Archives 2019


Conservation Work session – Sunday 7 April 2019
Report by Mike Probert. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
Eight volunteers gathered on a lovely bright Spring morning to hear about the tasks planned. They were reminded of their joint responsibilities to each other with regard to health and safety and of the care to be taken with particular tools, tasks and locations.

The main task of the day was to build a branch barrier around the flower rich area in the North Meadow using brash from piles nearby and more distant.

Brian mentioned that he had already found the early leaves of a Common Spotted Orchid in the area.

Signs were erected to encourage the public not to enter.

Brian found both Divided Sedge and Distant Sedge to be showing well.These are key indicative species for the meadow.

Whilst most of the team built the barrier, Geoffrey collected and sawed up thicker branches and logs and trolleyed them to the Seagull Lane entrance for offer to the public.


Geoffrey showed Brian some fungi that he noticed growing in crust-like fashion on one of the dead logs he was moving in the trolley.  A Google search led Brian to so-called Crust (or Corticioid) Fungi which typically grow on dead logs. His very tentative identification is Peniphora quercina – which Phillips (Mushrooms p. 240) says is common on dead deciduous trees.

Geoffrey also called Brian over to see some a cluster of tiny bright blue beetles on the west side of the north meadow.  Brian identified these as Flea Beetles (Altica lythri) which we see regularly on Brook Meadow in early spring. Brian was able to demonstrate their famed ability to jump when touched, a sure way of identifying this small creature.
Terry and Dan strimmed early nettle growth around the reed bags on the Ems bank South of the North bridge; and also watered the bags which had become dry.

The first Orange Tip of the year on Brook Meadow was flying on the river bank as Dan and Terry were strimming. It was attracted to the first Cuckooflower of the year on the meadow Brian managed to get a shot of the insect feeding on the flowers. The photo shows well the green mottled underwings of the insect.
It was warm work and Pam’s drinks were most welcome at ‘half-time’.

During coffee time we all had a good view of a Buzzard soaring over the meadow which Brian was lucky enough to get a half-decent photo of.
Following the break Geoffrey, Terry and Dan continued their earlier tasks and the ‘barrier team’ repaired the dead hedge around the ‘S’ bend using material cut previously and some fresh cut.

A good and warm morning’s work led to a finish slightly earlier than usual..

Brian was grateful to volunteers for clearing a gap on the fallen Willow for him to lean against. Thanks.

Here are a few extra wildlife observations:
The leaf buds are almost bursting on the Oak saplings on the Seagull Lane patch.

The brown spikes of Greater Pond Sedge and Lesser Pond Sedge are also out on the Lumley area and the River Ems respectively. Leaves of Hard Rush are showing well on the orchid area and Sharp-flowered Rush is abundant on the Lumley area. The attractive leaves of Silverweed are now widespread over the Lumley area.

Conservation Work session – Thursday 21st March 2019
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos by Brian Fellows
Thirteen volunteers (including leader) turned out on a calm early Spring day. The weather was overcast and mild (12 Deg C) with no wind. Colin Brotherston was leading. All the volunteers arrived at the start time. After the usual brief welcome and safety instructions task were described and allocated.
We were grateful to a passerby who took the group photo meaning that Brian could be included for a change
The tasks were:
1          The clear scrub from Palmers Road copse and plant five alder whips.
2            Remove fallen and felled wood from the river bank and path side.
3          Cut-up and clear fallen tree south of Beryl’s seat.
4          Move part of the grass dump in the north east corner to make way for the line of the flood defence barrier.
5          Litter pick and clean signs.

Maurice and Terry arrived early to take the power scythe round via Gooseberry Cottage to Palmers Road copse where they set about the clearance work in preparation for planting the whips. (task 1)
Pam, Dan and Dave set out to clear wood from the river bank in the north meadow   and move it to add to the hibernacula. Larger pieces were taken to HQ where they could be collected for stove burning.
Catherine and Reg used the trolley to collect the larger pieces of wood. They cleared wood from the east bank in the Seagull Lane patch and assisted Pam and David.
Tony and David (another one!) set to work on the job of cutting up the tree south of Beryl’s bench.
Kathy, Diana and David (yet another one) started on the task of moving the grass dump away from the path of the flood protection system.
Lesley kindly did the litter pick and sign case cleaning.

