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Sunday, 6 April 2014

One Week's Hard Labour

LFS Conservation Working Party March 28th to April 5th 2014

Our departure from Hartland International Airport was delayed due to a missing pilot, but this gave us opportunity to meet Rev Shirley Henderson, The Bishop of Crediton, his PA and wife who were being taken by Derek Green to see the latest parish to be added to his diocese.

On arrival, the first challenge was to get into the Barn as quickly as possible to get the best available bed.  I was not on a flight early enough to claim the much-coveted downstairs dormitory, but I did manage to avoid the Suicide Bed placed at the top of the stairs where any violent turning over could precipitate the sleeper downstairs into the kitchen.

After our leader's pep-talk, where we were allocated duty cooking days and the rules of the Barn we were

free to explore the Island; I walked to Tibbets, across Middle Park and back via Pondsbury and Ackland's Moor pulling in all the ponds on the way.  Dinner was provided by Trevor and Lou – Bangers and mash with vegetables and onion gravy followed by apple crumble with custard or cream.

Slow worm
Day 1 Saturday 29th March – we were split into 3 groups of 4 (the remaining two staying back to shop and prepare food) to remove Alexander heads, build a fruit cage, and prepare the site for a wall reconstruction all in Millcombe.  I was with the Alexander removal party and we managed to remove the heads from 387 plants.   We were then deployed to help the two other teams. During our day we were delighted to find three adults and one juvenile slow worms found between stones in the tumble-down wall.  Dave and Brummy Dave gave us a feast of Chicken, ratatouille lashings of vegetables and choice of apple crumble and/or fruit salad with cream, ice-cream, custard or, in some cases, all three.

Fruit Cage
Day 2 Sunday 30th March - Two parties today, finishing off the fruit cage and rebuilding the wall.  An additional task was found necessary to help the wheelbarrow access when two extra bridges were built over the drainage channels.  I found a further adult slow worm in the Phormium growth above the new wall.
New recruit Mike teamed up with Keith to provide us with Cottage pie a selection of seasonal vegetables followed by rice pudding.

Evening Meal
Day 3 Monday 31st March was my major trauma day – cooking for 14 people.  Well Michael planned the menu and did the cooking, I just did prep work.  We served the group with Beef bourguignon and a layered vegetable dish topped with potato and cheese followed by local cheeses and biscuits then Chocolate Bread and Butter pudding.  And this was in addition to completing the Millcombe garden wall.  The other half of the party undertook Rhododendron burning on the east sidelands above quarry beach.

"Hoopoe" eggs?
Day 4 Tuesday 1st April.  Half Day!  Michael unfortunately had to leave on the first sailing as his wife was unwell so he and Brummy Dave stayed in the village to propagate some seeds into the propagator the rest of us man-handled into the Lodge area.  This was before the rest of us set off to burn Rhododendron brash just south of Quarry Beach for the morning with the afternoon off.  The planned stunt for April Fool's day was planned and executed by Kevin.  He borrowed half a dozen duck eggs and painted them and placed them in a constructed “nest” by the Marisco wall seat to fool the tourists.  Rob and Kelly made the evening meal of mushroom soup followed by chicken breast served with a vegetable medley with fruits of the forest meringue for dessert.

Copper Mine
Day 5 Wednesday 2nd April – Day off!  A leisurely breakfast was followed by 9 of us setting off for a walk to the north end.  We walked the centre path and had a break above North Light.  We then set off down Long Roost to find the Copper Mine.  We found it but did not venture all the way down to it.  We then split into three groups; Dave, Rob and Kelly going down to the North Light, Keith and Megan to Seal Hole and Trevor, Kevin, Andy, Dave (Fred) Stone and I walking back down the west side to find the Quaking Bog at ¾ Wall, the Millstone Factory, the Mangonel Battery and works below it and investigate the earthquake and the new rock fall to the seaward.  Dinner was in the Tavern.

Dinner with the Conservation Team
Day 6 Thursday 3rd April.  We spent a full day Rhododendron burning near the Quarries.  We shifted a lot of brash in the mist and drizzle although it did brighten up a bit later.  In company of a pair of Peregrines we looked out for Oldenburg's arrival and diversion to Gannet's Combe to drop off the three RSPCA rescued puffins.  A few minutes later we sighted two small pods of 10-12 dolphins.  Standing in one place for a day gives lots of opportunity to observe and we saw Ravens flying to and fro to a nesting site, gulls challenging each other, pairs of Oystercatchers and many smaller birds such as Willow Warblers working the piles of brash.  We were visited by Keith Hiscock who joined in and carried a log back to the quad trailer, the final job of the day for each volunteer to stock up the firewood store.  Evening meal was provided by our two firemen from Stoke, Tony and Andy.  They did a fantastic job providing for and extra 5 guests, Beccy and Jonny, Steve and Lottie and the new assistant Ranger Nick.  We had a huge pot of Spanish Chicken and Chorizo, followed by Banoffee pie (or steamed syrup pudding for those with dietary issues) finished off with cheese and biscuits.

Millcombe Wall Builders
Day 7 Friday 4th April.  We were all detailed to collect sufficient stone to complete the final courses of the retaining wall in Millcombe gardens then split into a party of wall builders and controlled Rhododendron burners.  Dave, Mark, Megan, Rob, Kelly and I spent the whole day in completing the wall and tidying up the area.  The remainder undertook a controlled burn of Rhododendron piles near Quarter Wall Copse with proper safety measure involving a water bowser, hoses, beaters and trained fire fighters, with the exception of Brummy Dave who did some propagating and kindling production. Evening meal was prepared by our two vegetarians, Megan and Kevin comprising Feta salad, Chicken Curry served with garlic potatoes, fruit salad and ice cream followed by cheese and biscuits.

Day 8 Saturday 5th April  - An exceptionally wet, drab, misty day.  After a leisurely breakfast and packing, we cleaned up the Barn and remade the beds before dispersing to wait for the Oldenburg.  I decided to walk to Widow’s Tenement, via Middle Park and back by way of Tibbets, the Quarries and Upper East Side Path.  I saw nothing except mist and a few Meadow Pipits and heard Skylarks.  On return for lunch, we met Nic Saunders who was staying for a week helping Charlie re-point the church.  The Tavern was packed with steaming visitors and stayers waiting to access their properties.  We had to embark at 3:30 when we watched two Herring Gulls near Rat Island eating a hand – well it was a starfish really.  We saw a few rafts of Manx Shearwaters and at Ilfracombe, more dolphins.

I enjoyed each day of my first working party even though I still ache everywhere – the sleep deprived nights were another matter … ….

Some new acquaintances were made, friendships developed and lots of new words learned.  Like, where Yamyams come from (the Black Country), who had been Ganderflanking (Old English “aimless messing around”) and what mojo is (mortar).


  1. Thanks for sharing this splendid diary Alan. I'm really pleased that you participated so enthusiastically and enjoyed your first?? working party

  2. Trevor
    Thanks for the nice words. It certainly was my first working party and I will support all future efforts. Whether I will attend another .... .... we'll see.

  3. Thank you Alan a lovely reminder of another great week on Lundy


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