Archives 2019

CONSERVATION NEWS ARCHIVES – 2019


Conservation Work session – Sunday 2 June 2019
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
10 volunteers arrived to hear what tasks had been line up for them. This included two new volunteers Vince and Susan. The tasks were related to the sudden spurt in growth of grasses and associated vegetation. Informal grass paths needed to be cut and their sides trimmed back, especially in regard to nettles and thistles that seem to respond to the adjacent open spaces of paths and grow into them. This can make a pleasant stroll through the meadow less pleasant than it ought to be. Dan had arranged to replace some of the Common Reed rhizomes that that had been planted along the riverbank but had perished in the prolonged periods of not enough rain.
The general growth spurt had crowded several young trees – three native Cherry trees and two silver Birches, which needed to be dealt with.
The riverbank restoration work by our contractor, needed to be back filled with rubble so that the adjacent path could remain drier for longer and hopefully throughout the year.
The tools selected were shears, rakes and loppers for the path sides and clearance around trees, power scythe for mowing.
Brian reported on the orchids in North meadow and Lumley Area of Central Meadows, whose numbers are rivalling those of last year. He then took the usual photograph of the assembled volunteers.  The photo does not include Nigel who was using the power scythe and Susan who arrived late.

Nigel set off early to cut the paths in South Meadow ahead of the army of path edge clearers.
The army, comprising Pam, Diana, Vince, Debi, Susan and Kathy, occupied themselves by removing the fierce nettle and bramble growth around the cherry trees before setting off for the South Meadow paths.

Vince also joined the army of ladies

It was a delight to find Jennifer and dog Flynn sitting on Frank’s seat.
**  See Jennifer’s poetic reflections on the meadow at the end of this report.
Dan and Terry clad in waders from chest to foot, descended into the Ems and waded along to carry out the replanting of new Reed rhizomes at water’s edge.
At 10.50 ish we broke for a well earned hot drink and biscuits, served by Pam, ably assisted by Jennifer. Thank you, ladies.
Tony and David collected the handcart from Dan’s house and collected several cart loads of brick and similar rubble, then tugged the laden cart along various paths to Palmers Road Copse to dump their load. Terry joined the hardcore gang and continued to transport heavy material to Palmer’s Road Copse.
Nigel continued mowing this time extending the EA flood barrier route.   The grass shearing army transferred their affections to the areas around the Rowan Plantation.
At noon work stopped and the tools were returned to the tool store (HQ) cleaned and put in their appointed places. Everyone was thanked for a hard morning’s work.

A reflection in verse of the morning’s joy from Jennifer
A corner of England, dear as it can be,
All June in flower, delighting eye and ear
The waving grass, the gentle breeze,
The trilling birds, the butterflies a-flutter,
People walking through and tasting nature’s sweetness,
And sunshine, pale gold everywhere.
Our own small Paradise. How it lifts the heart.


Wildlife observations
I noticed several Ladybird larvae on nettle leaves along the main river path. I think this one is the larva of a Harlequin Ladybird and appears to be preying on a small mite. Or is it the other way round?
I spotted several shield bugs on the nettle leaves including these two Dock Leaf Bugs mating.
This attractive Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) rested on a leaf for a photo. It is fairly common on Brook Meadow in summer.

Just after our coffee break, Pauline Bond arrived with a request to see the Brook Meadow orchids. I jumped at the chance, for I just love showing people our beautiful orchids. After looking at and admiring the Southern Marsh and the Common Spotted Orchids on the main orchid area, we went down to the Lumley area to have a look at the Bee Orchids.
While we were walking on the path round the Lumley area, I happened to spot a tuft of the grass Crested Dog’s-tail with well developed panicles growing right on the path where people walk.   Wow!   That was a good find. Things got even better, for as we continued to walk along the path we found another three tufts of this attractive grass. Not an easy subject to photograph!
I picked a piece to show to the rest of the conservation group asking them to take special care when working in that area and certainly not to cut the path. Crested Dog’s-tail is a rare grass on Brook Meadow and has not been recorded since 2016 and only occasionally before that date. Thank you Pauline; if it was not for you asking to see the Bee Orchids I might well have missed this grass.
Many other grasses are now flowering and creating a fine spectacle including False Oat-grass and Cocksfoot which has red tinged anthers as shown in this photo.


