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Oldminster Sidings

Work has now started on slowly and carefully clearing the vegetation in Oldminster sidings in order to reveal the existing track. It has taken nearly 3 years to get to this point, with the last 2 years spent conducting detailed ecology studies, eventually resulting in a license from Network Rail in March.

VBR will sensitively clear the site over the next year, working within the 1981 Wildlife & Countryside act as well as the advice in the ecology report and according to the terms of Network Rail’s license. To this ends we have produced an approved detailed method & work statement which all volunteers will strictly adhere to under the guidance of responsible team leaders.

Progress

August 2018

August has all been about finishing off the undergrowth clearance work of the 1 acre site sufficiently to meet the license requirements with Network Rail, in order to start the tree clearance in September. By the end of the month an amazing amount of work has been completed with the buffer stops now revealed and all 4 lines clearly visible and ready for the next phase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August also saw a facilities container being brought to site to serve as a secure store and provide a place to get out of any bad weather. The container needs to be fitted out and will probably receive a new coat of paint, but it will be useful over the next tree clearing phase of the site clearance.

 

July 2018

The previously cleared area is now complete with all 4 sidings (roads) now visible from the embankment to the dock fence. This means we’ve now been able to move into areas of growth that haven’t been touched since the sidings were last used in the 1980s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The point work continues to be exposed, with a second one just about to come into view. These points link up with a line that comes off the Oldminster loop on network rail land beyond.

From time to time, a few finds appear such as this brake block that probably fell off a wagon and a chair screw, that might have been lost by track workers when working on the line, possibly when the sidings were extended in the 1940s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 2018

Undergrowth clearance on the previous cleared area is going well with road 1 (nearest the embankment) pretty much finished, road 2 well under way and roads 3 & 4 (nearest the dock fence) now being worked on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work has also now spread beyond this area both towards the buffers and towards the points, with the first point just starting to be exposed.

Whilst the heat means the temperature is hot enough every day to work on site, it does make for very hot & tiring work. Breaks tend to be quite frequent with lots of water being drunk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2018

Undergrowth clearance work has started in the area that had previously been cleared a few years ago by another group, by the end of the month and with good temperatures, a large part of this area had been cleared. Undergrowth clearance is a two stage process. Firstly saplings and small trees/bushes up to about 20mm in diameter are cut to about 6 inches from the ground. A week later we then cut the stem lower and clear away the vegetation, in accordance with the environmental regulations and ecologists advice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have also cleared a path from the start of the sidings along the embankment edge to the buffer stops to give better walking access to the whole of the site.

 

 

 

To ensure we don’t disturb any nesting birds our ecology officer has visited the site and marked off any area where a nesting bird has been found. Old nests in trees are also marked off with tape and will be regularly checked. So far we only seem to have two wood pigeons nesting on site.

 

 

 

After the vegetation has been cut, rather than burn or dispose of them we use them to create a ‘dead hedge’ along either side of the site. This will encourage a new hedge to form and provides a place for wildlife to use in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

April 2018

Due to the bird nesting season, we’re currently unable to remove any trees, but we are permitted to manually cut back the undergrowth, so long as the temperature is above 16degC, to ensure any reptiles are mobile and out of brumation.

Finally towards the end of April, the temperature warmed up enough for a few days, which enabled a small team of volunteers, who had been waiting for the right temperature, to start initial clearing work. This marks a milestone for the VBR and hopefully the beginning of the heritage railway.

Luckily the temperature remained above the limit for a further few days which gave the opportunity for a team of people to work on site each day.

 

Network Rail also paid a visit to the site and are happy with our processes, but unfortunately by the end of April temperatures had dropped again and so no further work could take place. Hopefully things will improve in May.