Site clearance of old nursery near 2ft gauge railway

As everyone who works at the museum must know by now, the nursery business operating under the name of Blooms ceased trading in 2011. And since then the site has become fairly derelict, especially the deteriorating plastic poly-tunnels. Everyone has also probably had experience of, or heard of, adverse comments made by visitors travelling on the trains about the state of the site, even though of course it has been beyond our control.

To address this problem a group of volunteers, in co-operation with Jaime Blake (the estate manager and head gardener) decided recently to tidy up the area in the immediate vicinity of the Nursery railway arrivals platform. This involved a number of work parties organised over weekends during February and March.

The main objective was the removal of the derelict poly-tunnels bordering the section of track between the nursery curves and the exhibition hall and the taking up of the plastic ground sheeting.

It was reported that the poly-tunnel removals were fairly straightforward. First the plastic covering was cut away, which (once cut along one side) could be quite easily rolled up and over the light metal framework. Dismantling the framework itself was more difficult, especially as some supports were obstinately stuck in the ground – involving a lot of grunt! The frames were then collapsed and broken up as much as possible prior to removal for storage in a less conspicuous place. These have now disposed of.

The sheeting underneath proved rather harder to pull up and required the use of machine plant – the on-site digger and tractor. Not only was it very extensive but was also firmly pinned down and covered with a thick layer of soil and turf in many places. While the digger could pull it up, it was down to good old-fashioned elbow grease again to collect it all for disposal. And some sections were very heavy indeed! It was not helped by the fact that our old friend the brambles had decided to creep over it in many places!

Further tasks undertaken were the taking down of the green upright sheeting, posts and wire (tiresome stuff!) bordering peat field two, between the Waveney and Nursery tracks. This has really opened out that section and improved the view considerably. Also a few further poly-tunnels were removed. These were more remote from the main work site but so badly degraded and close to the railway it was felt a priority to remove them.

The last job in the actual clear up will be the removal of the old defunct sprinklers – which proved resistant to a pair of Stillsons but will definitely be getting evicted!

Jaime Blake hopes to be able to plough the cleared ground now and plant some wild flowers, which will be a dramatic improvement for the passengers’ experience. Already, as many no doubt know, some of the out-lying fields have been fenced off and livestock, including some rare breeds, introduced.

It is hoped that further improvements like this can be made. The remaining poly-tunnels are getting tattier by the day. There are literally still acres of them but it is hoped planting will eventually hide them, which will screen them from the trains. This was an excellent start to our goal of rejuvenating the site. Volunteers keen on helping with any future such projects please look out for notices of work parties or contact the volunteers’ project co-ordinator on email – bsteamsocietycoord@gmail.com.

Thanks must be given for all the hard work, goodwill and support from Jaime Blake, Bressingham staff and volunteers Taz Kaznowski, Alex Irven and Alex Collis for providing most of the impetus (and effort!) on our side of the partnership.