Archives – 2018

CONSERVATION NEWS ARCHIVES – 2018 (Jan-Aug)


SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 22 – 2018 EA flood barrier exercise
Report and photos by Brian Fellows
I went over to Brook Meadow at about 10.30 this morning, with rain in the air, to view the Environment Agency exercise in laying down a temporary flood barrier on the east side of the north meadow behind the Lumley Road cottages. Such a barrier could be erected fairly quickly if a flood was expected. Masses of workers (lads and lasses) were laying out the barrier of aluminium sheets, all which will be removed after the exercise. The permanent flood barrier planned for next autumn will be of more natural construction.

New Rowans Path?
For the purpose of the exercise, the Environment Agency had cut a wide path through the jungle of vegetation around the back of the Rowan plantation.
This suggested to me what a good idea it would be to make a permanent path around the plantation. I discussed this with Maurice Lillie and he agreed it would be a wonderful idea. Such a path would open up these magnificent trees, which at present are loaded with bright red berries, to public viewing. A path around the plantation would also provide ready access for the conservation group to do regular clearance around the trees which always get covered in bindweed.
Maurice and I thought the new path could follow the present EA path around the back of the Rowans and then cut through the mass of nettles and bindweed to the left of where Tony is standing in the photo to link up with the main path near the Aspen tree. This is very exciting.

 


 

Conservation Work session – Thursday 20 September 2018
Report by Jennifer Rye.  Photos by Brian Fellows
With still a lot of summer warmth in the air, and a fine if cloudy day
promised, it was good to have 12 volunteers arriving at HQ by ten a.m. ready
to get down to work. General welcome, explanation of the intended tasks, and
safety talk given, people chose what to get on with and got on with it!

One group set to clearing the rest of the arisings from the Seagull Lane
Patch left over from the last workday, while Phil and the power scythe made
quick work of finishing the cut there. By coffee time the whole of the area
was ready for the winter season. Great excitement over the discovery of a
female slow worm hiding under some of the rough stalks, but she slithered
away before anyone had a chance to get a photo: they may be called slow but
they sure can get a wiggle on when needed!

Another group started on clearing the east bank of the River Ems southwards
from the north bridge, making a start on the intended improvement with which
we hope to tempt water voles back to our section of the river. HBC have
agreed our plan to plant more vole friendly species, and licensed us to do
so; thanks are due to Dan for all the work he is putting in to this project.
Having said that, the abnormally low flow of water in the river at present
makes this look unlikely to be realised any time soon.

Coffee time at HQ was a welcome break, thanks to Pam as ever for that.

Afterwards work continued on the river bank, and a further section of the
north Meadow was trimmed, with Maurice continuing to instruct Reg and Terry
on power scythe use. It is so good to have more of our volunteers trained,
since the scythe is a potent tool in our management plan.

Lesley did her usual grand job of signcase cleaning and litter picking, and
told us about her intention to support the Chris Packham walk in London at
the weekend which aims to draw attention to the threat to wildlife and
species retention. See her posters on the Meadow for more details.

All tools were returned to HQ by noon, the scythe duly cleaned and put away,
Phil took a sickle home to sharpen, and we all felt a glow of achievement at
a morning well spent in co-operative fellowship in pursuit of a good cause.

Next workday, Sunday October 7, come and join us if you can, 10am at Seagull
Lane entrance.

Conservation Work session – Sunday 2 September 2018
Report by Mike Probert.  Photos by Brian Fellows
A good turnout of twelve volunteers gathered on a lovely warm, sunny morning to hear about the tasks planned and to decide which they would like to pursue.
The main task of the day was to mow, rake and clear several areas in the North Meadow and part of the Seagull Lane patch. Nigel got a head start on mowing a strip behind the Lumley cottages to facilitate a forthcoming Environment Agency exercise to erect a temporary flood barrier.

Having cleared this the team then moved on to the two ‘flower circles’. These circles had been mowed several times each year for the past two years and were now well populated with a number of wild flowers, including Red Bartsia, in marked contrast to the surrounding area of thick coarse grasses mowed only once every other year or so. Maurice gave Colin a ‘refresher’ course on the mower.

In the meantime, Bob, Joan and Lesley carried out a litter pick and cleaned the sign cases, returning just in time for Pam’s welcome mid-morning refreshments at Frank’s wasp-free seat.
After the break the team finished raking the flower circles and moved on to do the same to cut sections of the Seagull Lane patch which displayed a heavy growth of vegetation, including five foot nettles!

A good morning’s work on the Meadow for all those involved.

Video clips of this morning’s work


Wildlife observations during workday 2 Sep 2018
Volunteers called me over to look at two slugs and two spiders that had been transported onto the meadow inside one of the bags for collecting arisings.

The spiders were the large house spiders (Tegenaria gigantea) obviously disturbed from their normal habitat.  I am no good on slug identification, but I think these were either Dusky Slug (Arion subfuscus) or possibly Leopard Slug (Limax maximus) (peviously seen in Aug 2012)

The morning was notable for the scarcity of butterflies.  I saw a Speckled Wood and Maurice Lillie reported seeing Common Blue and Large White, but that was all.
I was interested to see acorns and Knopper galls (which distort acorns) on the Oak that I planted on the Seagull Lane patch in 2012.  The galls do not harm the tree, rather show it is in good health.

