal view of the pathways they have laid up with logs, and the three pallet bays are at the back. These will be painted in a friendly organic green to blend in with the environment.
I have started two heaps with brown, and l will start the hot composting process in the next two weeks once l have managed to secure a quantity of aged green, which l secured yesterday from the groundsman of the cricket grounds opposite the reserve.
I will use the aged green to start the heap off as a low-level green layer whilst l prepare the active green layers from the reserve. We are yet to begin performing serious foliage clearances, and those we have completed are pretty woody and need to be processed through the chipper.
We now have a chipper to use. Thank goodness, as some of you may recall from season one, we were desperately awaiting the return of a very old model we had sitting in the sheds.
However, l feel that the Cottage Garden will be a project l will be writing about for a while, so l’ll keep you updated on its progress.
|Operation Gallow’s Field Entrance Gate – GFEG|
|GFEG is located where you see the word ENTRANCE on the map and the new gate is to be sited just inside the main gate on the left and will be cut into Gallow’s Field.|
|One of the newer projects that began in earnest this month and in which Pete and myself were involved exclusively yesterday is being called Operation Gallow’s Field Entrance Gate – GFEG. It’s not called that at all, but it should be called something, and GFEG is at good as anything else.|
This entails the opening of Gallow’s Field, which l briefly discussed in Tales from Gazen Salts – Episode 18th July 2022. We worked as a project group in the very early part of this year’s spring on refugia in Gallow’s Field [a fancy name for bug hotels]
The summer growth has hidden them. However, with the Open Day on the 24th of this month, Gallow’s Field needs to become fully accessible again, this time to the public and not just the volunteers.
So the refugia must be uncovered, and the entire field needs to be cut and mown. We have a current gate into the area that, although created at the beginning of this year, didn’t have permission to be made, so that must be sealed again. However, a new professional gate is to be installed.
This meant that the foliage and overgrowth needed to be cut back just inside the front gate to the reserve and on the other side of the existing fence line.
Pete [the reserve’s second conservationist] and l started the project yesterday in the humid temperatures after a weighty rainfall from the night before. All of our work, therefore, disturbed swarms of mosquitos which l learned are more dangerous than mozzies elsewhere in the UK and are almost exclusive to Sandwich. Citizens of the town have been complaining about the invasive Salt Marsh Mosquitos for 200 years!
They pack more of a punch than the average mosquito. I can vouch that l believe this to be true as l seem to be a sucking punch bag for anything with a sting and wings anyway!
The areas we worked in hadn’t been cut back for twenty years and run on the banks of the Guestling stream, which courses its way through 75% of the reserve itself. It was ancient overgrowth comprising aggressive dog rose thorns, wickedly nasty blackberry bush spikes, and hairy l hate you nettles! Two trees must be cut down, so in addition to picking the shorter straw, l ended up tackling the overgrown shrubbery, and Pete got the cushy task of strimming.
I jest about the term cushy – the snipper whipper was bigger than Pete!
We were both pleased with our combined three hours of hard graft, but sadly this piece of land isn’t a five-minute job, and next week, we will have to attack it more internally with most likely machetes!
This will not make much sense to someone who doesn’t know this part of the reserve as it is a forgotten section and has been hidden for fifteen years, BUT it will make sense in a few episodes’ time.
|Tales from Gazen Salts Nature Reserve is about my time and stories of my voluntary work with this project.|
I’ll see you next episode. Thanks for reading.
Gazen Salts Nature Reserve
Sandwich, Kent, England, UK