A welcome stop for coffee at 10.45 with a good selection of biscuits. Thank you Pam.
After coffee Maurice took Tony and David on to his team to plant the alder whips. This task was completed.
The grass dump move was continued with Diana, David and Catherine and part time myself. By the end of the session this job had been completed. Well done!
Pam Reg, Cathy and Dave continued to clear wood and prepare willow for future dead hedging. There is still more of this task for future work sessions.
At 12.00 all tools were returned to HQ and a productive session was finished.

For Brian’s Wildlife News including . . . 
1. Butterbur Annual Count
2. Cetti’s Warbler song
3. Black Poplar catkins
. . . . . . . go to . . .

Conservation Work session – Sunday 3 March 2019
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Brian Fellows
I awoke this morning, which, apart from being a relief in itself, I wondered if, after a manic week of tree work, a miserably wet first Sunday morning of the month would actually materialise as a volunteer work session.

Let me explain, on Monday, in Palmers Road Copse and two jobs on North Meadow seven parts of trees were removed by Mike Reed’s firm to variously provide more daylight to the ground, create space for the planting of several trees provided by the Tree Wardens and remove some branches that were in danger of falling into the Ems.
On Tuesday and Wednesday the Environment Agency arrived to remove the dead trees on the west side of North Meadow that had collapsed into the river. The debris was placed on the steep river bank beside the raised gravel path.
Thursday and Friday saw tree work of another sort – a 25 metre row of trees 4 to 5 metres tall planted as a hedge along Seagull Lane some years ago, were earmarked for laying, as had been done on two previous occasions. – See report of this work below.

So, this Sunday arrived, and Debi, Tony, Terry, Dan, Reg and a new volunteer Geoffrey joined me in the damp at HQ to sort out the tools, talk about the single task of clearing the tree debris on the river bank.

The precautions to be taken were identified and after Brian’s usual record photo we set off with barrows and cart laden with saws, loppers and saw horse along the bank.
Many loads of branches great and small were trundled to Seagull Lane Gate and separated into two piles of logs for burning and smaller items for kindling.

At about 10.45 we took a short break for refreshments brought by Dan as Pam was occupied elsewhere.
After that we returned to clear as much of the debris as possible before deciding to call it a day at 11.40. Tools were returned to store and the weary volunteers trudged homewards feeling justifiably proud of a hard but awkward morning’s work.
The next volunteers’ session will be on Thursday 21st March meeting at HQ. Please arrive promptly for a start at 09.30

Wildlife Observations from Brian
The white Cherry Plum blossom is standing up well to the strong winds. The tree on the causeway forms an attractive archway along the path.

Looked at from the meadow the mass of blossom is fronted by the straw-like leaves of Reed Canary-grass and the dark green leaves of Hard Rush.
The bush full of white blossom in the north west corner near the railway line with stands next to an Alder laden with catkins is also Cherry Plum and not Blackthorn.
Many flower spikes of Butterbur are showing well and will soon be countable!

Video clips from earlier work sessions . . .

