Record of my work experience with Exmoor National Park

Work experience 03-10-2013

Today I was out with Tony with several tickets to look at.

1. Empty a key drain to prevent houses flooding
2. Repair a signpost indicating footpaths
3. Rebuild a broken stile

First thing to do was gather all the tools and materials we would need for the days work – spades, rabbiting spade, iron bar, chainsaw, hammer, nails, electric screwdriver, petrol hedge trimmer, screws, planks of 8×2, posts, 4×2 rails

We set out to the drain first, these are very important as there are about 9-10 drains looked after by the National Park that prevent houses from flooding, Tony explained that these drains are checked every couple of weeks throughout the winter as they tend to get blocked up and due to the damage to housing that could be caused it is very important to ensure they are kept clear.

When we arrived we could see someone had already had a go at clearing the drain

DrainDebris removed from drain

There was still some debris and overhanging vegetation which we dug out and trimmed back

Digging outFoliage trimmed back

We lifted out the grate and cleared the remaining debris here as well before putting everything back and checking our tools.

The next job was to re-dig a signpost used to show the path of one of the walks in the area. The post had snapped off at ground level and so we used a “rabbiting spade” Rabbiting spade to dig out a hole and then placed the sign in and packed it out with earth and a few stones to secure it.

The next job was to rebuild a style, on the way Tony suggested we should check one of the other essential drains as it was on our route.

When we got there the drain was completely full of mud, about 2′ deep. We got the long handled shovels out and started clearing the silt from the drain.
Silt in drainDepth of silt

We kept digging to remove the silt, this was nice and easy to dig as the silt is fine and lightly packed, there was just a lot of it!

Grate appearing

Grate cleared

Grate removed to clear drain bottom

After some time we had cleared the grate, the drain itself and the ditch that runs down to it

Cleared drain

There was quite a pile of earth from this, which was levelled out over the footpath

Silt removed from drain before levelling

Once the silt had been levelled out we replaced the drain grate and the slab that covered the grate and the drain was once again clear and ready for the downpour that came later on.
Grate replaced

The next job of the day was to rebuild a stile on a right of way across some farmland near the coast. This meant tearing out the old style and rails and putting in a new one, we had some pre-cut wood to create a dog gate next to the stile.

The stile before we started
Broken stileBroken stile

We started by using a crow-bar and claw-hammer to remove all the old nails and take the rails off the fence post and gate post.

Whilst I was doing this, Tony used the petrol hedge trimmer to remove the brambles that had overgrown part of the stile.
Trimming the hedgeTrimming the hedge

The fence post that formed part of the stile was completely rotten at the bottom and needed replacing, we dug this out using the rabbiting spade again
Removing the post

A new post was put into the hole, hammered down and then packed in with some stones and plenty of earth to ensure it was secure.

I then used staples to attach the wire fencing to the new post, these are hammered in.

We put nails into the gate post and new fence and rested the rails on them using a spirit level to ensure the rails went in level. Once this was done Tony drilled holes in the rails so we could drive nails in to nail the rails to the gate post and fence post.
Rails before fixingRails fixed

It was about this point that the rain really set in, we retired to the Land Rover to see if it would clear, having tidied the tools into the back of the Land Rover first.

This was the view of the hills nearby as we waited for the rain

Eventually it became clear that the weather was set in for the rest of the day and so we resigned ourselves to getting soaked and got back to the job.

Posts were driven into the ground either side of the rails ready to mount the steps on and then trimmed to length with the chainsaw.
Step posts

The step was then put on top of the posts and nailed down to ensure it was secure.
First step in place

Tony thought that a second step would be a good idea as the stile was quite high. This meant driving two more posts in and then carefully cutting them to length with the chainsaw, having marked out the height using the step and a spirit level.
Both steps fitted and cut

Tony used the chainsaw to trim the corners of the steps and then a rasp to smooth them off so they were safe with no sharp corners.

Tony also left the cross post quite high to give something for people to steady themselves on as they climbed over the stile.

We then fitted the two 8×4 pieces of wood to the back of the rails which would then accommodate a 2×4 strip that could slide up and down to create the dog gate. Added to the bottom of the sliding section was a piece of dowel driven through to ensure the dog gate would not lift out.

The last part of the job was to hammer nails through the steps and into the rails so if one of the posts rotted out or otherwise broke the step would remain attached to the rails and could still be used.
Fixing the steps to the rails

Finally the stile was finished and ready for use, some yellow paint was applied to the gate post to mark the pathway and some creosote was used to seal the ends of the cut wood.

Finished stile

It was time to head back to the yard, en route we picked up one of the other Land Rovers which I drove back to the yard for Tony. This involved my first ever attempt at Porlock Hill (1:4 gradient) and I had the perfect vehicle for it!

Once back at the yard Tony decided the best thing was to head home, have a shower and change into some dry clothes – which is exactly what I did – until next week!

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