The smaller Oak planted at the same occasion by my wife at the far end of the patch is also growing well and looking healthy.

Conservation Work session – Thursday 16 August 2018
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos by Brian Fellows
Nine volunteers turned out on a mild dreary morning. The weather was overcast with light rain and little wind. All attendees were experienced meadow volunteers so, after a very brief welcome and safety instructions, today’s tasks were described and allocated.
The tasks were:
1          Move wood from the south part of the flower rich area to a single dump under the willow trees adjacent to Beryl’s seat. This wood formed the low fence border to protect the flower rich area during early summer. It is now mostly rotten.

2            Remove low and overhanging branches from trees at the South Gate and the Lumley Gate.

3          Cut back the goat willow at the start of the “butterfly path” adjacent to Lumley Gate.

4            Remove overhanging brambles and nettles from paths.
5          Use power scythe to widen all paths, particularly in the North meadow along the river bank where part of the path is becoming eroded.
At 11.00 – 11.15 the group stopped for coffee and biscuits at HQ kindly provided by Pam in the usual efficient manner.

During the first half of the session the light rain had become steady and much heavier so it was decided to finish the work session and pack away the tools.
At 11.30 HQ was locked, all tools having been returned and wiped clean.

Wildlife observations from Brian
I spotted a small bug resting on a panicle of Timothy grass. It looks like a Tortoise Shieldbug (Eurygaster testudinaria) though I am not 100% certain.
The Rowan plantation on the east side of the north meadow is a glorious picture of red berries. I don’t recall ever having seen such a good showing of berries on the trees which were planted in 2005 in memory of Gwynne Johnson. Plenty of nourishing food for the local Blackbirds and leaving some hopefully for any Waxwings that might be in the area.
I had a couple of interesting items of news from the volunteers. Dan showed me a photo on his phone of a Painted Lady feeding on Buddleja that he had taken in his garden in Lumley Road yesterday. He said there were 6 feeding on the plant, which suggests we could be getting an invasion of these beautiful butterflies from the continent like we occasionally get at this time of the year.

Tony showed me a photo that he had taken while on holiday in Poland of a large copse of dead trees on an island in which were roosting thousands of Cormorants. I have seen Cormorants roosting on the islands at Chichester Gravel Pits but certainly not in these numbers.

Conservation Work session – Sunday 5 August 2018
Report by Jennifer Rye. Photos by Brian Fellows
Was it the heat? Or some mysterious tryst? Just 6 loyal volunteers turned up by 10 a.m. at HQ, but what we lacked in numbers we made up in experience and energy – in short bursts at least!

The main task of the morning, described by Jennifer, was to finish raking up and disposing of the arisings from the flower-rich area of the north Meadow. This was cut at the last workday, but the job needed finishing. This area was in full sunshine, so we worked reasonably steadily and completed the job in just over half an hour.

Debbie raked over and checked the disposal heap on the eastern side of the Meadow where we were depositing the cuttings, to make sure it was not overheating; in the past we have occasionally had spontaneous combustion there, to be avoided at all costs with the whole Meadow tinderbox dry.

The second task was to cut an experimental path through from the causeway path down to the north Meadow through the line of cherry trees to Frank’s bench. We hope this will make that part of the Meadow easier to access without all walkers having to use the steps by the north bridge. We intend to add steps on the slope later in the year if they prove necessary. The bench is lovely peaceful spot from which to enjoy the view eastwards to the Rowan plantation.

Many thanks are due to Pam for providing the very much needed refreshments, despite her being plagued by tiny black flies.
This hat did not keep them off!
All tools and barrows were returned to HQ by 11.30, as we decided it was too hot to stay out in the sun and keep working. No more cutting was done today either, as we did not have enough trained power scythe users present.  Thanks to Kathy, Debbie, Colin and Terry and Pam for such a good result with such a small workforce.

Next workday will be Thursday August 16, we’ll hope to see more volunteers by 10 a.m. at HQ.

Don’t forget to visit the Brook Meadow stand at the Emsworth Show on Bank Holiday Monday August 27, a chance to pay subscriptions through to end August 2019. See you there!

Videos of the work session . . .

Wildlife observations by Brian
go to . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/wildlife-news/


Installation of Bat Boxes on Brook Meadow – 23 July 2018
Report by David Search.  Photos by Brian Fellows
This recent project undertaken by the Conservation Group achieved the installation of 6 bat boxes within the Lumley Road copse. This was achieved with the combined help from volunteers in the photo below: Maurice Lillie, Dan Mortimer, David Search, Terry Ley, Colin Brotherston and  Phil Wilde.

Once suitable trees had been identified, brambles, brash and other vegetation had to be cleared. The task could then begin and allowed the safe use of a ladder for securely fixing the boxes in place. It was also necessary to clear some ivy from the trees.

Phil and Colin carrying ladder and boxes into the copse

Volunteers holding the ladder while David climbs to install box

The first two boxes installed –

Video clips of David installing the boxes . . .

