Conservation Work sessions on Brook Meadow 2016

Work session – Thursday 21 July
Report by Maurice Lillie
Following several days of scorching weather, it was a relief to have a morning that was overcast yet mild but humid for 10 volunteers to assemble at HQ,
Maurice, appointed leader for the morning explained the main task, which was to remove the rough dead hedge around the wild flower area in the north meadow, so that when it was time to mow the area the risk of damage to the cutter from hidden branches, would be minimised. Although the task was mainly a manual operation, in the event of tools being needed, rakes, loppers or shears appropriate guidance was given to ensure safe operation. It was explained that work by hand was not without risk and care should be exercised especially when pulling grass enshrouded branches of uncertain length that others nearby could be endangered.
The other tasks were to ease around the water vole information case in Palmers Road Copse and to remove a substantial branch leaning over the path near the central seat. Two trained first-aiders were present.
Jane and Frank litter picked the meadow, Palmers Road Copse and the surrounding paths.
Pam, Ute, Colin, Dan and Jennifer set about the clearance of twigs and branches, including some willows that had taken root and carted it to the area in the south east corner of north meadow.
Phil modified a fence post that was preventing the cover of the water vole information board.
Dave removed two branches near the central seat, one an ash that had been partly snapped off and the second the overhanging branch. As the branch was so large, Dave removed it in three sections. The last section being cut close to the ground as close inspection showed that it was badly decayed. Phil assisted Dave in this last.
At 11.00 Pam served hot and cold drinks and biscuits -much appreciated by all. Colin took a group photograph for the record.

During the coffee break, John Smith and Gareth Bates of the Environment Agency, arrived at the request of BMCG to discuss the work to reinforce the foot of Gooseberry Cottage bank. This is the second phase of work started last year. Unfortunately, the work had not been carried out to the agreed plan for phase one with the result that trees had been damaged and rare (to Brook Meadow) wild flowers had been strimmed. It is hoped that these plant, being perennials will reappear next year.
Following the discussion with the EA, Maurice accompanied Messrs Smith and Bates to the site of the current works to ensure all parties that there were no other evident issues to be discussed. There were none but in the event of any departures from the current plan, Maurice would be informed, or in his absence, Jennifer. The party then moved to the south entrance to review the proposed renewal of the timber fence that runs between the public footpath and Brook Meadow. This work will include a gate which will be managed by EA in the event of flooding. At this point Brian joined the discussions and asked if there was any plan to introduce a ramp there. We were advised that there are no plans for such. Brian advised the EA that metal spikes were protruding from the ‘sand’ bag wall in the north east corner of north meadow and it was agreed that they would be ground off.
At 12.00 the volunteers returned to HQ with the tools which were checked and stored. The volunteers were thanked for their hard work cheerfully carried out.
The EA volunteered to cut a large dead fallen tree trunk in the South Meadow into lengths that could be handled by our volunteers. They also offered the sound sections of posts and rails from the south fence, when the new fence is to be erected. This was welcomed and it was agreed to place them securely behind HQ.
The next scheduled workday is Sunday 7 August at HQ at 09.55 to which all volunteers, both regular and anyone else, will be warmly welcomed. Tools and refreshments provided. The tasks will probably include mowing main grass footpaths in all meadows, sundry tree work, the spreading of wood chippings. Future tasks will include: remaking the steps down into North Meadow from near the east end of the north bridge, widening the path outside HQ, mowing wild flower areas, mowing other areas not covered by the Contractor.

Work session – Sunday 3 July
Report by Ian Newman and photos by Brian Fellows
A total of 13 volunteers turned out on a humid morning to tackle a variety of tasks.

0-0-0-wx779-workday-group-03.06.16   The wet weather had accelerated growth all over the meadows which required Phil to take the power scythe out to clear the paths. Jennifer and Debbie cleared around the young trees to enable a mulch of wood chips to be laid to assist the growth of the trees. Joan, Frank and Nigel headed off on a litter pick.


Dan, Bob and Pam cleared the debris of the Goat Willow tree from the South Gate to make the area a lot tidier.

