Sue B's view of volunteering on the Flitch Way
If you are reading this, you are obviously not too busy.
Either you are an active friend of the flitch-way-working-group and think you might be mentioned in dispatches, soon to be a recognised star, or you might be thinking of joining this group of dedicated tea drinking, biscuit eating, fun loving fools who love to go home with dirt on their boots, smoke in their hair, twigs attached to torn jackets, tired as a baby but biscuits in their tummies. Did I mention the biscuits already?
So this week we are working at Little Dunmow. Park up and its a bit of a walk down to where we are clearing the overgrowth BUT as of last week we are in possession of a pull along tin can on wheels and its BRILLIANT. Of course it bounces us around so we can check our teeth and fillings are secure and Tom, our trusty Ranger and guide has to navigate the couple overhanding trees and dips in the path but like all responsible adults we laugh like we are 5 years old and love the novelty of the ride.
You would pay good money at a seaside resort somewhere warm to travel in something similar.
So what is this all about? From what I understand, if I have got this right, I will have to check my facts, so if you are still with me and paying attention I need to be sure as there might be questions later..... John and Wendy asked if they could cut a bit of the overgrowth away to be able to walk (did they have a dog? Or just legs that liked walking?) A little way along the old disused railway track that ran from Braintree to Bishop Stortford. Permission granted and, as these things often do, the ball started rolling. Now, I am not sure what came next so will have to ask questions (as I do) and fill that bit in later.
The long and the short of it though is that there is now 14 and a half miles of disused track that is a haven for all sorts of wildlife, insects, birds, wild flowers, cyclists, runners, horse riders, dog walkers and biscuit eating friends of the flitch way. Did I mention the biscuits?
This is maintained by enthusiastic volunteers under the excellent supervision of our Tom the Ranger. (He also is the chief supplier of the tea and biscuits so will always be spoken of kindly and praised by us all)
We go out on Tuesdays and Thursdays which are easy days to remember as they both begin with the letter T.
T is also for Track and of course the refreshments (although coffee is also available, along with the crumb making nibbles that I might have mentioned earlier)
Nature looks after itself but in an environment where people live it also needs sympathetic managing. Our aim is to encourage as much diversity as is possible in the places where it should be, its natural habitat. I will have to check with Tom as he will probably have a list of things that I should tell you because he is experienced and wise about all this and "knows stuff." I so like coming out with our group as everyone "knows stuff" and are happy to share that knowledge.
We begin with unloading, finding out our tasks for the day and slowly starting to work as a couple others will be getting the tea things out and making a brew. Within a very short time the kettle is boiling and the tea is made and we give ourselves a jump start of caffeine and the aforementioned biscuits. It is a shared experience but if there are any chocolate biscuits then Brian and I are first at the table. Fortunately some people prefer the custard tarts or the jammy dodgers. Well, we are a diverse group of souls.
We rest and chat on our fold-up chairs and then it is time to begin in earnest. NOW if you are new to all this and considering joining us then you need to know that.......
Wait for it.......
You get your very own hard hat. Groovy eh? Gloves and hi viz jacket... we certainly are soooooo on-trend.
Large pieces of wood are left to pile so that it will be a living space for moss, lichen, insects and other small creatures as it will slowly decay into the soil and lock the carbon with it. Tom calls it carbon sink. I told you he "knows stuff".
There is far too much other material to store and so there are our fire starters who have the pleasure of performing that cave man ritual and feeding the fire throughout the day. I wont say they are competitive...BUT if there are two fires they check with each other how well their control and skills are in this department. I am told that John is the master and his apprentices are Pete and Brian.
Now, I said that I learn things and mentioned the moss and lichen earlier? We have Sandra. I love Sandra too as she "knows stuff." Lots of stuff. There was some Oak Moss growing on a part of the Flitch Way. Now this East London girl wouldn't have known Oak Moss from a hole in the ground but Sandra gave me a piece and it is beautiful. If you draw or paint or mess about with photos then you would love to see it. Apparently it is used as an ingredient to make some perfumes. Expensive, well sought after perfumes. Now who knew that? Ok if you are a clever clogs reading this and knew that already then forgive me 'cos I am new to some of these things so absorbing the facts like a child. I am not a child so retaining them might take a bit of repeating but........
I think I have to close this now as we are on one thousand words and you must be tired reading it so if you have got this far without falling asleep then there will be another instalment to follow where you might learn things you never knew that you never knew and want to come and join us for adventures.
Ciao ciao x
1 February 2023