Our team was back in action in Darnford Park on a very cold but sunny 24th February for what we called ‘A Forestry Day’. The work entailed felling several trees of varying quality which were planted some 40 years ago, cutting them into logs which were stacked to form ‘bug houses’. The rest was chipped and will be spread on the environmental mound. The trees occupied space which will be needed to create the central environmental mound (basically a noise barrier) and, later on, a winding hole (a wider area for turning a boat around).
It also served as a training day with a professional giving training to our lads. He was actually volunteering on a day off.
Our marketing team were also on hand to explain to passers-by exactly what we were doing and why.
Why are there earthworks in Darnford Park?
The earthworks mark the route of the Lichfield Canal, which is being restored by volunteers from the Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust. The canal ran from Ogley Junction near Brownhills to Huddlesford but was abandoned in 1954 and the restoration will create a wildlife corridor and a valuable community amenity for walkers, cyclists, boaters and visitors.
It is not possible to recreate the canal through all its original route and the section through Darnford Park has been identified as the best way to progress from the Tamworth Road to the eastern side of the A38. A staircase lock will be constructed in this section of the canal and tunnels will be built under the Tamworth Road and the A38 at the appropriate time and when funds are available. The work is being carried out under licence with Lichfield District Council, who own the park, but land ownership will be transferred to the Trust later.
Work already carried out includes the diversion of a foul sewer which crossed the park and the creation of an environmental mound along the boundary with the A38. The environmental mound, a very effective sound barrier to the A38 traffic noise, means surplus soil is retained and incorporated on site rather than being transported on local roads and recreates a lowland heathland surface . It also incorporates log stacks, used to protect specimen trees and provide ‘bug hotels’ for invertebrates, and increases the biodiversity of the area for birds and other wildlife, as well as trapping carbon which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere through burning.
Trust volunteers have formed part of the lower basin for the canal and where possible have planted turves of heathland on the batter slopes to encourage stable heathland slopes to the cuttings for the canal basin. The north environmental mound has been fully formed and was planted two years ago with 100 blackthorn whips with a further 50 blackthorn to be planted to form a hedge along the top of the mound.
Why are you cutting down trees?
The Trust is moving forward to creating the central environmental mound along the A38 which will use large sections of the old sewer in the base of the mound with soil from the upper basin being used to create the lower part of the mound.
Some trees are still in place in the area of the central mound and it is these trees that are being removed, providing an opportunity at the same time to carry out some training of the volunteer site team.
What will happen next?
When the base of the central environment mound is in place and an acoustic fence erected over the A38 tunnel portal section, the remaining trees will be removed and the next portion of the lower basin will be excavated. The sandy spoil will be used to build the top part of the central environmental mound.
The sandstone bedrock will be excavated for the base of the staircase lock and to create a working area for the A38 tunnel jacking operation. The bedrock material will be used to create a sandstone outcrop in the open park area, the ideal habitat for a variety of birds and bees.
What else has the Trust done?
On the other side of the Tamworth Road from Darnford Park a section of the canal has been rewatered and work is continuing to prepare another section for rewatering later this year. A disabled-friendly Heritage Towpath Trail, now part of the Heart of England Way, has been built, hundreds of native trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs have been planted and bird and bat boxes put in place.
Wildlife walks have been created along the canal route at Darnford Lane and Fosseway Lane, and at Summerhill, from the Oddfellows in The Boat Inn on the Walsall Road to the aqueduct over the M6 Toll Road, where 2300 native trees and hedging have been planted by the Trust’s Green Team and a 200-year-old hedge has been brought back to life through a painstaking programme of hedge-laying.
Photos by Paul Marshall unless stated
Tom Reid helping to stack logs…
… to form a home for insects to lay eggs or hibernate through winter.
Mike Brown, John Bryan, Aileen Salter, Hilary Smith and Mike Battisson and others were on hand to give out information.
The North Environmental Mound built in 2012/13.
Click here for more on the story of Darnford Park
Tom Hogan brought his chipper along to process the branches to wood chips Photo Peter Buck
Old sewer pipes removed in 2012 will be used to build the central environmental mound.
Much of the work involved dragging branches to the chipper.
The wednesday volunteer team with with our visiting forestry professionals Tom and Phil
Left to right: Tom Hogan of Stump Removal Services, Bob Dyer - Trust Volunteer, Tom Reid - Trust Volunteer and Publicity Officer, Rick Nelson -Trust Volunteer, Roland Curtis - Trust Volunteer, Phil Lee - Forestry adviser
Photo by Peter Buck
Left: Tony Cadwallader felling a tree on 23rd Feb 2016.
Photos by Peter Buck
Tony Cadwallader and Peter Buck (above) used chain saws to fell the trees and cut them into logs. This actually took place the day before for safety.