Thursday, 19 September 2013

Managing the spring area.

From now on there will be a small Friends work party on the third Thursday in the month unless otherwise advised. Today’s task was to make a start on the management of the spring area in the south part of the Park. Friends have been given responsibility to manage and improve this small area and the task today was to make a start on the autumn conservation cut to remove the overburden of summer vegetation. If this is not done there will be an accumulation of  a dense mat of material which will prevent the germination of small seeds and more interesting plants. It will also control the growth of shrubs which will change the nature of the area away from that which is desired. The aim is to admit air and sunlight to promote a good variety of wildlife. The material was cut using a hand scythe and raked off and piled to make a composting heap for reptiles such as Grass Snakes.


Big Dig Surprise.

We started off Saturday morning by trying to expose as much as possible of what we believed was a cobbled yard and brick floor of a building discovered in the closing stages of the dig last year.  Saturday was spent tracing the line of several walls which gave us a lot more to puzzle about. On Sunday morning I suggested that two of the excavators try to see how substantial was one of the apparently well built redbrick walls. They fairly soon traced it down to at least six courses, and it had every appearance of a short stretch of ha ha wall. There was a similar wall of white brick on the opposite side. It was whilst pondering on what these walls could be, possibly more retaining walls than foundation walls, and also why they appeared to have laid a curved surface rather than a flat floor and why there were apparently no doorways, that it suddenly dawned on me that we were looking at a small humpback bridge over what was once a deep ditch which divides what I believe to be the Park “recreation” from the Park “agricultural”. The bridge is over 7 m wide and is accurately divided into two surfaces. One was a cobbled surface, presumably for stock to be driven over so they could get a grip, and the other half is thin bricks laid edge on presumably to give a smoother ride for a wheeled vehicle. I believe that what we were digging in last year i.e. brick rubble, slate, stones, etc was simply a spread of material laid down on either end of the bridge to give a firm and dry run up surface. Excavation on the side of the structure shows a rather crude culvert with the brickwork being corbelled. The core of the bridge seems to be a rather crude primitive concrete mix. I am not sure what you would like to do with this feature, but it seems to me that it is almost certainly 18th-century and belongs to the original Park landscape. It almost certainly served the cattle sheds, but by its substantial nature may well have been a main route for crossing this dividing, or boundary ditch which has long since got badly degraded by the hooves of generations of cattle.


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Reptile refugia.

East Herts have provided a quantity of small rectangular shaped pieces of black corrugated roofing material called refugia. 36 of these have been placed in sunny positions throughout the Park. Not only do they provide a refuge for reptiles but also a warm place where they can bask in the sun.


Maintaining reptile habitat.

During February a small group of friends cut back bramble which was threatening to overwhelm  Common Lizard site on the west of the Park. This has paid dividends as Common Lizards have been seen basking in the recent warm weather.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Ancient Hornbeam.

During February 2012 and ancient Hornbeam in the north-west corner of the park was felled because it was felt it was a safety hazard. This was very unfortunate as it was probably one of the oldest trees on the Park. The tree had been coppiced and as such probably predated the existence of the Park, the tree would have been taken into the Park when it was formed which means that it was growing in these 1700s. The tree had three main stems and was very large.

Because the tree had been brutally felled without knowledge of its historic importance, East Herts agreed to construct a barrier around it to prevent damage by browsing animals and to give it every chance, however slight of recovery.

Mercifully, and against all the odds, there happened to be some small shoots on the north side of the stump. Friends have added some chicken wire to prevent rabbits gaining access and to date these small shoots are growing well so we shall keep our fingers crossed.

Big Dig 2012

During August 2012 a series of 1 m square test pits were dug over the site of an old building on the Park. The Friends were ably assisted in this task by local archaeologists Caroline Baigent and Wally Wright.

Over the two days we dug up a lot of building materials, pottery and bone.

On the afternoon of the second day we uncovered a cobbled courtyard and a brick set floor.
There appears to have been a thick layer of gravel laid over the area probably to help with the drainage.
Currently, we do not know the use for the yard and floor. The Tithe Map gives the area as "cattle sheds".
It is possible that the small building may be a milking shed. Hopefully, they excavation to be carried out in 2013 will help further with the explanation.