Why was I not surprised when in late January I managed to choose a particularly wet, cold and grey day to drive to Mary Tavy to meet Bill McOwan, a Voluntary Warden, to spend the day renewing a gateway behind Gibbett Hill.
A Scotsman who is long used to foul weather, Bill still graciously agreed to help with the task when I met him at 09:30 to start. Ripping out the old gate and posts was a 5 minute job, satisfying even in the rain.
Leaving it as a gap would have helped our spirits tremendously and allowed us to dry out immediately but that was not an option as it’s common land, and there are grazing animals throughout the year.
So the digging began. We decided to opt for a four foot gate, replacing the old three foot six. This was mainly because it would ensure the whole gap was filled to prevent stock getting on to the road. Also, if you can use a standard gate size, it’s less complicated to repair if needed. Not that we were thinking too much about this as the rain kept on coming. Its funny, you don’t tend to notice the fact that you are getting wetter or muddier, it’s only when you stop for coffee, or lunch. Then the challenge really begins, avoiding getting mud on the sandwiches!
Two six inch square gateposts were persuaded, with plenty of infill and bar work, to stay solid. The gate was then hung on the moorland side, to ensure that any stock would not be able to open the gate if they pushed against it. With the end in sight and thoughts of a warm cuppa and dry clothes dancing about inside your mind, that’s the time when mistakes can be made. Mindful of the fact we were both pretty wet, and needing to get the job done, I can guarantee I have never taken longer to fit a latch that works properly, such was the need to get out of there! With Bills eyes rolling to the heavens, I could see his mind ticking away, probably calling me any number of names only an ex Royal Marine would know, but thankfully too polite to say!
We were all done by 4 in the afternoon. Tidied up and away from site. The gate looks great, a big improvement. Thanks for your help Bill, you’d can choose the sunny day next time.
If you would like to know more about being a Voluntary Warden and/or volunteering opportunities please see the volunteer page on the National Park website