These boxes are made from a material known as woodcrete, which is a blend of wood concrete and clay. This material is far more durable and far outlasts cheaper boxes made solely out of wood. It was recommended that a combination of 2 different types of box are used.
Photo on the left below shows the smaller of the 2 types (Schwegler 2FN) and is ideal for woodland species and is designed to be effective against small predators.
The photo on the right shows the larger box (Schwegler 1FF) which is more spacious and is suitable as a summer or maternity roost.

 

Video clip of David explaining the maternity box . . .

The boxes were located at heights of 3-4 metres and with different aspects, which provides the minor changes in temperature and humidity that bats require, sometimes on a day-to-day basis. Bats gain entry by landing on the tree below the box and crawling in through an opening in the bottom. Please note that once bats have inhabited a roost site they may only be disturbed by licensed bat workers.
The Lumley copse was chosen for the locations because recent bat records for this area show activity both within the meadow and along the Lumley Road. While concerns over low bat numbers continue to exist, records from the Brook Meadow area appear to have remained stable during the last few years. Bats recorded in recent years are Common Pipistrelle and Soprano Pipistrelle. Nathusius’ Pipistrelle was also recorded for the first time last year in the Lumley road. Other species include Noctule and Daubenton’s and a Brown long-eared bat was recorded over the north meadow for the first time this year making a total of 6 species.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 19 July 2018
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Brian Fellows
The early morning cloud had given way to yet more hot sun that became quite humid during a busy work session.  10 volunteers assembled at the HQ the traditional group photo.
Phil took charge of the power scythe in the wild flower area in north meadow, under the watchful eyes of Brian. It was important not to cut some flowers such as Hoary Ragwort as there were hungry Cinnabar caterpillars feeding on them. Another cut will done in about a month.

One group of volunteers comprising Gordon, Terry and Reg cleared the fallen tree debris too close for comfort to the Hazel Copse north of the north bridge and re-homed on an adjacent twig pile habitat.

A second group of Pam, Kathy, Brenda and Dan continued Kathy’s previous exemplary work of cutting back overhanging vegetation along the main paths. Here is Brenda at work.
Meanwhile Colin supervised Martin Cull, a mowing contractor, as he continued the second part of an annual cut. This was three sections in the North Meadow.
At 11.00 everyone gathered at Beryl’s seat for a welcome break for refreshments kindly supplied by Pam.
Jennifer joined us following a meeting with the Environment Agency on the Meadow to discuss a plan for an experimental portable flood barrier.

After our break everyone moved into the wildflower area and started the tedious task of raking, bagging and dragging the cuttings to the nearby dump. We probed the grass dumps to check for heat, and concluded it was too soon for fermentation heat to have built up. It is important to check this regularly over the next few weeks in all dumps.
At 12.00 with the tasks completed, the tools were returned to HQ. cleaned and stowed away.
Maurice thanked everyone on the successful completion of the tasks.
Colin would be returning later for the final part of the grass cutting.

The next work session will be on Sunday, 5th August.
We will 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. All necessary tools are provided and, where necessary training will be given. Refreshments will be available.

 for Wildlife Observations by Brian
Go to. . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/wildlife-news/


ANNUAL CUT – FRIDAY JULY 13 – 2018
Report and photos by Brian Fellows
I went over to the Lumley gate where I found Colin Brotherston struggling to open the lock on the gate with what turned out to be the wrong key! Martin Cull arrived and fortunately had bolt cutters in the tractor and was able to cut the chain easily and open the gate. Pam Phillips arrived later with the right key. Here is Martin finally driving through the gateway.
It was good to see Martin back as he knows the meadow very well and always does a good job. He did not come last year when the cutting was done by Norse. Here are the three of us posing for photo – taken by Tricia Brotherston.
Colin and Martin consulted the cutting map. Martin made a start on the centre meadow.

Video clip of Martin at work with his sturdy red tractor . . . https://youtu.be/5PJt6lVUpT4

Meanwhile Colin, Tricia and Pam Phillips searched the long grasses of the centre meadow for the tree stump which Martin wished to avoid! We finally found the stump and marked it clearly so Martin could easily avoid it with the tractor. For future reference the stump is about half way along the cross path from the Lumley gate – Grid Ref: SU 75119 06022.
Here is Tricia standing on the stump

Martin disturbed a wasp nest during the cutting of the centre meadow. I went home to prepare a notice warning visitors about the nest and Pam also did one.
I went back after lunch to find that Martin had just completed cutting the centre meadow and was starting on the north meadow. He said he would not finish today and offered to come again next week. Colin will confirm with him.
Video clip of Martin at work on the north meadow . . . https://youtu.be/b3iPqBOLh8M
Video clip of Martin dumping cuttings . . . https://youtu.be/OcOZONnNyqA

For wildlife observations go to . . . . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/wildlife-news/


Special work session – Saturday 7 July 2018
Reinstatement of view from south bridge
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Brian Fellows.
Some of you may have noticed a Goat Willow tree that has grown vigorously over the last two years and completely obliterated a glorious view up the River Ems from the South Bridge. Well, not any more. Nigel, Phil, Terry and Reg aka my star team, joined me this morning to remove it.

