11 February 2019

Four Get Wet in Whitminster

A late message on a phone “Can you help out at Whitminster on Friday. We need an extra pair of hands as we reduce a couple of overhanging trees below Occupation Bridge” – reply “Isn’t going to be wet and windy?”- “It’ll be ok we won’t be out too long”

So began a three hour soaking in the best that Storm Erik could throw over the West of England. It was very windy and very wet. The wind that blew from east to west along the line of the cut had become all the more fierce as it rushed over the water unhindered by the extensive clearance of trees and undergrowth by the WRG Christmas campers. One of the intrepid four had to bring Workpunt Stuart from its mooring East of Occupation Bridge through the arch to the West side. The boatman had to paddle and push to coax the boat into the deeper water for Stuart was warm and dry by the bank and didn’t want to play in the windswept water, neither did Stuart want to get his deckboards wet. It was with a series of wind driven pirouettes on the water that progress was made to the bridge where a helping hand was waiting in the deepening mud to haul the boat through the arch. Set free on the wind Stuart came to rest on the pipe-bridge as the still in place cover prevented further progress. This was hastily removed and boat and crew slipped under and was drawn and blown to the worksite.

The rain eased a little, a brief respite as the heavens temporarily dried.

The day’s task was to complete the removal of overhanging branches from trees close to the pipe-bridge which were outstanding from the Christmas clearance task. The two saw-men and their willing helpers set about assessing the best way to reduce the branches over the water and bring them ashore for reducing to manageable logs. Ropes were attached to boughs and cuts carefully made in line with the cutting plan until with a creak and a twist the branches fell where they were expected to. The target boughs were heavy and multi forked with nature formed twists which required more cutting. Saw men love their saws and don’t like getting them into the water. The resulting fountains are spectacular but have a habit of soaking the sawyer, the audience has the option of running away which they usually do. With much huffing and puffing and heaving on ropes the branches were lifted just clear from the water for a dry cut to be made and the lumber was dragged ashore for further reduction later.

The rain came again, with malice aforethought, driven on by Erik’s mighty blast. The four were getting wetter and colder…..

 The Workpunts constructed by Western Depot have become a favourite of the chainsaw fraternity as they are remarkably stable platforms to work from and, as the Christmas work party showed, have a good capacity for cut logs which are recovered from the water. The boats are so stable that using an extending pole saw at its full length of 4 metres is as easy on the boat as on the bank. And so it proved on Friday. Small branches were removed from the long target branches to make the felling of the big stuff less difficult. In skilled hands the pole saw can be used to remove branches up to 20cm (8”).
As the storm built to a crescendo the final piece of the jigsaw was undone as the last and heaviest branch was lassoed and severed from its trunk and coaxed onto the bank by three men on a rope and one man in a boat. 

At this point the four decided that incipient hypothermia needed to be acknowledged – waterproof hi-vis jackets have their limits - Dripping rain onto heavy work trousers being one of them. 

The jumble of branches and scrub left on the bank will be tidied by a work party of Scouts from Amberley soon. I’m sure that someone will find time to write a piece for the blog when it happens.

And finally… There are no photos as all the phones were kept well away from the wet. And wet gloves over cold hands don’t work well wresting small flat objects from deep dry pockets.