Hedge-laying on the Seagull Lane patch  – 28 February – 1 March 2019
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Maurice Lillie and Brian Fellows
Several months ago, the committee discussed the need to continue the laying of the hedge on the western boundary of the Seagull Lane patch early in 2019. Preliminary emails were circulated to ascertain who would be interested. The replies confirmed that there would probably be enough help to accomplish the task.
The first phase of the hedge laying from the Seagull Lane gate took place in Dec 2016 and was led by Mike.  Here is Mike along with Jennifer, Colin and Phil who helped in the laying.
The second phase took place in in Feb 2018 led by Rachel Bryan of TCV – shown here with some of the helpers, Maurice, Tony, Phil, Dan and Terry.
The third phase Feb-Mar 2019 – Rachel was not available for the third phase so we very much relied on Mike. The other and most important factor is that the work must not be carried out in the bird nesting season. So the juggling act of persons available to help. Mike to lead, availability of posts and binders, and weather conditions all needed to come together. We decided that the last week of February possibly stretching into March was the absolute latest slot. The troops were rounded up, materials purchased and dates were set for 25th February to 5th March within which two days would eventually be chosen with a reserve if the two days was found to be inadequate.
Day 1 – 28 Feb. Mike, Maurice, Terry and Tony worked from 09.15 to 15.30, armed with billhooks, loppers, secateurs, lump hammer, long log for bashing pleachers down to line bow saws, pruning saws, sharpening stone, hard hats, goggles, gloves, first aid kit and posts, assembled at the section of hedge to be laid.
Mike briefed us for the job, including preparing hedge trees for laying by removing side and front branches that would interfere with the lay.
Choosing the position of the cut using a billhook (already sharpened) and cutting out an alarming amount of the standing tree leaving a vertical section of trunk less the 25% of the original thickness until the upright, under its own weight, would start falling along the line of the last section laid. This had to be carefully controlled by a helper holding the upright whilst another was cutting.
The angle of the cut is critical so that the falling (or pleached) tree lies exactly in line with the laid hedge without twisting. Secateurs and loppers were used to ensure the pleacher could lie neatly laid. Posts were driven in at a forearms length apart and the pleachers laid woven around the posts.

Day 2 – 1 March. Mike, Maurice, Dan, David Search, Dave Mcvittie, Mark a friend of Mike and Tony, carried on the good work until a lunch break, Mike had given Dave M a lesson in binding which would become hugely useful later. Mike, Mark, Dan and Tony departed and Dave Perks arrived. At 15.30, the final tree had been pleached and laid. All necessary posts were in place and Dave M and David P wove the last binder into place.

View of the finished hedge from the south
View of the finished hedge laying looking south towards the gate

It was a great experience, very hard work but giving us all a great sense of achievement.
A huge THANK YOU to all.

Conservation Work session – Thursday 21 February 2019
Report by Mike Probert. Photos by Brian Fellows
A very good turnout of fifteen volunteers gathered on a cloudy and dull but dry morning to hear about the tasks planned and to decide which they would like to pursue. They were reminded of their joint responsibilities to each other with regard to health and safety and of the care to be taken with particular tools, tasks and locations.
The main task of the day was to burn up some of the accumulated brash on the Meadow. Reg and Terry had set the fire in the SE corner of the N Meadow at 8.30a.m. and they were then supported by a small team of helpers.

A further team of four tackled the clearing out of the next section of the Seagull Lane hedge to enable it to be laid. Cutting out the well grown stems of Rose was particularly difficult and hard work but was steadily and carefully achieved with the protection of hard hats.
Video clip of the work.  Open in YouTube . . .

Other members cut away bramble from the main paths and from around the Hazel copse.

Everyone joined together at the fire site for a convivial coffee break provided by Pam.
Following the break members returned to their earlier tasks until the end of the session.

Jennifer collected litter. Here in conversation with Reg.
Kathy and Dan carried tubs of water from the river to damp down the bonfire

A good morning’s work and progress by all.

Wildlife Observations during the workday from Brian
Go to . . .

Conservation Work session – Sunday 3 February 2019
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Brian Fellows
Following an overnight temperature of -4° it was a pleasant surprise to see that at 9 o’clock it had risen to +4°. Seven volunteers turned out to enjoy the lovely sunny almost windless morning. We donned the new hi-viz vests purchased on behalf of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group by Dan, proudly announcing that we all Brook Meadow volunteers.
Brian took the usual group photo which he was in for a change, having set the camera on a timer.  He is the one without a yellow jacket!

