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Wednesday 20th December 2006
The Volunteers spent the whole day working to put right various sorts of vandalism that occur from time to time in the Dene. First we had to clean up the Interpretation Boards recently erected at the mill site - both boards had been heavily sprayed with black paint. Fortunately after some careful work we were able to restore them to almost as good as new. The we were off to the Donkey Field, a large open space above Blaeberry Brag Quarry. A large chest high fence was built here as a safety measure to avoid the risk of people getting too close to the edge of the field where there is a sudden drop into the quarry. Anyone wandering too close would be risking death or serious injury from a fall.  From time to time the fence gets vandalised and this was our latest attempt to repair the fence - at least to provide a warning to the unwary, even if the people destroying the fence don't fell themselves to be at risk. It can be frustrating to spend so much of our time making good damage rather than doing something more positive for the Dene.

Saturday 7th December 2006
As always, a busy day. The first job was to saw off dead branches from a conifer tree, these then have to be cut into smaller pieces for removal. At the same time we saved some of the green boughs to use at the wreath making event on the 8th and 9th. In the afternoon our task was slightly stranger than usual. In that, we removed pins sticking into the bark of a tree in the park beside Pet's Corner. These had apparently been used to pin fallen brown leaves back onto the tree trunk. As they were easily within the reach of children they had to be removed.

Tuesday 28th November
We went to the 'wild' part of the Dene to put in some more field drains. This part of the Dene, nearest to South Gosforth, does not have any tarmac pathways and can get very wet and muddy after rain. We have been installing new field drains to reduce this by diverting the water off the pathways into the river...

... but it's hard work, requiring drainage trenches to be dug out, large stones dumped in the bottom and finally up to half a tonne of gravel used to fill up each new drain to provide the soak away. All this gravel had to be moved by wheelbarrow from the nearest road several hundred metres away.

Tuesday 22nd November
Clearing dead willows. They were much harder to take down than seemed likely from their size - the wood was almost impossible to cut and needed two people on the bowsaw to have any chance. The hard work continued when we had to saw it into sections to be used back at the visitor centre to make Xmas decorations. Afterwards several willow sprigs were planted by the bank - if these take OK, then we'll have new willows growing for the future.

After the willows, we had another try at getting an old oil drum out of the river. We thought this would be a quick job, but it was tricky hooking it with the grappling hook and then the fun started. Once we'd got it across to the riverbank, it became more obvious how heavy it was. It took two ropes and 8 Volunteers all their might to get it out of the water because it was filled with a disgusting oily sludge. Sarah had the job of emptying this sludge out into a bucket so that we could manage to lift it into the van to get it back to the Pets Corner skip.

Saturday 13th November 2006
The 'Bird Feeder' Event and the 'Everything for a Pound' stall were very successful. Thank you to everyone who came along and joined in.

Saturday 11th November 2006
The first job was to repair a broken fence beside the bridge. The old fencing was removed and the new piece sawn to the correct length and fixed in place. Next, we returned to the fallen tree in the river by the stepping stones and cleared out the rubbish which had caught up in the branches and formed a dam. (the kingfisher was spotted four times). Then, we returned to Millfield House and spent some time getting things sorted for the 'Everything for a Pound' stall tomorrow. This will be at the same time as the 'bird feeder' event held by the park rangers.

Wednesday 8th November 2006
Work clearing out the river continued. Huge branches had fallen and settled at the top of the weir. Ropes were tied around them so they could be hauled out. The branches were so large they had to be sawn into smaller pieces before we could carry them away. The Rangers, wearing waders clipped and lopped the overhanging growth on both riverbanks, giving a much improved view. This afternoon, work was on the upper paths of the Dene. An enormous copper beech has come down and damaged many of the smaller trees during its fall. We cut off the damaged branches and tidied up the area. The huge trunk can be seen from the path - we counted at least 85 rings but the tree is probably much older, since the trunk is much thicker lower down.

Saturday 21st October
A lovely day despite a few rain showers. Work started on the road leading to Millfield House, lopping and cutting back some of the growth from the trees because branches were obscuring the street lighting. It is much better now, although some further work still needs to be done. After that, the garden behind Millfield House was tidied up. Pruning, clearing overgrown walls and paths, lopping straggly branches and cutting back shrubs.

Friday 17th October
Still busy in the river and on the riverbanks. Starting off at The Old Mill and working downstream, we tidied up the 'Island' and cleared litter and debris as neccessary. We continued to tidy up the trees, bushes and saplings along the riverside, so that the view of the river is much more open and lets in more light. There were still plenty of conkers lying around from the horse chestnut trees, a strong signal that autumn is here.

Friday 6th October
River work again today. There were one or two heavy showers but aside from that the weather was good, bright and sunny. We worked upstream from Pet's Corner clearing the Ouseburn from litter and debris. In addition, we lopped off overhanging branches, and removed small saplings from both riverbanks, which opened up the view of the river. Rubbish removed included: a broken plastic toboggan, a large plank of wood approximately 20 feet long, several smaller planks, and large black plastic sheet, a large and very sodden soft toy, as well as the usual bucket loads of plastic bags, bottles, cans, items of clothing and general detritus. (the river is slippy even when wearing wellies as one of the volunteers discovered - twice!)

Saturday 30th September
It was a lovely sunny day, and we worked in the river. We started by collecting litter from the water (wellies essential) just downstream of the weir behind Pet's Corner. After this, we helped the Park Rangers clear out some of the debris and rubbish from the Ouseburn, this time starting from the weir and working upstream.
The Rangers worked in waders, and some of the recovered items included: a child's bike, a scooter, several balls, plastic bottles, cans, paper, plastic bags, various items of clothing, a broken wheelbarrow, several sheets of corrugated iron,half a broken wooden sign from the Three Mile Inn up at Gosforth, (puzzling how that one found its way down here!), and lots of broken tree branches and logs.
This was an exciting session in more ways than one. A volunteer ranger disturbed a wasps nest on the riverbamk and was stung on the head three times! she very stoically carried on.
Clearing river
On a happier note - several of us saw a kingfisher for the first time. A marvellous streak of electric blue sweeping across the river - stunning.
Thursday 14th September
Today was a celebration because the project work to improve facilities and information for visitors to the Old Mill, Jesmond Dene is almost complete. The launch event was held in the Visitor Information Room at Millfield House, and people who had contributed to the project were invited.
Keith Pringle gave a short presentation and then a scale model of the Mill c. 1850 was officially opened for display to mark the occasion.
Later a buffet and refreshments were served, and at about 2.45pm, there was a guided visit to the Mill to inspect the site. Millfield House remained open to the general public this afternoon and early evening. Several visitors came to the event and joined the guided tours to the mill.

Wednesday 13th September
Today we made sure the Old Mill was free of litter and graffitti. This was in preparation for the official opening of the 'Old Mill Project' which takes place tomorrow. We also cleared debris from the paths leading to the mill as well as lopping off overhanging branches.

Tuesday 5th September 2006
In the morning we worked in the river just behind Pet's Corner. The recent heavy rain had caused a surge in the river and washed off some of the coping stones and bricks from the weir. The stones are very heavy and had to be carried and pulled up the river bank so that they can be stored and used to repair the weir at a later date.
In the afternoon we worked in Armstrong Park. Several of the paths had become waterlogged, and to deal with this we dug out a trench and filled it with gravel to ensure better drainage.
We also cut back overhanging growth from the paths and cleared out another blocked drain on one of the higher paths.
The drain was clogged with mud and leaves which had to be cleared to get it working again. Buckets of water were carried from King John's Well and used to flush the drain through.

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