Armed with saws, loppers, slashers, a safety rope and wearing waders we made a temporary route from the south meadow path through previously untrodden heavy vegetation to the river bank, opposite said Willow.

Maurice ready for action in his waders.

 

 

Nigel and Terry stood knee deep in the river lopping twigs and branches, whilst the others cut and trimmed the fellings and piled them close to the bank where they will slowly decompose, in the meantime providing shelter for any wildlife that might need it. Never missing an opportunity to save useful material we set aside long, straightish branches for use in dead hedges.

Thank you chaps for making a hard job straightforward and trouble free. I had expected a two hour plus task, but we able to lop off almost an hour. The blazing sunshine was thwarted by over shadowing trees. Only one of us lost balance and fell in.

Brian relaxing while others worked!

Job completed.  Well done to you all

We were so pleased with ourselves that afterwards we popped in to the Lord Raglan for refreshment

Wildlife observations from Brian
. . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/wildlife-news/


Conservation Work session – Sunday 1st July 2018
Report by Jennifer Rye. Photos by Brian Fellows.
Ten regular volunteers, plus two temporary visitors, assembled promptly at ten a.m. at HQ, on a swelteringly hot Sunday, with the shade temperature over 30C! Try as we might, we could not avoid some work in the full sun, but warnings were given as part of the briefing, and no sun stroke resulted.

Thanks to Nick, Jennifer’s brother who took the photo, Brian was in it for a change!
Three main tasks were completed: power scything of all the grass paths in the north and central meadows, with some ‘siding up’ of the main gravel path to trim back nettles.
The dead hedging which had surrounded the flower rich area of the north Meadow since May 6 was so thoroughly overgrown with bindweed that it had to be first found and then removed, having done its job of protecting the precious orchids and other blooms.

The two circles in the long grass of the north Meadow, which had been scythed at the last work session, were carefully raked and the dried arisings moved to the north east corner disposal site.

Some overhanging trees at the Lumley gate area were tidied up in preparation for the arrival of Martin Cull and his tall tractor/mower, hopefully some time this month.
And last but by no means least a litter-pick and signcase cleaning duo did a thorough job, particularly around the south of the site.
Very grateful thanks to Pam for her very welcome refreshments, which added ‘Brook Meadow Elderflower cordial’ to the usual tea, coffee and water menu, courtesy of Debbie. All much appreciated.
All complete and tools tidied back into HQ by noon

Finally, one and all retired home for cool showers and cooler drinks.
Looking forward to seeing you again on Thursday July 19: same time, same place, different jobs, and hopefully a somewhat cooler day!


Conservation Work session – Thursday 21 June 2018
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos by Brian Fellows.
Eleven volunteers turned out on a sunny morning. The weather was largely sunny but with a cool breeze. Briefing and safety instructions announced before allotting tasks.

Brian delivered a short update on wildlife in the meadow. This included the discovery of a single pyramid orchid, not an uncommon plant but first sighting on the meadow since 2010.
The main tasks were:
1 Strim the NE corner of the meadow.
2 Cut the circles in the north meadow and also widen paths in the north meadow using the power scythe.
3 Remove overhanging vegetation from paths.
4 Clear vegetation from around the base of the cherry trees at the northern end of the north meadow in preparation for the annual grass cut.
5 Clear vegetation from around the rowan trees east of Beryl’s seat.6 Litter pick and clean the sign cases.

 

 

At 11.00 the group stopped for coffee and biscuits at HQ kindly provided by Pam in the usual efficient manner.

After the break the clearing of vegetation continued and the arising moved to the central dump. Phil gave instructions to Terry on the use of the power strimmer and they cleared vegetation on the path south of Beryl’s seat. In the north east corner Maurice supervised Reg who operated the power scythe very successfully.


A short trial was conducted to determine whether a small hedge trimmer would be suitable to aid removal of vegetation from the river bank. It appeared that this might be an option but a wide slot cutter is needed to deal with some of the larger stalks. This method needs further exploration.
Jennifer showed the meadow to Nick Betson, an ecology representative from RPS Group who are looking for suitable sites to translocate reptiles from a development site at Warsash.
At 12.00 all tools were returned to the shed. Nothing was missing. The shed was locked and the session finished.

Wildlife observations (from Brian)
The first Meadowsweet was in flower. I am looking forward to more of this aromatic plant.
Masses of green berries are forming on the Rowans on the east side of thee north meadow.


 


Conservation Work session – Sunday 3 June 2018
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Brian Fellows.
Sunday morning. Very hot and humid. Nine volunteers answered the call to work.
Maurice explained the tasks. Trim the pathways through Palmers Road Copse (PRC), while Nigel set about cutting the occasional grass paths around and through the South Meadow. Then the PRC crew would transfer their affections to raking those paths.
Brian photographed the assembled gathering.