Tony set off to create room around the copse in the SW corner of the North Meadow to enable planned mowing.
After refreshments dispensed in her usual efficient manner by Pam, Nigel took over the power scythe whilst Jennifer donned the waders and, supported by Debbie, reinforced the berms in the river by planting willow cuttings into the river bed. It is hoped that this will help create a better flow and improve the river bed. Phil, Dan and Bob joined Tony on the work in the copse and by the time it came to call it a day a clear mowing area had been created. Many thanks to all the volunteers for their hard work on what turned out to be quite a warm morning.

Debbie spreading the pile of wood chippings which were hot and smoking!


The next scheduled workday is Thursday 21st July. Meet at HQ, located between the north bridge and The Seagull Lane gate, at 09.50, for a prompt start at 10.00. All volunteers, both regular and anyone else, will be warmly welcomed. Trained First Aiders will be on hand. Refreshments will be available. All necessary tools are provided and, where necessary training will be given.

Wildlife observations – from Brian
Birds singing included Whitethroat and Blackcap, plus the usual regulars, but no Chiffchaff this morning. I spotted a few butterflies, Red Admiral, Comma, Meadow Brown and Ringlet but no photos. There were several Beautiful Demoiselles flying around the waterways of which I captured this female. I also got an Azure Damselfly.

0-0-0-wx779-azure-damselfly-bm-03.06.16 0-0-0-wx779-beautiful-dem-fem-bm-03.06.16

Sharp-flowered Rush is now widespread on the Lumley area, more so than I have seen it before. This plant was first recorded on the Lumley area in June 2009 and has expanded rapidly since then to the a dominant plant of the area.


Meadowsweet is now flowering and smelling strongly along the path on the east side of the north meadow.


Blue Water-speedwell
I went down onto the west bank of the river in Palmer’s Road Copse to have a look at the possible Water Vole burrow holes in the far bank, but did not see any activity. I found several plants of Blue Water-speedwell with fairly long flower spikes, indicating they are probably the hybrid with Pink Water Speedwell ie, Veronica x Lackschewitzii. Here is a spike with at least 36 flowers that I pulled off to demonstrate.


I recall the old BSBI Recorder for South Hants, Pete Selby, telling me that if the flower spike had more than 20 flowers then it was the hybrid and not the pure form of Blue Water-speedwell. However, the Plant Crib (1998 p. 263) gives a mean of 25 flowers (range 15-40) for the pure form and a mean of 60 (range 30-90 for the hybrid, so maybe the 20 limit is probably not quite as precise as Pete led me to believe and these plants could be the pure form of Blue Water-speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica).
There are several patches of a Water-starwort floating in the river. I hesitate to say which species particularly as Rose (New Ed p. 384) specifically states that Water-starworts cannot be identified without ripe fruits.


However, during his survey of the River Ems on 13 June 2005, Andy Powling found what he thought was the relative uncommon Blunt-fruited Water-starwort (C. obtusangula) rather than Common Water-starwort. He pointed out that it had floating rosettes and spoon-shaped leaves, strongly veined above with 3 distinct veins. The Hants Flora does not show records for C. obtusangula in the Brook Meadow area, but there are records close by. Blunt-fruited Water-starwort (C. obtusangula) was subsequently confirmed in the river on Brook Meadow by Martin Rand on 3 July 2005.
Meadow Barley
Just before the workday coffee break I went looking for Meadow Barley on the centre meadow where I have found some in previous years. I quickly located a small patch at Grid Ref: SU 75094 06030. That takes the total number of grass species (not counting sedges and rushes) recorded on Brook Meadow this year to 27.

Awned Couch Grass
I also had a look at the Water Vole burrows on the east bank of the Lumley Stream where I actually saw and photographed a Water Vole on June 4, but there was no sign of any vole in the 10 minutes I waited today. While I was on the Lumley Stream bank I noticed several spikes of a heavily awned Couch Grass pushing up through the mass of Michaelmas Daisies that grow there. I gather from Rose (Grasses, p. 132) that Common Couch is sometimes awned, but these awns seem very long. Could it possibly be Bearded Couch? Martin Rand identified an awned Common Couch on Brook Meadow during his visit on 3 July 2005. Here is a photo of part of a panicle that I brought home. The full length was 19cm.


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