Norfolk Biodiversity

Giving willow the chop, a bashing day out!

We arrived in a car park in North Burlingham at 9:30 in the morning to find a large group lurking by the woods. However, this was no ordinary group but highly-skilled, excellently-equipped volunteers; a mix of community and Council side-by-side, ready to safeguard the Millennium Wood, a beautiful 2.9 hectare woodland planted by the local community in 2000, as the name suggests. We were there to cut back Goat Willow, not because it is bad, but to stop it from blocking the sunlight to its neighbours, as it grows very fast, in tree terms anyway – more than 18 inches a year. Therefore, to protect the diverse variety of trees from the glistening silver of birch’s to oak and ash trees, we were at hand. But we were also there to have fun as we did it!


So what happened? After a quick demonstration of how to do a step cut with a hand saw, we were off. A member of our team with tree-mendous vision went round marking the trees for cutting, so we didn’t get trigger happy and cut down a forest (a very optimistic statement). So we began …

Teaming up for the cut

Teaming up for the cut

Clever Photography, I’m cutting the tiny stem

Clever Photography, I’m cutting the tiny stem (look right)

At first, it is probably no surprise to find that we were total amateurs using saws, getting it stuck more often than not. However, after a few trees, we quickly got the hang of it. Unofficial, rookie saw-cutting advice to follow: (1) cut until your stuck, (2) apply pressure for a better sever, (3) push the bush til it goes mush. Well, it worked for me, anyway. However, it was not about individuals, there are no lone rangers in this part of Norfolk, or not today anyway. We were working as a team, with various roles from marking to sawing, and fire chief to the boss (see below).

The Boss

The Boss

Sadly, for some trees, Willow wasn’t the problem. We noticed that the Ash trees had  the dreaded lens-shaped lesions around some of the branches, one of the signs of the fungus Chalara fraxinea, aka ‘Ash Dieback’! It causes the loss of leaves and the mass of branches and foliage to dieback, often resulting in tree death in all but the healthiest of trees. We suspect that the seeds came from infected trees in Europe, where it has been spreading, since the spores which are produced on leaf litter and stems can travel over tens of kilometres, but not this precisely. For more info or to find out how you can help, check out this leaflet by the Forestry Commission:$FILE/FCPH-ADD.pdf.

'Symptoms of Ash Dieback' Credited to The Guardian

‘Symptom of Ash Dieback’ Credited to The Guardian

However, the day wasn’t all sad news or hard-work. As the pictures suggest, we did take a well-deserved break or two. Time to tuck into our delicious, really baked, baked potatoes and toasted marshmallows, the way they should be done, roasted on a pitch fork then eaten on chocolate digestives.

Tucking into a hot potato, very a-peeling

Tucking into a hot potato, a very a-peeling lunch

Smore Galore!

Smore Galore!










If you are tempted, after reading this, to go for a walk in the woods in North Burlingham, (which is highly recommended) or just want to see our handiwork in the Millennium Wood (we were next to the apple orchard), why not have a look at this guide and map ( You will also notice the interesting artwork that has been made by Acle High School students (see article here:

School Art Installation, Credited to The Diss Mercury

‘School Art Installation’, Credited to The Diss Mercury

By Matt Thorne


About Matt Thorne

Works in Environment, Transport and Development at Norfolk County Council

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This entry was posted on October 30, 2014 by in Arboriculture, Invasive Species, NBIS, NBP, NNNSI and tagged , , , .

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