Nigel made short work of the mowing and joined the PRC gang of Pam, Jennifer, Debi, Terry, Peter, Cathy and Dan, well before 11.00. The path overhangs were trimmed back, and the arisings bagged and dumped.
The ‘Water Vole’ viewing point was opened up to show the view up river and across the meadow, by removing a Hawthorn hedge between the observation fence and the Ash tree. Sterling work Debi.
Jennifer cleaned a very grubby Water Vole information board.
At 11.00, we broke for refreshments. Pam’s teas, coffees and biscuits were gratefully enjoyed by all.
Brian pointed out a tuft of Remote Sedge (Carex remota) by the path through the copse, fortunately missed in the clearance.
The team moved to the South Meadow to rake up and dump the grass cuttings. This is a laborious task involving raking, forking into Carry bags dragging them and tipping them onto a chosen pile. Several volunteers trimmed the overhanging vegetation to ensure that users of these paths could safely pass without being nettle stung, bramble-scratched or thistle prickled.

Maurice drove the power scythe from the South Meadow through the Central Meadow trimming a grass path en route to Jennifer’s path in the North Meadow, around Franks Bench and up to the Play area for quick trim.
At 12.00 with the tasks completed, the tools were returned to HQ. cleaned and stowed away.
Maurice thanked everyone on the successful completion of the tasks.

The next work session will be on Thursday 21 June 2018
We will 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.

 for Brian’s wildlife observations (including the first Bee Orchid)
Go to . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/wildlife-news/


Conservation Work session – Thursday 17 May 2018
Report by Jennifer Rye. Photos by Brian Fellows.
A small number of volunteers today, just 6, but good work achieved. A keen northerly wind took the edge off temperatures at first, but it soon warmed up, and by midday we were glad of the cool breeze.
The main tasks were grass cutting, since everything is growing at a great rate. The growth round all the Rowan trees and the cherry trees was cleared with hand tools: scythes and shears. Each tree now has a clear circle around it to aid growth and prevent strangulation.

The power scythe had its first outing of the year, now the ground is dry enough to use it, and Mike trained a new user while attending to all the narrow paths in the centre and north meadows, as well as in the Seagull Lane patch. So all is ready now, fit for children and sandal wearers!
At the very welcome coffee break, for which thanks to Pam, we all enjoyed a catch up with our erstwhile photographer in chief, Malcolm Phillips. Our loss is Cuba’s gain, and it was good to have an opportunity to hear how he is settling there. Malcolm stayed for a cup of coffee with the team.  He is second from the right.
All tools returned to HQ by noon, another good session in the lovely spring weather. Thanks to our loyal volunteers who help keep the Meadow fit for us all to enjoy, and for its native plants and creatures to thrive.

Beryl’s Seat
We met for coffee break at Beryl’s seat on the east side of the north meadow and Pam filled us in with a little of its history. Beryl Young donated the seat to Brook Meadow in memory of her husband about 10 years ago. They used to come and sit on the meadow and Beryl helped on conservation work on the meadow for a while.

The next work session will be on Sunday 3rd June. We will 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 notes from Brian
Pam Phillips alerted me to the emergence of Ragged Robin flowers on the Lumley area – a good 2 weeks later than usual and, actually, the latest date ever. Just shows how natural growth was delayed by the cold spring. I went over later in the afternoon and counted a total of 111 flowering plants, 78 on the Lumley area and another 33 on the centre meadow, with more to come hopefully. Last year we had a peak of 135 flowering Ragged Robin by 20 May but they were much earlier that year. Here is one typically ragged flower I took today
Silverweed is in flower on the Lumley area for the first time. I confirmed the presence of a Whitethroat singing near the causeway, but only one so far. We regularly get 4 or 5.

The only insect I noted was a vividly coloured Red-and-Black Froghopper (Cercopis vulnerata). There are many different species of Froghopper, but this is the one we usually see on Brook Meadow, probably because it is so colourful.
They get their name from their ability to jump many times their height and length, but are best known for their plant-sucking nymphs (beloved by gardeners!) which encase themselves in foam in springtime. These nymphs are usually called Spittlebugs. The foam is well-known as ‘cuckoo spit’, named presumably because its appearance coincides with the arrival of the Cuckoo. Cuckooflowers are similarly named.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 6th May  2018
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Brian Fellows.
On a hot May Day Bank Holiday Sunday, eleven volunteers, plus Inigo and Thebe, Jennifer’s grandchildren, arrived at HQ, at the appointed time to welcome Colette Court from the Trust for Conservation Volunteers and embark on a morning’s tasks. Maurice, the appointed Leader, identified the jobs to be tackled, tools to be employed and the risks involved. Brian photographed the assembled gathering.
The first task was to complete the deadwood surround to the wild flower area in the North Meadow with material saved for the purpose lying nearby. Debbie, Jim and Peter set about this job.
Other volunteers carried out two other jobs. The first of these was to cut back the overhanging nettles along the north path edges.
The second job was to cut down nettles and brambles that were sprouting from the recently cleared river bank. Nigel, Terry, Pam, Kathy, Sharon and Nick armed with slashers, long lopper and shears, carried out this job, taking care to watch out for passers-by out enjoying the sunshine.

