Visitors to Radipole last week may have noticed a commotion coming from the ditches and the sound of machinery chugging through the reeds; some might also remember hearing the same thing last autumn. In a couple of places it looks as if a small tank has barged through the reeds, crossed the path and carried on into the thicket and the waters beyond.
Fear not, we haven’t been visited overnight by a drunk maniac in a 4x4, instead, once again we have been getting to grips with the task of cutting back the year’s growth of reeds that are fringing and toppling into many of the watercourses throughout the reserve – around Buddleia Loop, beside the main path and along the river. This clearance is done to maintain the open water habitat, keep the reed healthy and restore the sightlines from the paths and viewpoints so that we can all more easily spot the wildlife over the next few months.
I say “we” have been getting to grips with this mission, but really the hard work is done by an impressive labour-saving machine and its expert operator contracted to take on the task. It’s called the Truxsaw and it looks to me like a prototype of something from that exciting collection of hardware with which those curiously large-headed boys from Thunderbirds found distraction from the boredom of Tracey Island whenever disaster loomed somehere on the globe. How they always managed to not get their strings disastrously fouled up in all the moving parts we'll never know. Anyway, it’s a floating amphibious vehicle running on caterpillar tracks adapted with paddles to propel it steadily across the water and along the soft margins. The driver sits on top and mounted at the front is a big reciprocating cutter which slices through the reeds at water level as the machine chugs along; every so often the cutter is replaced with a device that scoops up the cuttings, which are discreetly dumped along the bank.
Progress was a little slower than anticipated as the reeds had grown so vigourously since last year, but most of the job was done. The abundance of reed was no doubt helped by the extra accumulation of nutrients in the reserve following last year’s flooding, and by the decent weather we had this summer. I guess International Rescue would need a pod crammed full of Truxsaws to deal with your typical reed-related, life-threatening state of dire emergency, but we were glad to have just one at our disposal. Without such mechanical assistance the job would take an eternity, and that’s a long time to be steadily liquifying from the toes upwards in a pair of waders.
Looking downstream from the hide trail bridge, before the Truxsaw was deployed.
The transformed vista from the same view point afterwards.
F.A.B. Virgil !