Brook Meadow at the Pallant Gallery
If you are in Chichester next Thursday afternoon (6th June, 12.30 to 8.00pm) you might be interested to pop into the Pallant House Gallery where Brook Meadow will be on display for the first time!   All gallery volunteers have been invited to present a piece of their own work for display in the gallery on one day only. However, as I have no artistic talent, I have decided to present a photo montage of Brook Meadow as my contribution to the art day. I did suggest at first taking a display of wild flowers and grasses, but the gallery rules would not allow that. So photos were the next best thing. Here is a taste of what the montage looks like. I am still working on it.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 16th May 2019
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
Eight volunteers (including leader) turned out on a calm late spring day. The weather featured sunshine, warm (18°C) with light breeze. Colin Brotherston was leading. All of the volunteers arrived at the start time. There were no new volunteers. After the usual brief welcome and safety instructions and a wildlife update from Brian tasks were described and allocated.
The tasks were:
1          Cut grass in the north meadow in-front of the fallen willow and the two circles.
2          Rake arisings from the cutting and move said arisings to the central dump.
3          Cut grass on path around rear of the rowan trees and also cut around the base of the rowans.
4          Cut back nettle growth on paths from Lumley gate.
5          Saw off growth from willow tree by stream in the north meadow and prepare off-cuts for dead hedging.
6          Make further repairs to dead hedge by the S-bend.

Maurice arrived early to start cutting in the north meadow using the power scythe.
After the safety briefing Maurice, Dave and Tony departed with a bow saw and rope to trim the willow tree. (Task 5)
Pam, Cathy, Diana and Graham started the task of raking up the arisings which had been previously cut by Maurice.

Once the tree cutting was complete Tony used the power scythe to finish cutting the circles with Maurice assisting.
A welcome stop for coffee was held at 10.45 with a good selection of biscuits. Thank you Pam. The coffee break was held at Beryl’s seat.
After coffee, work continued with Cathy, Graham and Colin raking the remaining arisings. Tony and Maurice cut the growth around the rowan trees. Dave continued to prepare stakes and branches for dead hedging. Pam and Diana collected shears and cleared the paths from Lumley gate. When the raking was completed Cathy joined them.
Dave and Maurice finished the session repairing the dead hedge while Colin, Tony and Graham put tools back in HQ.
At 12.00 all tools were returned to HQ and a productive session was finished.

Wildlife observations from Brian
A second Whitethroat was singing on the west side of the north meadow in addition to the regular one by the causeway. A Song Thrush was singing magnificently on the west side of the north meadow behind the Gwynne Johnson Rowan plantation. I spotted one of our resident Carrion Crows wandering through the buttercups in almost Wordsworthian fashion.
I discovered the first Southern Marsh Orchid flowers, three on the main orchid area and one on the Lumley area. They are a few days earlier than last year. I have marked all with sticks. The orchids will now be emerging over the next week or so, so please go carefully to avoid treading on them.
The first Stream Water-crowfoot flowers are open in the river on the north bend. Marsh Foxtail is now out in the Lumley puddle area with its distinctive bent stem. Also out for the first time this year is False Fox Sedge on the Lumley area.

I did another count of the number of Ragged Robin flowering plants which now stands at 48. There is a long way to catch up with the total of 433 of last year.
The large Ash tree on the railway embankment that I have been concerned about is now in leaf, though the tree has a number of dead branches. I am still not entirely happy with this tree.

 

The Rowans on the east side of the north meadow are full of white blossom. There should be a good crop of berries for the birds to feast on.
The large Horse Chestnut tree which died quite suddenly has been removed from the northern edge of the garden of Gooseberry Cottage.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 5 May 2019
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
Contrary to expectations, the morning was bright and sunny with only a slight cool breeze.   Eight volunteers arrived to hear what Maurice, leader for the session, had in store. Maurice explained the tools to be used and the care to be taken, in using them.   Brian reported the presence of four Whitethroats on the Meadow plus several Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. He then took the usual photograph of the assembled volunteers.

There were two tasks, one, to extend the dead hedge along the main path by the “S” bend and the second to burn the remaining brash that resulted from the hedge laying preparation a few weeks ago. The fire for this was well under way before the start of the session, thanks to Nigel who had turned out early to help Maurice with it.

See video clip of the bonfire at the end of the report . . .

