If you go down to the woods today, prepare for a big surprise!
Sunday was the first return of our volunteer team to Old Wood, Skellingthorpe, since the pandemic arrived, made possible by the hard work put in by Claire Green, James Jesson, Nick Hall and all the team at Grantham HQ. With the extra PPE gear, a covid-safe reworking of our working and tool handling practices and the wonderful drive and flexibility of our superb volunteers we were able to have a productive, safe and fun session clearing some Western Hemlock (basically, tree weeds in this context) from a newly thinned Birch stand.
We started the day with a quick rebriefing on covid-safe practice, then after a short, slightly awkwardly distanced, but gloriously sunny stroll from the gate we arrived at the work site.
We rebriefed on working in distanced pairs, on not sharing tools, wearing gloves (masks optional at a distance) and taking care to stay distanced on breaks as well as tool pick up and drop off. We designated a tool cleaning station – with pick up and drop off areas three metres apart – and designated a large break/congregation area another three metres away. Only I – as the day’s designated toolboy – was allowed in the tool clean station and we each took turn to drop off or pick up.
We had colour coded the sets of tools in advance (a raid of the darker crevices of our shed unearthed some handy zip ties in different colours) so it was clear who was using what and then I alcohol-wiped sanitised each set before placing them, along with the PPE masks and work gloves in the pick up zone. At the end of the day we reversed the process, one by one dropping off each tool set with me – in mask and disposable gloves – sanitising and storing each set in turn.
Aside from the obvious awkwardness of distancing in a close knit chatty group and the formulaic approach to the tool safety practices we had a great and productive day clearing and brash piling most of Western Hemlock, with a couple of them being taken home as alternative Christmas trees!
By Toby Blower, Group Leader, Old Wood Group, Skellingthorpe