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Dates For Your Diaries, a number of events throughout the coming year.

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A volunteer taskforce of nine assembled at the Northumbrian Water pumping station gate this morning at 9 o’clock to continue the great summer strim. Some fence repair was also undertaken, to break the monotony of strimming.

This session was postponed by two days. The usual Tuesday session had been called off because of the heat. Reason: well, have you ever tried strimming path verges wearing safety helmet and harness under full sun and in temperatures in excess of 30 °C?

The weather today was very different: dull and rather chilly at first but getting warmer and warmer until, by midday, it was rather sweltry.

Anyway, the party split into three groups. The two volunteers making up the first group went, pushing a wheelbarrow of tools, to the site of the damaged fence. This was by the side of the disused railway line between the humpback bridge and the embankment over the tunnel. The fence had been demolished by a falling tree in November and had been patched up several times since then, but was proving an ineffective barrier against the mountain-bikers.

Several stout vertical fenceposts of new timber were dug into the ground using the digging tool. Then horizontal bars of recycled wood were screwed in place across them. We hope the barrier will be more durable than previous patch-up attempts.

Photograph A. Repairing fence

Meanwhile two strimming teams were at work. One, of four people, armed with the hedge trimmer as well as a couple of strimmers and rakes, started at the pumping station and strimmed their way eastward to the humpback bridge and along the bridleway. Needless to say, the bushes on either side of the path were trimmed back while the path verges were strimmed.

The other group of just two volunteers went right down the bridleway to the point where strimming had ceased on an earlier occasion and started strimming westward from there. Overhanging twigs were clipped back with secateurs. When this duo reached the stile on the bridleway, it was decided to strim along the woodland dene-top path that runs from there towards the humpback bridge.

Photograph B. Strimming

Meanwhile, one of the volunteers having gone home early, his strimmer was brought into play on the bridleway, and in this way the whole bridleway was strimmed today (apart from a short section that was considered not in need of attention).

So, at that point, with temperatures rising, we trekked back to the pumping station, loaded the tools back into the van and set off for home.

On the Himalayan balsam front, several plants were removed from the river bank near where the fallen trees cross the river downstream of the tunnel. They were flowering but not seeding. We seem to be winning against this invasive weed, but the price is eternal vigilance!   


A party of nine volunteers met at Ridge Way in Holywell at the usual time of 9am to continue strimming. The weather was warm and humid with the occasional drop or two of rain, but thankfully not as warm as the previous day.

Starting at the seat on Dale Top, we worked upstream on the north side of the burn. The vegetation was very thick and high in places, which proved to be exceptionally hot work to clear.

The group split up about mid-session, with three strimmers working up the side path towards the gas pumping station and two continuing on the river path to the Concorde House Steps.

Photograph A. Strimming

After a short break work continued over the bridge on the south side of the burn.

Unfortunately a small number of Himalayan balsam plants were discovered along the river bank. These were “bashed” to prevent them seeding and further invading the Dene.

Photograph B. Speckled yellow butterfly?

Job done, we all retired to the garden belonging to one of the volunteers for some very welcome refreshments..   


The great Holywell Dene strimming sweep continued today, with nine volunteers operating four strimmers in mid-Dene, on a pleasant dry, bright, warm day.

The starting point was where we left off last week: a point on the bankside path on the north side between Hartley West Farm and the lower wooden footbridge.

Now, I may have misrepresented what we accomplished in last week’s report – we got well upstream on the higher level, but not so far upstream at the bankside level. Anyway, we strimmed from there to the lower footbridge. This included clearing the vegetation around the young trees we planted along the straight section of the river several years ago.

Photograph A. Clearing around the young trees

Photograph B. Strimming head-high vegetation

Photograph C. Satisfying result

Two people, a strimmer and a raker, were sent upstream to clear the jungle around the Wait A While seat. The others crossed over the lower footbridge and proceeded in an easterly direction, strimming all the way.