 

Colette having a chat to one of the volunteers during the river bank clearance

Jennifer and her grandchildren Inigo and Thebe walked through the Meadow and to  Palmers Road Copse on a much-needed litter pick. Here they are on the way.
At 11 o’clock the whistle summoned everyone to Beryl’s Seat, for tea, coffee and soft drinks. These were served with the usual tasty selection of biscuits. Thank so Pam for supplying and serving this greatly enjoyed refreshment.
After the break, all hands were turned to completing deadwood surround in the North Meadow.  When this was completed the group transferred their affections to the north-east and began the additional task of repositioning dumped grass clippings and other debris to enhance the hibernaculum nearby and clearing more nettle growth to expose the thorn bushes that, in the near future, will be removed.

At 12.00 with the tasks were completed, the tools were returned to HQ. cleaned and stowed away. The Leader thanked everyone on the successful completion of the tasks.

The next work session will be on Thursday day, 17 May. We will 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
The first Whitethroat of the year was singing from the brambles on the west side of the north meadow. This is about 2 weeks later than usual for this regular summer visitor to Brook Meadow. Listen out for their short scratchy song, usually when perched on a bush or tree, with white throat prominent. Photo taken a couple of years ago on Brook Meadow.
There was a good number of butterflies on the wing, mostly whites, plus several Orange Tips and a Holly Blue, for the first time this year. You are very likely to see Holly Blue in your garden fluttering high around the Ivy which they lay eggs on. The very similar Common Blue always flies low and frequents grassland areas. Holly Blue has black spots on its underwings which the Common Blue does not have.
We are doing quite well for Cuckooflowers on Brook Meadow this year. I counted a total of 24 in total with 2 on the orchid area, 3 on the Lumley area, 15 on centre meadow and 4 on south meadow. This is a fairly modest number compared with the 157 I counted on the Bridge Road Wayside.
I found a good growth of what I think is Slender Spike-rush (Eleocharis uniglumis) in the usual spot in the centre of the Lumley area. This plant is botanically a sedge despite its common name. It differs from Common Spike-rush in having very thin (slender) stems, only about 1mm thick. Slender Spike-rush also only has the lowest glume of the spikelet without a floret; in Common Spike-rush both the two lowest glumes are empty. This uncommon Spike-rush was first discovered on Brook Meadow by ecologist John Norton during a botanical survey on June 4 2012.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 19th April 2018
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos by Brian Fellows.
Sixteen volunteers turned out on a warm sunny cloudless spring morning. The weather was unseasonably mild.
The main tasks were to spread gravel on the causeway path, repair steps down to the river at the north-east corner, remove plant growth from the steps to the causeway path connecting the south meadow to the central meadow and to burn piles of twigs and cuttings which have accumulated at the North Bridge.
Jennifer took charge of the operation at the causeway steps

Two volunteers attended to the steps at the NE corner.

Maurice directed the path levelling task.
Another group of volunteers directed by Pam started a bonfire just east of the north bridge to burn material which has accumulated in various parts of the meadow. The material was dry and burnt readily and quickly.
A small wooden stake was removed from the path leading to the NE corner as this was a trip hazard.
At 11.00 the group stopped for coffee and biscuits at HQ kindly provided by Pam in the usual efficient manner.
Tony enjoying his cuppa
After the break the bonfire team was changed and more debris was dragged from the central dump to be burnt. At 11.40 no more material was added to the fire and shortly afterwards the fire was raked out and doused with water from the river.
The team at the causeway steps completed their task and more gravel was dumped on the path. The gravel was tamped down and these tasks were then complete.
A start was made on the twig boundary for the wild flower and orchid patch in the North meadow. It is suggested that this task is completed at the next session.

Jennifer and Colin reflecting on  a good morning’s work!

Wildlife Notes from Brian
One of the volunteers disturbed a Common Toad while digging out the gravel from the bag near the Seagull Lane gate. He placed it in vegetation nearby.
I found the first Cuckooflower of the year on the meadow, just one above the causeway. Brook Meadow is not a particularly good site for this delicate flower.
Here is one of the resident pair of Carrion Crows that regularly forage on the north meadow. Is he trying to say something to me?
I spotted a fine spotted Brown Trout in the river beneath the south bridge.
Not such good news from Mike Wells whom I met on the main river path. He had just seen and photographed a Pike, estimated length about 2 feet 6 inches, in the river near the observation fence – bad news for hope of Water Voles return.
In the photo look for the head of the Pike in the lower right hand corner.

The next Work Session is on Sunday 6th May 2018 at 10am.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 25th March 2018
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Brian Fellows.
Nine volunteers, Terry, Lesley, Nick, Sharon, David, Debi, Nigel and Pam, unaffected not only by the loss of an hour, but also a week earlier than the usual Sunday, turned out to enjoy a mild morning’s hard work. There was one task, explained by the session leader, Maurice, which was to complete the clearing away of the arisings from the river bank clearance, carried out by Contractor on Friday. Maurice explained what was involved, the tools to be used and the hazards to be wary of.
Volunteers with three wheelbarrows and cart, laden with rakes, loppers, grass forks and saws set off down the gravel path south from the north bridge to the piles of twigs sticks and grasses already piled for collection and disposal.

