The scrape project has rumbled on for much of the summer. Our Natural England adviser didn't visit until the end of July and contractors were slow with their estimates. When they arrived the whole project appeared to be non-starter with the cost coming in at the equivalent of a brand new small car. Ironically, digging the scrape is the easy bit, getting rid of the spoil is what piles on the pounds. However, in the middle of last week, a much more affordable estimate came in from a local contractor. We posted an acceptance through his door at 11am on Thursday morning and 2 hours later had a call asking if they could start early this week.
Suddenly it was panic stations. The tall coarse vegetation on the marsh needed cutting short to have a better idea of the topography of the field and make it easier to mark out the areas to be scraped. Our local dairy farmer, Paul Rushmer, came up trumps and was out on Saturday morning to get that job done. We also needed to drop the water level in the dyke to make life easier for the digger by removing a board from the sluice that hadn't been moved in 18 months. My husband, having just had a hernia repair, was banned from doing this as it involved perching on the top of the sluice, removing the wedges holding the board down, digging away at the reeds that were jamming the board in place and eventually lifting the heavy hardwood board. Under his direction I managed to get this done without getting a soaking and it was very satisfying to see the water pouring through the sluice.
Location for the scrape
Dyke bordering scrape field
Cut field and cow
The digger was due to arrive at 9.30 this morning but when I drove out of our drive at 8am I noticed a pickup parked in the entrance to our marshes. On investigation there was the digger too, waiting for someone to unlock the gates. With the gate unlocked the digger headed off across the marshes and I headed off to work.
By the time I got home from work the digger driver had finished the mini-scrape and was well through the re-profiling of 210 metres of dyke edge to create a 2 metre wide berm which will eventually become a wide reed margin ideal for breeding warblers, Marsh Harriers and maybe wintering Bitterns and Bearded Tits (one can but hope!).
Digger at work on the mini-scrape
Tomorrow work starts on the scrape proper. Hopefully it will be done by the end of the week and we can get some water on ready for any passing waders to drop in.
Just in case anybody is interested in how I got on at the Aylsham Show, my shearling ram, Bentley, came first in his class and Phoebe, my ewe lamb, came second in hers, with the 2 Romney lambs also coming second in their classes. It was my most successful show of the year.