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Too cold to dig but snowdrops break through

by Rod Kebble

Although the temperature at Pierrepont Farm was -9°C at 0600 on 4th February, nine volunteers were on-site by 0930, ready to put more hedge plants into the ground.

However the ground proved too frozen to dig, so the volunteers fell back on the on-going winter Plan B, namely attacking rhododendron.

Ground cleared of rhododendron by Countryside Restoration Trust volunteers.

All the ground in this photograph back to the chestnut copse has been cleared of rhododendron by CRT volunteers.

The area of “rhodies” that had been under attack for several working parties finally fell well before lunch, when the volunteers cleared the Rhododendron Ponticum right up to the boundary fence.

It was then noticed that — despite the recent freezing temperatures — a patch of snowdrops in the RSPB’s Farnham Heath Reserve on the other side of the fence had broken through the ground, as they are wont to do. Mother Nature 1, CRT volunteers 0.

A good showing of snowdrops on land bordering the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm in Surrey.

A good display of snowdrops presages the arrival of Spring.

There was time to move onto another area of rhododendron, which had been prepared by Conway Churchill’s chainsaw. Here, the work consisted of sorting the felled material into heaps for later burning and piles of usable wood (which will go either to the charcoal kiln or the farmhouse’s stoves) and uprooting those stumps which could be removed manually. Stumps which could not be removed were left for later treatment with a glyphosate solution.

Helping with this work was Wiz, the farm’s collie, whose efforts were rewarded with the finding of a frozen squirrel, which she took away to gnaw upon — though this did not stop her from turning up at lunchtime to tell us she hadn’t had a thing to eat all day and could we spare a sandwich or two?

Usable wood from the rhododendron cleared by Countryside Restoration Trust volunteers.

Usable timber in the foreground with "brash" to the rear. The former will be cut up to go in the charcoal kiln or farmhouse woodpile, the latter will eventually become a bonfire.