Report R040 *****

Problem: Ragwort in down-land pasture
Where: Farthing Down, Surrey (Corporation of London)
When. June 4th – 11th 2004
Area: 60 acres
Status SSSI (EN)
Detail: Remove Common & Hoary Ragwort rosettes. Also what is visible of 2005 crop.
Establish the beginnings of South East Workforce. 25 man days.


Action taken: the latest Lazy Dog Ragwort tool was used for 200 man-hours. Ragwort due to flower in July 2004, and anything visible of rosettes due to flower in 2005, was removed and put into 6.ton trailers. One and a half trailers were filled to capacity with small rosettes.

Assessment: This was a successful first visit, despite the intense heat of early June. The workforce was made up of Country Management Students, under the guidance of an experienced member of the L-Dog team, who worked alongside them. £60 per day was the wage, and 7 hours pulling was expected each day. The site was worked over methodically, using canes and white bags as markers. The workforce camped on site.

The job was not quite completed, and follow up in early July was deemed necessary.

The Tools: The new Lazy Dog Ragwort lifter proved ideal for the job. No bending was required, even when extracting ground level rosettes. The lightness of the tool made it easy to carry all day. The open frame-work of the handle was ideal for carrying folded collection bags, which saved a lot of time.

The total cost to the Corp of London for the contract with Lazy Dog Tools Ltd. was £4820 + Vat. Included in this, is the week of ‘follow-up work’ referred to as R.043. This price also included ‘away from home living expenses’, travel, public liability insurance, organizational time. Wages were £60 per day to each member of the workforce, and camping on site was free.

An short article about this contract was written, and included below :

A Sussex work-force pulls ragwort for Londoners.

(Farthing Down, June 2004)

Farthing Down is within 5 minutes walk of a famous junction at Purley, where the Brighton & Eastbourne roads meet. It is difficult to believe that rare flowers and grasses, butterflies and skylarks are able to flourish close to that permanent traffic jam, but there is no doubt that they do. Farthing Down is overseen by English Nature and managed to a high standard by the London Corporation. It is a 120 acre site that rises to 500 ft, and seems better protected than other, more famous areas of down land. It is much appreciated and walked upon by people who live near it, and it is lightly grazed by a herd of Sussex cattle.

Early this year, the Lazy Dog Tool Co were asked to demonstrate ragwort removal on a 60 acre section of this beautiful site. The work was carried out in early June, by a group of countryside management students, contacted with the help of Plumpton College and the Netherfield Centre. They were lead by an experienced member of the Lazy Dog team, and started the job 6 weeks before the plants came into flower. This was made feasible by the use of a new tool, and turned the contract into a demonstration. The team camped in a field alongside the site, worked 8 hr. days, and pulled both Common and Hoary varieties of ragwort, at all stages of their growth.

An experienced operator of the Lazy-Dog ragwort tool, is able to remove ground level plants without bending, which means that 2nd year plants (about to flower), and anything visible of next years crop, can be lifted during one pass over the land. In order for the system to work (remember there are no flowers to be seen), the land has to be walked methodically, with distances between operators controlled to about 1.5 metres only. Once the plants have been identified (as seedlings & rosettes of both varieties), the workforce moves steadily forward in a line, scanning the ground carefully. Since the eye is only capable of focussing on about 6sq. inches at any one moment, this scanning has to be done conscientiously. A reliable system has to be devised for marking the area that has been walked (we used white canes or weighted bags), and somebody has to be responsible for keeping a keen eye on this.

All members of a ragwort pulling workforce must wear gloves, to protect against themselves against the poisons. In hot weather, copious amounts of water & sun protection are also essential.

The London Corporation keep a close eye on this site, and it is a credit to all who worked on the job, that the officers have written congratulating us on a job well done. They are hoping to make a similar arrangement next year, and there is every reason for this to be encouraged. Experience of graft never did a countryside management student any harm, and on this occasion, may have helped the formation of mobile workforce in Sussex. Farming & conservation are desperately in need of handwork, especially when it is methodical, disciplined and responsible. The Lazy Dog Tool Co will continue to encourage the formation of work-forces that look after the land, because there is no method more selective or sensitive than the ‘removal of individual plants’ (‘RIP’). It can also be the cheapest method, especially in countryside stewardship schemes, where ragwort docks & thistle can be removed in just one pass over the land.

Our work on Farthing down re-enforced the belief that handwork can be disciplined, caring, and efficient. The demonstration clearance was completed by five people in ten days, and filled three six ton trailers with rosette stage plants. Individual wages were £60 per day plus some expenses, and after we left, the volunteering ragwort pullers who live in the vicinity of Farthing Down, received a whole bundle of our specialist tools, purchased by the London Corporation.

Contact addresses & numbers for the gang, the Netherfield Centre & Lazy Dog Tools.

This note was written by Philip Trevelyan, Director of the Lazy Dog Tools Co, Hill Top Farm, Spaunton, Kirbymoorside, N. Yorks. YO62 6TR. Tel: 01751 417351 & e-mail: