‘In like a lion and out like a lamb’ or so the saying goes! During the first week of March however, after a wet and drearily cloudy winter spring’s lamb bleated very briefly before giving way to an arctic blast during the middle of the month followed by yet more damp and cloudy days. A warm office job seemed almost inviting!
Ground conditions early in the month, however, were good enough to snatch a few days with a JCB to ‘slub out’ ditches. In an average year amphibians would have already been busy mating and spawning but the very cold conditions this year has significantly delayed their emergence whilst ground conditions were finally just about acceptable to run a heavy JCB.
From a conservation point of view ditch maintenance is essential. For instance the nationally scarce plant tubular water dropwort appears to be unable to compete effectively with other more aggressive types of vegetation that, given the chance, quickly chokes the ditches and leads to silting up of these crucial arteries for wildlife. Open water is also an essential requirement for most dragonfly species of which the Sudbury riverside boasts an impressive range.
The JCB was to have been used to complete footpath upgrades but the very sudden return to wintry conditions meant that only the minimum amount of work could be carried out so some repairs and improvements remain outstanding.
Fortune, however, smiled on our friends from the Acton & Waldingfield cub-scouts when their annual trip coincided with one of the few fine days. This year work to the Queen Elizabeth 11 and adjacent plantations included clearing felled sycamore saplings, cleaning and erecting new bird boxes and planting alder saplings. This column has stressed, on a number of occasions, the vital importance of the alder tree to the winter survival of numerous species of our small seed eating birds and the Brundon Lane area is always a hive of small bird activity.
On a final note it is a somewhat sobering thought that this column is now in its twentieth year. Perhaps its longevity reflects something of the value and importance of Sudbury priceless riverside environment.