As leader for the morning I reminded everyone about the importance of keeping themselves and each other safe. This is particularly important in respect of fires and gathering of fuel with sharp pointed tools.
The limited number of volunteers restricted our planned work so the primary task was to make another bonfire which would use up the risings from previous jobs and dispose of old twigs and branches from around the wishing tree.
Terry assisted by Cathy and Diane raked up and carried grass cuttings, bramble tendrils and other arisings from the line of the environment agency route for emergency flood barrier.

The rest cleared twigs and branches from the area near the bonfire

Debbie and Pam had their work cut out getting the bonfire going but finally succeeded in getting a good blaze going.   Terry’s team carried a huge pile of material and assisted feeding it into the fire. The clouds of smoke demonstrated the problem of the inevitable wet fuel.

The other task was to continue the creation of scalloping meadow edges along the north side of the North Meadow including cutting around the two cherry trees. Nigel with power scythe set about this with his usual enthusiasm constantly having to stop to trim back the blackberry fronds that are forever over reaching themselves in their attempts to claim all land. After this Nigel assisted with a bonfire.
At 10:50 we stopped for a well earned break and most welcome refreshments kindly provided by Pam. It was lovely to see Jennifer on Brook meadow taking the air with her grandson and Flynn.
We then returned to the bonfire tending while Nigel power scythed around the wishing tree. At 12:15 the bonfire was extinguished with buckets of water – nine were required showing the success of that exercise. Tools were collected up and barrowed back to HQ cleaned and stowed away.
Every volunteer was thanked for their enthusiasm and successful accomplishments.

Our next meeting will be at 09.25 on Thursday 21 Feb.

Wildlife observations from Brian
Robin and Great Tit were singing well around the meadow and a Green Woodpecker was yaffling from the east side of the north meadow.
I noted a good number of fairly fresh Molehills around the meadow. Although Moles dig actively throughout the year, once a Mole has established its burrow system, there may be little evidence above ground of its presence. However, they usually become more active during periods of frost and snow, when the newly dug tunnels act as food traps for invertebrate prey such as earthworms and insect larvae. Molehills also become prominent during the Mole’s breeding season when males greatly extend their tunnels.
Jennifer Rye’s grandson Eric showed me a compressed bunch of Burdock burrs which I think must be due to human intervention rather than nature.

Conservation Work session – Thursday 17 January 2019
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Brian Fellows
It was a beautiful sunny, cold to start but warmed up as the morning unfolded. The overnight rain had made the ground muddy in places and generally quite soft.
As Leader for the morning, I explained the safety responsibilities of BMCG and that of the volunteers themselves. Thus the 11 who had signed the attendance record confirmed that they had heard the safety briefing, understood their responsibilities were duly covered by BMCG Insurance.  The following notice was attached to the inside of the HQ door.

Brian recorded the usual photograph of attendees at HQ before going about our jobs.
The three tasks for the session were a bonfire, the raking of grass cuttings on six scallops in the North and Central Meadows and the relocation of dumped grass in the north east corner of North Meadow. Details of the tasks were explained, and sub leaders appointed before allocating volunteers. Tools were selected and their safe use was explained.

Volunteers clearing scallops

Volunteers working in the north-east corner

Volunteers complete clearance of the Black Poplar with a little hug

Volunteers burning arisings on bonfire

At 10.45 we stopped for a well-earned break, refreshments kindly provided by Pam.
We then returned to our tasks until about 12.15. The bonfire was extinguished with buckets of water and the sites of labours cleared. Tools were collected up and barrowed back to HQ cleaned and stowed.Every volunteer was thanked for their enthusiasm and successful accomplishments.

Our next meeting will at 09.25 on Sunday 3rd February to which everyone including new volunteers, will be warmly welcomed. Tools will be provided; first aiders will attend, and refreshments supplied. Please ensure that you are wearing appropriate clothes for the weather conditions.