Everyone set about loading the material onto the barrows and pushed them to the dumping point in the north east corner of the north meadow.

Too long branches were cut into suitable lengths and carried to the wood pile north of the north bridge. The most strenuous part was raking over the banks to remove loose grass and pieces of tree, taking great care to maintain a good foothold on the steep banks.

Meanwhile Lesley did an extensive litter pick around the outer edges of Broom Meadow, particularly along the edge of Palmers Road Car park.
At 11 Pam set about providing us with hot drinks and biscuits a most welcome excuse to take a short break.
Well refuelled we then continued around the river bend on the north west corner of the meadow. The final tidying up with the help of a yard broom, made the paths safe to walk along.
Video clip of volunteers clearing brambles on north path . . . https://youtu.be/l1V974OYTtI

It was wonderful to be able to see so much of the river, much of which has been concealed for years.

This work, part of the rejuvenation programme of water vole habitat, will be allowed to grow naturally. When asked, Brian expressed the view that there was no need to augment the vegetation as all the plants necessary are already growing there. Some edge planting may prove to be worthwhile and some areas of bank may need to be reduced in steepness to form improved feeding surfaces favoured by water voles. BMCG needs to plan what is to be carried out along the west bank.
At 11.50 the task was complete and with too short a time to start another job it was agreed to return the tools to HQ and call it a day. The Leader congratulated everyone on a good morning’s teamwork. The next work session will be on Thursday day, 19 April.
We will 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.


Fallen Tree – Report from Brian
The river bank clearance has exposed an old Ash tree that has fallen across the river from the west bank. This tree is an interesting feature where I, and other walkers, often stop for a while to watch and listen to the water rippling through the small branches, hoping to catch a glimpse of some wildlife.
Although fallen tree is seen as a possible flood hazard by the Environment Agency, I suggested to Maurice Lillie that we might approach the Agency to preserve the tree as an interesting feature of the river environment. Clearly, it creates a natural weir to hold up and release the flow of water for the benefit of fish and other wildlife. The Brook Meadow volunteers could then monitor the tree and remove any build up of vegetation that might cause a blockage.
Here is a video clip of the river rippling through the branches of the tree in the river . . . https://youtu.be/y022pL6SvCM


Special Work Session – 23 March 2018 – Revitalising the river banks
Report by Maurice Lillie and photos by Brian Fellows
If you want to get a difficult job done properly, assemble an expert with the right equipment, Brook Meadow Conservation Group volunteers and a sunny day. The Conservation Group engaged the services of Hampshire Chestnut, in the shape of Phil and Stu to close cut the east bank of the River Ems, from the southern end of centre meadow to the north west corner of north meadow.
At 08.30 Hampshire Chestnut arrived at Lumley Gate and unloaded all sorts of tools and wheelbarrowed them to the river bank. Within 1.5hrs the first section, up to the “S” bend was clear of standing vegetation and some overhanging willow branches.
Video clip of the work . . . https://youtu.be/XjWFSVsDit0
If it does not work open link in a new window or paste it into your browser to activate.

The hard task of raking up the arisings was well underway by Phil. Volunteers, Terry, Maurice, Jennifer, Tony, Dan and Reg arrived at the arranged time of 10.00. They selected their favourite tools, rakes, loppers, crome and carry sheet and set about collecting up grass, branches, drift wood.

The grass and similar vegetation was loaded onto the carry sheet and dragged the rough terrain of Central Meadow to the sacrificial area in the south east corner of North Meadow. The branches were reduced to handle able sizes and carted to an established pile behind the western Black Poplar. Dan tugged our newly acquired four wheeled cart which made the carriage of logs and other tree lumps, much easier than a wheelbarrow.
As if by magic Pam arrived with coffee and biscuits just after 11.00 affording a most welcome break. Thank you, Pam, you are a star.
Phil and Stu were progressing well up the edge of North Meadow. This was a much more difficult section than earlier one, partly because the vegetation was far tougher, some of which had not been cut for many years and partly because the bank was considerably steeper. Phil also removed the ends of some of the branches of fallen tree that are due to be removed by The Environment Agency. This was to create sufficient access for the bank cutting.
After a lunch break the volunteers continued to clear up the arisings Reg cleared the remaining tree parts in Central Meadow making good use of the cart. Terry, Tony, Dan and Maurice continued clearing the cutting debris in North Meadow using wheelbarrows until Reg arrived with the cart. At this point the nearest dump was a short push or pull along the gravel path, much easier than the cross-country route across the meadows.

At 3.30 we decide to call it a day as the strenuous work was taking its toll. Phil and Stu had completed everything that was expected of them and the final push to clear away the debris will be the main task for this Sunday’s volunteer work session.
A huge thank you to all the volunteers who helped to clear the debris and a similar thank you to Phil and Stu of Hampshire Chestnut Co Ltd for doing an exceptional job.
If you haven’t seen what has been achieved, already, I urge you to take a look at this first and vital stage of the revitalising of the Ems River banks to create a habitat that maybe, just maybe will lure our precious Water Voles back.
Final reminder – we are meeting on Sunday 25 March instead of, 1 April. Meet at 09.50 for briefing at HQ.


