On Saturday five members of the Gravesend RSPB group meet up in Cliffe Pools RSPB reserve car park at 9:30am, with the assistant warden Ruby and two RSPB interns, Emily and Ben. Together they drove us to ‘apartment 21’ an area near the black barn, where a couple of weeks ago, they had cut down swathes of hawthorne and brambles. These were ready now for being burnt on a bonfire.
A large circular area had been cleared for making the bonfire and, as it had been raining over the past week, the surrounding vegetation was no longer tinder dry and so it was safe to light a bonfire here. Saturday was a perfect day for bonfires – it was no longer raining (unlike last year) but a sunny day with a slight breeze and a reasonable temperature for working outside. We quickly got the fire going and started piling on the cut down hawthorns and brambles. Both come with sharps spikes so had to be handled with some caution.
The cuttings from the immediate area were quickly consumed and then we had to carry and drag cuttings from further afield. ‘Pitch-fork-Pete’ ably demonstrated one method on how to shift large quantities of bramble:
A couple of breaks for tea and biscuits, (essential food for volunteers I’m told), and by midday we had cleared a large area and were left with a smouldering bonfire.
As the bonfire burnt down, leaving just a pile of grey ash, our attention turned to lunch and a quick scan of the area with our bins. A flock of greylag geese flew overhead, lapwings were roasting behind us on the pool margins and a large bird, possibly a buzzard or short-eared owl, was seen at some distance sitting on a fence before flying down and disappearing from view. Thanks to Pete and Karen, Keith and Teresa, and to Ruby, Ben and Emily for the hard work and Teresa for the photographs.