Bark Stripping and Step Building

Day 8. 28 June 2006

Wednesday. Today was to be our first day off, but a look at the weather forecast suggested that Thursday might be cooler for a day trip into Venice. As it turns out, the day begins slightly overcast with cloud when we make the short journey into Chies d’Alpago.

Parking up in the town square we take the nature walk started off by last year’s conservation volunteers, and part of the town’s Natural History Museum, up to the old cemetary – not much visited today except by the town’s elderly – and down the ridge through the woodland to where the path takes a downward scramble through the undergrowth. It is this section that we are to clear and build steps into. We descend down the hill to where Roger (for some reason whenever I mean to say Andy, I say Roger?!!) has brought the van, our bags, and the tools to.

We choose our tool of choice and begin work cutting back overhanging trees and pulling out saplings that are in the middle of what is to be a fairly informal path. For much of the morning, bill hook in hand, I slash merrily away through the woods. But it is hard work, constantly going up and down the slope, bending and pulling, and standing and throwing clear.

Following lunch, as one group finish of the last little bit of path clearance to the top of the hill, and another begin work on the log steps, John, Sarah-Jane and myself remain down the bottom in the shade and close to a plentiful, and welcome, supply of bottled water, stripping the bark form the logs. It has been found that by doing this, insects can’t get beneath the bark, creating cavities in which water can be caught, and so the logs do not rot as quickly.

It is hard work, particularly on the hand and arm muscles as we stand with these logs wedged between hip and waist, using bill hooks to peel back the bark from the wood. But it is a task that is both beguiling and therapeutic, and amazingly peaceful. Doing it I can well imagine how woodsman find that they love their work.

By the end of the afternoon, the three of us have got good at bark stripping, and succeed in impressing Janet and her too American friends, Marvin and Betty when they arrive for a visit. I even have time to create a photographic sculpture out of stripped logs and bill hooks…

A good days work done, we leave, stopping briefly a the shop in Chies before returning to our nursery school to relax into the evening, enjoying a Jamie Oliver inspired aubergine bake courtesy of Carol, and a return trip to the bar for more Prosecco and a round of pigs.

Day 9: Venice, trains and tornados…