Sunday, 15 November 2009

Rhodie Bashing

Yesterday I spent the morning cutting down rhododendron plants (or 'Rhodie bashing', as it is known by those in conservation circles) in Hagg Wood, a gorgeous woodland just outside of York. I went along with the University Conservation Volunteers group, and we met Friends of Hagg Wood and people from the British Conservation Society in the woodland, who were leading the morning's hacking and chopping.

The wood was absolutely beautiful - a real magical woodland space, just how Enid Blyton would like it. In May bluebells grow there by the gazillion, but in November everything is brown and shadowy, with long silver birches holding up the canopy.

The air was bitingly cold, and it was wonderful to get wrapped-up warm and be out in it, chopping and dragging and pulling and hacking. I have lots of tiny scratches all over my fingers where brambles scratched through my gloves, and we were all covered in moss and leaves and branches. There were so many great people there, all getting wholly involved in destroying this incredible plant before it took over the whole space.

You can see a 'before' shot of the plant in this photo, lurking behind the silver birches.

We stopped for a picnic after two hours. People had made cakes and there was tea, coffee and hot chocolate in flasks. Everyone was so cheerful and keento hear about the University and our studies.

There was 5 or 6 different cakes to choose from! Mostly homemade too!

When we stepped back to look at our morning's work at the end of the meeting, it was amazing to see how much we'd cleared! There were huge piled of chopped-up plant, waiting to be burned away at a bonfire party in two weeks.

And an 'after' shot, with the piles of plants ready for burning!

Needless to say, we were tired out and achey! We felt we'd earned a lazy afternoon and a tasty tea, so we went home to sit around on sofas, all wrapped up in blankets. For tea we made spiced winter vegetable stew; my most favourite wintery meal making it's premier for the year. Then we sat down with stewed apples and homemade custard to watch La Haine. I can finally say that I have found my favourite film scene ever, and much ado was made about winding it back to watch it again (which inevitably lead to circles of the "too-far back, too-far forward" scenario typical of any such re-winding). The scene I am talking about, in case you know the film, starts with the DJ in the Cypress Hill shirt, when the camera zooms out through the window onto the skyline of suburban Paris, and the hip-hop music intertwines with Je ne regrette rien by Edith Piaf. I thought the film was brilliant, and not as violent as I had feared it would be. Daniel disagreed. I had already noticed that reactions to it are very mixed.

Today I work. Tonight I work. My eyes are heavy with the screen, my brain is full of french transcriptions and IPA symbols. I need tea and bed!


  1. Working up an appetite whilst doing something so worthwhile outdoors, then having homemade cake, what a great way to spend an afternoon.

  2. :-) Yes, it was perfect! I definitely going to take part in more conservation projects - such a good excuse to get outside in winter when it's cold, too!

  3. Sounds like what I get up to on our volunteer days down here in the Neroche Forest...except no-one ever brings cake :( Maybe I need to start a new trend?