‘Golden Willows’
Maurice Lillie, David Minns and I stopped to admire the tall ‘Golden Willows’ in the western plantation and noted how different they were to the standard Crack Willow, having tall straight trunks topped with conspicuous bright orange-yellow twigs glowing in the winter sunshine. They were planted on Brook Meadow over 20 years ago by the Council to shield the gasholder (now gone). There are some more at the end of Seagull Lane and on the south side of Palmer’s Road Copse.
It was confirmed by BSBI Recorder Martin Rand that these willows are hybrids between the true Golden Willow (Salix alba var. vitellina) and Crack Willow (Salix fragilis) and are called Basford Willows (Salix x rubens forma basfordiana). They are characterised by conspicuous orange-yellow twigs which glow in the winter sunshine and very long pendulous yellow catkins.

For wildlife observations and more views of the meadow in the winter sunshine go to Brian’s blog . . .

Conservation Work session – Sunday 6 January 2019
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos by Brian Fellows
Thirteen volunteers turned out on a calm winter’s day. The weather was overcast and cool (6 Deg C) with no wind. Colin Brotherston was leading and using the new leader’s bag. This session was the first to trial the new start time of 9.30. Most volunteers arrived at the new time. After the usual brief welcome and safety instructions task were described and allocated.
A new sign board with blackboard sides was brought by Terry. It is an intention to write tasks on this board which will be placed outside HQ. The Brook Meadow Conservation Group banner was not placed on the gate during this session.
The tasks were:
1          Using the power scythe to create more scallops in the south meadow and clear undergrowth around the alder tree in the east of the central meadow.
2          Collect wood from the north meadow and prepare it for disposal. Identify wood suitable for dead hedges.
3          Light bonfires (two) to dispose of the surplus wood.
4            Continue with riverbank clearance and maintenance.
5          Litter pick.

Maurice and Nigel took the power scythe and a rake to attend to task 1.

As part of this task Maurice outlined his thoughts for the route of the new bund which will be installed by the Environment Agency. This bund requires a four metre wide path and it is intended that this path will be cleared by volunteers to show the desired route avoiding damage to selected trees.

Pam, Diana and Gordon collected wood from the north meadow and brought it round to the bonfire site in the Seagull Road patch. The remainder of the group started the bonfires and prepared the wood for feeding the flames.
Here are Kathy and Dan helping to tend the bonfires.

Video clip of bonfire

The saw bench was used to cut the larger branches to a suitable size.

Lesley kindly did the litter pick and sign case cleaning.
At 10.45 the group stopped for coffee and biscuits at HQ, kindly provided by Pam in the usual efficient manner.
After coffee the bonfires and wood preparation formed the main activity for the group.

Terry demonstrated how to spilt a long branch and prepare it for use as fencing posts.

Colin and Pam used some of the thin poles to add weaving to the dead hedges

At the end of the session a large amount of work had been done. The fires were doused at 11.50 and tools were collected.
At 12.10 HQ was locked, all tools having been returned and wiped clean.

Wildlife observations from Brian
Bird song was good with Robin prominent as usual, plus a Wren on the river bank and a splendid Blackbird near the Lumley gate. I also heard a Woodpigeon song for the first time.
This Robin took advantage of the clearance work done by Nigel and Maurice to explore for wintering insects.
The Alder sapling near the Lumley Stream is adorned with purplish catkins and old knarled cones from last year.
Dan told me about a male Blackcap that stunned itself by flying into his patio window. Fortunately it recovered and flew off. This will be one of the wintering population of Blackcaps that visit the UK from the Continent and feed mainly in gardens. They are a different population Blackcaps from the summer visitors which migrate here from Africa in the spring.

I had a stroll down to Peter Pond where I found David Gattrell busy digging out the channel on the east side of Peter Pond. He’s doing a fine job.

David tells me he saw Elisabeth Kinloch before Christmas. Elisabeth is the owner of Peter Pond and was an early member of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group committee. Sadly, she now suffers from dementia and has full time care in her Westbourne home. We send her our best wishes.

Reports for 2018 are on the archives pages at . . .

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