Today was my first (unofficial) day at Exmoor National Parks yard and it has been superb!
We set out first thing to visit a lane that runs through one of the local farms where rain water has been flooding the lane regularly. There is a concrete gully across the lane, but the ditch it drained into wasn’t really a ditch any more and in heavy rain the lane would flood.
The National Parks had cut a hole through the edge of the lane into a neighbouring field and fitted a length of 1′ plastic pipe through the hole and out into the field, this needed to have a concrete gully added to join the gully across the lane to the pipe that lead into the field. We set about getting some aggregate and mixing it using a petrol powered cement mixer, I was loading aggregate into the mixer and adding concrete to make a cement mix that could be used to create the new gully. This was pretty hard work, but very rewarding as the gully took shape. The concrete was poured from a wheel barrow into place and then smoothed down into a curved shape that would carry the water effectively. The job was finished by using a powered digger to move the soil that had been extracted to form the gully and put the soil into a waiting trailer.
The spare aggregate was used to fill in some areas of the lane that were worn down, this was carried out with the small digger, smoothing it out to match the existing surface of the lane and provide some hard standing that would lengthen the life of the lane to some degree.
Once we had done this, we needed to secure the field where some wire fencing had been cut back to make room for the pipe to be fitted. In order to do this we needed to put some post and rail fencing in place that was livestock proof. I cut the rails and nailed them to the posts with some help from one of the parks workers. We then affixed the wire fencing on either side to the posts to ensure the fence was livestock proof and looked aesthetically pleasing.
We then packed all the tools away into the land rover, loaded the digger onto the trailer and secured it with ratchet straps. It was then time to head back to the yard, this took some careful driving as the lanes were narrow and very steep and we had the extra weight of the trailer to consider. Using low gear on the land rover and taking note of the traction control kicking in, we made our way back out to the main road.
Once back at the yard we checked the work tickets that needed to be looked at and selected two for investigation and resolution, there were two that suited the remaining time and so I was charged with getting a post and painting the top so we could use it to replace a “confidence marker” on one of the public footpaths. Confidence markers are put at regular intervals on the public footpaths across the moor so walkers know they are following the correct paths.
Once this was painted up we put it in the drying room (a special heated room that is used for drying anything from clothes to paintwork to wet timber) so it would be ready by the time we had loaded the land rover and had lunch.
We loaded up the tools we would need to fix a gate and fit the confidence marker post and then went to lunch.
After lunch we headed out across the moor to the locations specified on the job tickets, during the drive we spotted a Roe Doe grazing out on the moor, a very yellow coat was an interesting feature I had not seen in Roe before, clearly still in summer coat, she had a very yellow/amber colour.
I hopped in and out of the land rover to open and close the various gates we had to go through on the rough track down to the location of the gate and post. The last leg of the drive required crossing a river, which was done slowly and carefully in the Land Rover.
The last part of the journey had to be on foot as there wasn’t room to get the land rover to the precise location, we gathered the tools required and set out across the moor, following the footpath. The scenery here was stunning and I could see why it was a popular route with walkers. After a short walk we found the post that was severely weathered and badly damaged. We removed the old post and then used a metal spike to open a “pilot” hole for the post, we fitted the post and drove it home, finally adding some nearby stones to the base and hammering those home to ensure the post would stay upright.
We then made our way down to the paths to check the post was visible from the path as people approach – this would ensure the post served its purpose and was helpful for walkers on that route.
After this we went back to the gate that was next to the ford, this had already been repaired when we arrived but we checked there was no other maintenance required before gathering our tools and leaving.
On the way out Brian showed me a bridge they had recently completed over the river after the last one had been washed away, this was a superb example of the excellent work the National Parks do for the whole of Exmoor.
On the way back out in the Land Rover we spotted and watched a Red Hind and her Calf walking up the side of the coombe, they were wary of the vehicle but not too worried by us stopping to watch them, further up the coombe in the distance we then saw a couple of herds of red deer, around 50-60 hinds and a pair of young prickets (stags) with short antlers. We paused briefly to watch these with binoculars before heading back to the yard.
Once we got back, the work tickets were signed off and we discovered that the local farmer had fixed the gate and notified the yard so the ticket could then be closed off.
We did some simple woodwork in the workshop before I made my way home 🙂
A superb day with some excellent work colleagues and very interesting skills to learn.
It really can’t be bad, having to work in these surroundings