The evening before this work party, I foolishly circulated an email containing a screen-shot of the Meteorological Office’s web site showing the forecast for today’s weather. It showed sun symbols, indicating a good, sunny day. The sun did shine, although not a lot. At least, we didn’t get wet! I should have stuck to divination with “the bones”.

We met at the usual time, 10.00 am, and set to work almost immediately. It is rather a luxury at the moment because we park close to the work and for those carrying tools, even closer. We don’t have to divide up the saws, forks, loppers, drag bags etc. and carry them over the hills and far away to the work area – the leat volunteers are blessed!

To the point of this exercise …..

Photograph taken on 4th February 2011, before scrub clearance.

Photograph taken on 4th February 2011, before scrub clearance.

The photograph above shows the small road bridge over the leat at its Yelverton end. There is clearly a rhododendron growing over the leat, as well as some small trees and a mass of bramble; actually, the rhododendron was removed on our last visit.

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Photograph taken today.

The bottom photograph shows more or less the same scene after the rhododendron, brambles and some twiggy hawthorn trees were cleared – there are a few twigs hanging down in the photo from above, from a tree left on the leat behind the camera. These can be confused with two young trees left on the far bank of the leat. We need to leave good, young trees to fill in gaps for when older trees reach the end of their time.

This was our 24th work day on the project and, as always, I want to thank the trusty volunteers who came along to make the work happen. They were Bill, Chris, Derek, Elaine & John, Helen, Ian, John & Rachel, Mally, Roger, Stephanie, Sylvia and Val, who, along with myself made a total of 15. Once again, Mally treated us to three types of cake – ginger, lemon drizzle, date and almond – plus did I have some fruit cake? Spoiled for choice!

One tree that we cut was about the largest that we can handle in a public area. It was about 10-inches (25 cm) across near ground level. This would be approximately 31-inches (78 cm) in circumference. The old farmer’s method of estimating the age of a tree at 1-inch of girth per year (allowing for certain factors such as youth vs. old age, conditions, competition etc)  would make it 31 years old, implying that it started growing in 1980. We counted the annual rings and they came to 30, possibly a little more if some of the larger rings were actually double rings. Considering that the leat stopped flowing in 1898 (114 years ago) when Burrator reservoir was opened, it is noteworthy that there are no trees in it older than perhaps forty years. This implies someone must have tended it in the past and that it has been neglected for about forty years?

The distance we covered today took us about halfway from the bridge to the end, although we had a sparse section today so we made good progress. There is some thicker scrub to come although some of it is bramble which is grist to Big Bertha’s mill (Big Bertha is the big brush-cutter). Perhaps now I can rest until next year’s season starts!