In the end, we had strimmed all the verges along that entire path on the south side from the lower footbridge back to the stone bridge – apart from the stretches in deep woodland shade, where the pathside vegetation is thin.

The birdsong is dying down at this time of year. The breeding season is more-or-less over and the moult will soon be starting – an important event in the bird calendar. We heard chiffchaffs and greenfinches but not much else. Butterflies were strangely few in number.

Strimming is getting to be hard work now. The larger plants are rearing up to at least shoulder height. It can be a sweaty job as well in this weather. And there is more to come. Watch this space .   


A larger-than-average taskforce assembled near the Millbourne Arms, Holywell, today to continue strimming the Dene. There had been overnight rain, so vegetation was a bit wet and the ground was a bit muddy, but nothing to write home about.

We started with a team photo of twelve volunteers with five strimmers, rakes and a hedge-trimmer. You might see that on the FoHD display board if you attend the St Mary’s Wildlife Festival on 13/14 August.

Photograph A. Team photo

Next we all tramped down to the old Holywell road bridge (now a footbridge) and divided into two squads, a downstream one, of 4 people, and an upstream one, of 8 people. Basically the downstream group spent the morning clearing the south-bank path from the tunnel up to the road bridge, while the upstream group cleared the path from the road bridge up to the field corner, where we found that the farmer had been strimming upwards from that point, making it unnecessary for us to proceed any further.

Photograph B. Strimming

As usual, we trimmed back the trees and bushes either side of the paths, and here the hedge trimmer came in handy. The loppers we use have extendible handles, and this was useful for removing overhanging twigs and lesser branches.

It got out to be a rather warm and sweaty day, so by the time the task was completed we were relieved to call it a day.

It looks as if we have more-or-less finished the first sweep of the path network of Dene, so enjoy the nice clear paths and, as ever, take care of yourselves and your dogs when you hear the buzz of the strimmers. And maybe it will be something excitingly different from strimming next week. Watch this space!

Oh, by the way, jokes of the day: (1) What kind of cheese is made backwards? Edam. Groan! (2) Vegetarians have stopped using shampoo because it has ham in it. Double-groan!



A ten-volunteer squad turned out this morning to continue the summer strimming project. It was, unusually, a bit muddy under foot today because of yesterday’s rain, but otherwise conditions were OK – not too hot and no rain.

The session got off to a flying start when one of the volunteers turned up in a new car – a Jaguar – but then, with the team leader absent, there was a bit of confusion over whether the meet-up point was Crowhall Farm or the Crowhall Farm cattle grid. Once that was sorted out, we picked up all our usual strimming and raking gear from the van and headed off into various parts of the mid-Dene.

Photograph A. Why we strim – jungle!

I won’t give a blow-by-blow account of the morning’s strimming activities – it was a bit complicated (and I’ve half forgotten anyway) – but, suffice to say, we have now strimmed the path verges throughout the Dene up to the old-railway-line tunnel. You may be pleased to know that that includes the path from the lay-by to the top of the steps down to the lower footbridge – which was getting very overgrown.

Photograph B. Strimming and raking

This good progress is in spite the fact that one of the strimmers broke down today – the guard was turning but the head was not. Fortunately, this was easily rectified; the strimmer was taken back to the van and some quick adjustments were made with the tools kept therein. That strimmer was back in use before the end of the session.

As usual, we were raking strimmed grass off the paths, trimming back branches where they were overhanging the paths, strimming around young trees where they were being shaded and picking up any litter we came across – fortunately not too much (although the lay-by area is always a litter hotspot).

And, as always, we were taking care about safety by putting up warning signs on the paths and pausing the strimming when path-users came along.

The part of the Dene that we have not yet tackled yet is the part upstream of the tunnel, so it will be surprising if that is not what we doing next week … or it might be the two meadows.

A final word: take care on Tuesday mornings if you year the buzz of a strimmer when out for your walk, and put your doggie (if you have one) on its lead in the vicinity of the strimmers.