Keyhole Surgery, WYNTV Style, Cragside

by Stuart, November 2006

“Rhododendron Clearing” confirmed Chris the warden to the eagerly waiting, and quickly turning cold group of volunteers who had assembled on the sunny but chilly Saturday morning in the car park near the house at Cragside. We were to clear an area of rhodies ready to make a new access road to the recently enlarged Crozier car park. And with the branches we cut down we were to have a bonfire. A cheer went up from the crowd.

Pete15 minutes later and we had relocated to Crozier car park and were eagerly awaiting Chris to join us to tell us exactly which rhodies were to go. As we waited, and waited, eventually the nearby children’s playground proved too much of an attraction for Pete, Sarah and Colin. They looked to be having so much fun, bless-'em. Margaret H however appeared to have itchy fingers as she walked around menacingly with pair of loppers in hand. No rhododendron was safe for a while. Fortunately, Chris appeared just in time.

BeforeWe were to try to clear as much of an area of rhodies as we could whilst keeping the perimeter intact. Therefore, the only access was to be through a small gap. Steve, James, Margaret H and Geoff began cutting branches. At first carefully deciding which branches could and which shouldn’t be removed. Jenny, Sarah, Gillian and Peter dragged branches out through the small hole and deposited them for Sue, Margaret T and Jane to cut down to size ready for Colin and Pete to put on the bonfire.

The BonfireOne of warden Chris’s assistants, Peter, joined us and began using a chainsaw to define the edges of the area which they wanted clearing. With limits defined or perhaps it was the sound of the chainsaw, our whole operation changed up a gear. We seemed to be cutting down whole trees rather than branches. The small keyhole of a gap, through which everything was dragged, evolved from resembling a single track country road to a dual carriageway! When Steve had the brainwave of moving a bench which was just in front of the opening and was causing a bit of a bottleneck, there was just no stopping us. The bonfire was massive and could burn anything we threw on it.

Day two was pretty much a repeat performance, except no bonfire – it was too windy (I don’t think we could have beaten Saturday’s anyway). By lunchtime we had broken through to the road where the new access road would end. We stood around, chatting with the wardens for a while, admiring our handiwork, before heading off home. A very satisfying job and pleasant weekend.


All photos taken by Stuart

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