Sunday, 29 January 2012


This week's big advance is in the wildlife garden at the visitors' centre where the pond has been stripped out and relined. It looks much bigger than it used to but in fact its only slightly larger. We have moved it back towards the hedge a but to gain some extra space.

Ranger Matt Hall has been leading on this project which he designed. The plan was to level the whole site at the same time, moving the garden plot to the edges so that we can accommodate more picnic tables and even use a marquee for events. The plan was foiled by big, black and orange salamanders that live in the garden. These great-crested newts are considered to be quite rare and are protected by law so we had to call in a licensed newt-handler (I'm not kidding) to inspect the site.

Like a plumber giving an estimate, he sucked on his teeth, looked at the sky for an agonising time and told us that we might get away with digging the pond now while the newts are hiding on land, but we mustn't dig the garden itself until all the newts have woken up in the spring, which could be any time now, I guess.

So that's the new plan. The pond will be finished next week and we will lay turf around it, but then we will have to wait for the newts to show up before we level and turf the rest of the garden. I just hope that's the muddy bit done with. We made a glorious mess that still hasn't been entirely cleaned up.

On Thursday we had a visit by seven staff from the Environment Agency's Coastal Programme. You can relax; they were not here to manage our defences in the event encroachment by the sea; they were here to work as part of their staff development programme. I took them along the shore of Cloudy Pit where they cut down some invading willows and burned the brashings. It was a real pleasure having them here, especially since they brought marshmallows that we toasted (or ignited) on pitchforks in the fire.