The Great Wall of Banstead: Chimney Fire Coffee Goes Wild

Picture the scene: An early summer's morning, warm and dry. Wheelbarrows bump and jangle across the rough ground, punctuating the hum of wee beasties as our merry band makes its way uphill. We come to a halt in a sloping meadow, teeming with life both above and below us.

People walking uphill through grassy meadow

The merry band in question is Team CFC, freed from the confines of our coffee-scented prison* on this sunny Friday in June. We're heading for Fames Rough, a name unlikely to be familiar even to those who live on its doorstep. Situated just above the excellent Rambler's Rest pub in Chipstead - a village in the North Downs and Surrey, but inside the M25 - this 23 hectare SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) is a haven for rare wildflowers and arable weeds.

None of this has anything directly to do with coffee. Hopefully, we're a long way from growing coffea arabica in the North Downs. Our team is out for a day's volunteering with the Surrey Wildlife Trust, with one simple objective: Build a fence.


Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) run conservation and infrastructure projects across the county, creating natural sanctuaries that together form a joined-up Nature Recovery Network. They are a charity, and as such they rely on the support of membership subscriptions, donations, grants, legacies, and other funding sources to continue carrying out their work caring for wildlife in Surrey. 

The fence in question will be there to create a nature corridor between two areas of woodland. With sheep destined to graze each side of this sloping chute between areas of woodland, an ovine-proof section with gates at each end is necessary to allow safe passage of the various rare flora and fauna that inhabit this corner of our home county.


CFC Team photo volunteering for Surrey Wildlife Trust

On the top of the above image is a Yanmar VIO80 crawler excavator with an Augertorque 8000MAX earth drill, designed to bore holes of 150-1200mm with ruthless efficiency and comfort for the operator. On the bottom is Team CFC, designed to roast the finest coffee beans in Surrey, occasionally hit the gym, and definitely not to dig holes in the ground.

Could we match the incredible 8,152Nm of torque generated by the excavator's drill attachment? Could we smash out 150 metres of woolly-repelling wire fencing and be in the pub in time for tea beer?

Absolutely not.


Photo looking at CFC Team from the bottm of a hole

After our introduction and thorough safety briefing with SWT's enthusiastic Nature Space Officer Stuart, we were split into small groups and assigned one of three tasks: cut back errant brambles and create guide holes, drive in small reinforcement posts at regular intervals, and dig holes to accommodate the main load-bearing fence posts.

Holes were to be 70cm deep (so a third of the post's length would be completely buried), and at least 60cm in diameter to ensure there would be enough space to replace and tamp the excavated earth.

This was no day at the seaside. Our digging teams toiled through the heat of the day, battling tree roots, large flint stones, and assorted rubble using only a variety of spades and spikes, and our own blood**, sweat, and tears. Teamwork was key - one to keep the diameter constant, one to break apart the next layer, and one to clear the clumps of earth and rock. As we dug deeper, tools ceased to be an effective way of removing what we'd dislodged and soil was cleared by hand.

Fran digging guide holes

Meanwhile, guide holes were guided and mid-posts were driven in preparation for the fence's final unravelling. Break time came and went, fuelled by a pre-prepared flask of Discovery Coffee lovingly prepared at home by our supremely-organised Operations Manager Row. By lunch, the downslope hole was almost at the required depth, while our dedicated roasting team of Elizabeth, Neroli, and Row, patiently worked their way around thick tree roots at the top site.

The longer break gave us a chance to get to know our fellow volunteers. From all walks of life, they volunteered for myriad reasons: studying, temporary unemployment, retirement. Like our team, some were first-timers, and others veterans of digging holes for fence posts. Stuart and the staff of SWT were friendly and knowledgeable, pointing out unusual butterflies, orchids, and even mason bee nests.


Two men drive posts into the ground

A final hour, sustained both by our packed lunches and many biscuits, passed in a flash as we wrapped up what we could. Posts were inserted (with great care taken to ensure vertical alignment), guide tape was laid out, and team photos were taken. After gathering our equipment and personal items, we rolled back down to the car park and the blissful release of a mineral water or two in the pub garden. We may not have erected the Great Wall of Banstead, but we did our bit. The Augertorque 8000MAX will have to stay in the shed for another day.

If you'd like to volunteer with Surrey Wildlife Trust, visit their website at to learn about the many ways you can get involved, both as an individual and as a workplace. Highly recommended by Team CFC ☕

* Dan has requested to clarify that this is a joke, just in case you were about to call the rozzers on him. Some say it's actually quite a nice place to come and experience for yourself...

** No blood was shed in the digging of these holes.

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