It’s a constant struggle to keep the net rides open at South Milton but with wet ground in spring, followed by a long hot summer, plant growth has been particularly vigorous this year and it has been impractical to maintain all the rides. Consequently, I temporarily abandoned the two easternmost, Crake and Crest, in favour of concentrating on the more productive sites in the reedbed and around the sewage works. However, as autumn progresses Crake and Crest, as their names imply, will start to become increasingly fruitful so, seeing that the paths in the upper Ley were long overdue for a cut, I asked the reserve manager if our contractor could mow the rides at the same time. Jack, our regular contractor, has done a fantastic job over the years and normally uses a small tractor perfectly suited to access and cut the rides.
This time, he must have used a much larger vehicle because, when I checked the rides on my last visit, it looked like they had been cut with a combine harvester. The rides are both about 4m wide now, twice the width they should be and big enough to drive a truck down. All the wooden, tethering posts, used to keep the mist net poles secure and which took 2 days to measure out and hammer in, have been removed, presumably to enable the beast of a machine to gain access. Finally, to add insult to injury, none of the rides are straight and now run in shallow curves. Logistics were never my strong point, but I would have thought that removing the six posts on one side to gain access and using the remaining six posts on the other side as a guide could have resulted in a straight line. Given that Jack has proved unfailingly reliable in the past, I suspect he was inadequately briefed.
Never mind. A lesson learned. It will take me a day to sort out, rather than the two hours it would have required to cut them in by hand. I’ll have to hack back the vegetation on the outside of the curves to straighten them before re-measuring and hammering the tethering posts back in. Then I can set up and secure the mist net poles ready for action again. I suspect that they will end up looking like landing strips in the Amazon until some vegetation grows back next year!