Despite being a midweek session, on Wednesday 26th June a fabulous group of 17 eager volunteers turned out to give the Friends of Berrylands Nature Reserve lots of wonderful help to improve our local community nature reserve.
The group included quite a few new local faces, and a number of friendly RBK employees using their volunteer days to give us a hand improving the space too.
It was quite lucky really as we had an ambitious list of task we wanted to try and complete over the course of the day (spoiler: they smashed it!).
The day started by introducing those less familiar with the site to what the community have been doing to regenerate it over recent months, and then talked through our plans for the session.
The first job of the day was to clear lots of vegetation which had grown up around the tree saplings the group planted in the autumn.
We had already done this for lots of the trees around the wildlife pond at one of our previous sessions, so we headed off to the the Elmbridge Avenue end of the site with tools in hand, and set to work freeing our saplings there from being strangled by grasses, nettles and brambles.
We also trimmed back some of the brambles overhanging the pavement at the same time in an effort to be good local neighbours.
After a quick break to refuel with some delicious home-made bread pudding (thanks Derek!), warm drinks, and biscuits, we started on the next item on our agenda, clearing space under the willow tree opposite the scout hut for a cafe at the upcoming Berrylands Festival.
This makes a really tranquil space for people to enjoy tea and cake on the day, and be protected from whatever weather the British summer throws up (fingers crossed for no rain!).
The Berrylands Scout group run this event annually to help enable them to maintain and improve their ageing building, and as they do so much to help support us with our project, we were really pleased to be able to do something to help repay them.
Once the area was clear, and with the end of the session drawing near, we still had two more jobs we really wanted to try and get done.
A few bits of Himalayan Balsam had appeared on the banks of the stream since our big Balsam Bashing day earlier in the summer, so a couple of volunteers jumped into the stream with wellies on try and make sure to get anything we might have previously missed.
While they were doing this the rest of the group convened around our recently constructed Bug Hotel, to finish of the roof that had been installed since the previous volunteer session.
One of the Friends group had done a wonderful job of constructing us a roof using lots of bits of scrap material, and a few of the team had got together for a little impromptu session the previous weekend after the Christ Church School Summer Fair to install it.
The plan was to fill it with soil and then seed it with native wild flowers, in the hopes of attracting lots of bees and butterflies in the future.
Soil from the nature reserve was mixed with vermiculite to reduce weight and also retain a bit more moisture, and filled into the various compartments which make up the roof structure, sowing and watering in the seeds.
One of our regular local volunteers has very kindly offered to give our seeds a regular glug of water when necessary until they are established.
We were really ambitious about our plans for the day, and having such a warm, friendly and enthusiastic group made it a real pleasure.
Hope to see everyone again at a future session.