The first task was explained to ensure that not only would the dead hedge perform as required but would look workmanlike and last the last of the year. The first and main activity was putting in new posts at about a forearm’s length apart, this would ensure that whatever the length of the binders, they would still function. Nigel, Debi and Geoffrey organised collecting posts, some from behind the tool store and others from a set aside pile near the bend and some needing to be sourced.

If not already pointed, all posts need to be so. Geoffrey and Nigel positioned the posts under the watchful eye of Debi whose task was to introduce the binders once the posts were in place. The binders were also behind the tool store and others had been put to one side during the hedge laying job. Later, Geoffrey sourced more binders from the “play area” where dozens of willow shoots had sprouted to form a visual curtain on top of two fallen willows in north meadow.
The completed fence

See video clip of the work below . . .

Back in the Seagull Lane Patch the bonfire continued to flourish under the management of Tony with a constant supply of material provided by Diana, David, Pam and occasionally Maurice.
At 10.50 everyone gathered near the bonfire for refreshments, kindly prepared by Pam and served by Diana. Thank you to Pam and Diana.
After the welcome break we continued with our earlier jobs. Nigel transferred his affections to the power scythe and recut six scallop edges in North Meadow. Debi offered to give the signcases a good cleaning. David and Diana finished off the clearance of vegetation buried brash at the north end of SLP. Tony stopped feeding the bonfire and started to water it down.
The tools were returned to HQ, cleaned and counted. Everyone was thanked for their hard work.

Video clips . . .

There were many visitors mostly with dogs, to Brook Meadow today and it was good to hear their gratitude for the work that we do.   There were also several young boys with fishing tackle, the same group, on two occasions seen fishing, but denied this and announced that they were off to Slipper Mill Pond. I explained to them on each occasion that as the river is part of a Local Nature Reserve, they are not permitted to angle. I suspect that they will return. My only other concern about this is that if they are not dissuaded, we could end up with bank vegetation becoming flattened, bait and hooks being left lying around.

The next volunteer work session is on Thursday 16 May. All existing and any new volunteers would be most welcome. Meeting at HQ at 09.25. Refreshments provided. Instruction and use of tools will be given and first aiders will be present.


Wildlife observations from Brian
A Whitethroat was singing well near the causeway, but I could not find it for a photo. A Song Thrush was singing loudly from trees near the Lumley gate. This was the bird that Ruth Roberts reported to me earlier.
I got a shot of Maurice walking through the avenue of Cow Parsley along the main river path. This flower is likely to get better in coming weeks.
What looked like a Bumblebee was feeding on the flowers of White Dead-nettle along the main river path. However, after consulting several guides I think the insect was more likely to be a solitary bee, possibly of the Anthophora family. I will ask Bumblebee expert Bryan Pinchen for his view.
I always have a good look at the nettles along the main path and today I noted a Dock Leaf Bug
and two Ladybirds, one a native 7-spot and the other an alien Harlequin.

Leaves and now sprouting on the large Ash tree on the railway embankment, so maybe my concern over the tree’s health was unjustified. In fact, looking at the other Ash trees near the seat all are very late coming into leaf this year, whereas the Oaks have been out for some time. Some we are likely to get just a splash this summer!
The large Horse Chestnut tree in the garden of Gooseberry Cottage behind the signcase at the Lumley gate is completely dead. That is sad as it was a beautiful tree with fine candle-like flowers and a fine crop of conkers every year. Last year the had a severe infestation of leaf miner grubs on the leaves which might have been the cause.

I met David Gattrell at Peter Pond digging out channels in the reedbeds.

David told me that during the past week he and Sarah Hughes (Sussex Conservation Officer) both saw a Water Vole swim under the footbridge at the northern end of Peter Pond and into the small pool into which the Lumley Stream runs. This is excellent news and shows these much loved creatures are still in the area and hopefully will eventually make their way back to the River Ems on Brook Meadow.
David tells me that there has been no sign of Minks in his traps on the pond which is also good news.


 


Conservation Work session – Thursday 18 April 2019
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
Eleven volunteers (including leader) turned out on a calm mid Spring day. The weather featured hazy sunshine and warm (18°C) with very light wind. Reg Newnham and Colin Brotherston were leading. Nine of the volunteers arrived at the start time.

