Headley Heath Workparty – Sunday 21st February 2016

We met the warden, new to us.  We took a long walk from the carpark to the worksite – past the lizard bank/hotels we created last visit, down a steep hill only to walk up a steep hill on the other side – where was the bridge?  Apparently that’s for another workparty....

We were clearing scrub (brambles, blackthorn and young birch trees) to keep the chalk downland from becoming too overgrown.   The warden pointed out a sad looking bench to the side of the footpath.  It must have been put there in the days before the bramble, blackthorn and birch trees had grown up, when there would have been a lovely view across the valley.  No-one would have chosen to sit at the bench on the morning we arrived – not just because it was a bit overgrown and damp, but because there was nowhere to see from it.

It was a satisfying task – cutting down the birch and scrub.  John (volunteer from the National Trust) used a rather loud, but very useful scrub mowing machine (like a strimmer but with a fixed blade and stronger and louder than a garden version).  The
rest of us concentrated on the taller trees and bushes.   I spent most of the time dragging all the debris to the bonfire.

It was a blustery day and the flames kept shooting out from the fire in all different directions.  Keeps you on your toes if you want to avoid getting scorched!  By the end of the day the site of the bench was totally opened out and it will now get the sun and fresh air, so will dry out and not stay so damp.   I am sure it will be used a lot more now -  especially as it is placed near the top of a very steep path which is part of a circular walk starting and finishing back at Box Hill.  Hikers were walking passed us all day.

Just as we were packing up, an older gentleman walked past us and stopped to talk.  He was delighted we had cleared the site. He explained that it was he who had had the bench placed there in memory of his wife.   He had tried to clear the site on his own a couple of times – surreptitiously working in the dusk in the hope no-one would ‘catch him’ doing it.   He must have been about 70.   It was quite a coincidence he should walk past just as we were finishing it, but it made the workparty all the more satisfying.