We welcomed a new volunteer; Graham Pitney at 10.00 and one other arrived between 10.00 and 10.30. After the usual brief welcome and safety instructions, including a more detailed discussion about how to use loppers, and wildlife update from Brian, tasks were described and allocated.
The tasks were:
1          Start a bonfire and burn scrub and small branches which have accumulated in the Seagull Lane patch (SLP) and North Meadow (NM).
2            Barrow chippings from Seagull Road gate to spread on the muddy paths east of the flower rich area.
3          Water new plantings along river south of the north bridge.
4          Re-enforce dead hedge by S-bend.
5          Clear branches from the main paths. (this task was not started today)
6          Litter pick and clean signs. (this task was not undertaken today)
Maurice and Reg arrived early to start the bonfire and begin to gather scrub from the SRP. Maurice cleared some grass paths using the power scythe.
Pam collected dog food which is being distributed on the meadow. This is an unpleasant and unwanted problem which requires further watching to find out who and why this food is being put on the meadow.
Most volunteers arrived promptly at 9.30 when tasks where described and allotted.
Pam, Diana and Suzanne set out to barrow the wood chippings to the muddy paths east of the flower rich area. It is hoped that the chippings will encourage visitors to use the path rather than make tracks to the side.

Dan started by donning waders and going into the river where he passed water to Terry to put on to the new planting.
Reg and Tony continued to feed the bonfire which was burning very well in the warm dry conditions while the remained collected scrub and branches.

A welcome stop for coffee at 10.45 with a good selection of biscuits and (cold) hot cross buns. Thank you Pam. The coffee break was held at HQ.

After coffee work continued on the tasks already started. At about 11.30 the team stopped feeding the bonfire and started measures to put it out.
Larger branches were cleared from SRP and sawn up for collection by members of the public.
Terry and Dan made a brief start on placing poles in the S-bend dead hedge but time ran out and this task awaits a further work session.
At 12.00 all tools were returned to HQ and a productive session was finished.

Wildlife observations from Brian
Several what I assume were Small White butterflies were fluttering around the meadow, but none stopped long enough for close inspection. They are a couple of weeks later than usual. Here is one taken last year.
There was a collection of about a dozen blue Flea Beetles (Altica lythri) on the nettle leaves on the main river path. These are fairly common on the meadow in spring time. They get their name from their ability to jump when touched.
Nearby was a pair of 7-spot Ladybirds mating.

I saw dozens of young Nursery-web spiders ‘sunbathing’ on the nettle leaves along the main river path, some with front pairs of legs held rigidly straight out in front of them, others (less mature?) with their legs twisted up.

These spiders get their common name from the dense silk nursery tent that the female builds for her spiderlings. These are often seen dotted around the meadow in summer, usually with the female standing guard nearby.

While standing under one of the Black Poplars I listened to the sound of hundreds of tiny green seeds cascading down onto the ground around me, hitting the ground like tiny hail stones. The seeds were all over the ground, resting on nettles and other vegetation. That confirms my earlier speculation about these trees that they are definitely female!

A close-up of a single seed
I am moving towards the identification of our two Black Poplar trees as ‘Florence Biondi’ – ‘straight stemmed, graceful with fairly sparse foliage denser at the crown’ (Collins Tree Guide. p.158). Here are some young leaves.
Dead-nettles
I had a close look at the two Dead-nettle species which we have on Brook Meadow both of which have very attractive flowers when looked at closely. White Dead-nettle is the more robust of the two plants, standing tall, with white flowers arranged in well spaced whorls. It has pointed heart-shaped leaves, which could be mistaken for Common Nettle leaves but they have no stinging hairs.
Red Dead-nettle is a smaller plant with whorls of reddish purple flowers and rounded heart-shaped leaves which are stalked. It also has no stinging hairs, though its leaves are unlikely to be confused with Common Nettle. I gather young plants have edible tops and leaves, though personally I prefer to see these lovely plants untouched in the wild.
I was interested to learn recently that Red Dead-nettle occasionally has white flowers, though I have not seen this aberration myself. Henbit Dead-nettle is a similar plant to Red Dead-nettle, but has unstalked leaves. Both Dead-nettles are very ancient introductions to this country and are now common and widespread.


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 . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/wildlife-news/


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 . . . https://youtu.be/3QN9fVi71B4

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 . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/wildlife-news/


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 . . . http://familyfellows.com/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm


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 . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/conservation-news/workdays-2018/

Comments are closed.