Butterbur Count – 23 March 2018
For the results of the annual count of Butterbur flower spikes for 2018 see . . .
https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/plant-counts/


Conservation Work session – Thursday 15th March 2018
Report by Jennifer Rye. Photos by Brian Fellows.
Overnight rain had cleared to leave an only slightly wet morning, and by 11 a.m. the sun was full out and it got really warm. 11 volunteers arrived, including two new ones, Jim and Peter Garland, who we welcomed very warmly.
Peter and Jim signing in with Jennifer

Jennifer gave the briefing and safety talk, and after an initial photo we set to on the main task for the morning: to clear the large bramble patch which had established itself round the trunk of the westernmost black poplar, planted on the north edge of the central Meadow by Frances Jannaway some years ago in memory of her mother.
This was the same tree which had developed a lean in the prevailing south westerlies, and which we had hauled upright with the help of Andrew Skeet of HBC, probably around 12 years ago. It has grown very well and is now a beautiful tree – even more beautiful after the morning’s clearance which allows the whole height of its trunk to be admired. It took most of the morning, partly because we were using hand tools only since ground conditions were so wet that using any power tools was out of the question. All the chopped up trimmings were added to the adjacent dump.

The refreshment break was welcomed and enjoyed by all.
Then most of the party finished off that main job, two went to do extreme litter picking under and around the south bridge, and another tidied up some Ash suckers near the main seat on the causeway.
We concluded with a concerted attack on few more pernicious brambles adjacent to the ramped path by the north bridge, which was making access to our hazel grove unnecessarily difficult.
Here is a short video clip of some of the volunteers clearing Brambles from this area  . .
https://youtu.be/PBD6VYUjJ9c

Tools were all returned to HQ by noon, discarded layers of clothing claimed from the wheelbarrows, and all was safely locked up.
Next regular work session Sunday March 25, same time same place, I.e.10 a.m. by HQ.
N.B. this is the session moved forward from April 1st, Easter Sunday.
All volunteers are very welcome.

Wildlife observations
There was plenty of birdsong on this spring-like morning, including the regular Song Thrush on the north meadow. I was half expecting a butterfly, but no luck.
We have a very good crop of Lesser Celandines this year, scattered over most of the grassland. Interestingly, the number of petals on the flowers varies; most seem to have 8 or 9 petals, though there are two flowers in the photo below with 10. I did a special Celandine petal count survey in March 2005 when I had up to 12 petals on some flowers.
The Butterbur flower spikes are now well developed on the area of grassland immediately below the main seat. I usually try to carry out the annual count towards the end of March. I actually did last year’s count on Mar 17, though I shall leave it a week or so this year to give the plants elsewhere on the meadow a chance to develop.
While walking down the flooded eastern side of the south meadow, I disturbed a pair of Mallard and discovered a duck’s egg floating in the water where they had been standing.   The egg was broken and empty, though on closer inspection I discovered what I think was a small Nursery-web spider (Pisaura mirabilis) taking shelter inside. I did not disturb the spider and replaced the egg shell where I found it.

The clearance work by the volunteers exposed a nice growth of what looks like Many-zoned Polypore (Coriolus versicolor) on a dead branch. This is a fairly common fungus on Brook Meadow.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 4th March 2018
Report by Jennifer Rye. Photos by Brian Fellows.
Snow, rain, ice, fog: all these in the preceding week, plus arctic blasts, made it hard to predict if the workday would happen at all. However, 7a.m. brought blue skies and a really much nicer day than could have been expected. Twelve volunteers showed up, including newcomers Sharon and Nick Robinson, who we welcomed gladly. Briefing was kept brief, but the obligatory safety talk was not omitted, nor was the group photograph for the website.
Main tasks for the day were to build a bonfire to get rid of some of the leftover branches and twigs from the hedge laying in Palmers road area, some longer ones were kept for future use in hedge making, but most were cleared. Fortunately Pam arrived early to start the bonfire off, and it was kept going all morning.

A second bonfire on the north Meadow was less successful, but some of the brash and arisings piled there were added to the main blaze. There’s the start of another one ready for the next workday.

Second imperative was to move a pile of logs left in Palmers Road Copse after Tree surgeon Mike Reed’s annual day there which had to be moved to a less tempting place than beside the main access path; we have plans for those logs which do not include being taken for home log burners, or for floating downstream.

Dan and his team made good use of our new four wheeled cart to move them to a place of safety.

The final stretch of wire around the plantation in the south west corner of the north Meadow was removed and the site made good by Phil, Tony and Terry.
There followed  welcome refreshments beside HQ (thank you Pam)
Two other smallish jobs were completed: the top step of the river access for dogs near the railway tunnel in the north east corner was back filled with gravel, and the leading edge of the path nearest the south east end of the south bridge got similar treatment to improve drainage.
The bonfire was eventually burnt out, the ashes scattered and all made safe with buckets of river water.
Tools were safely locked up in HQ, volunteers were thanked and reminded of the next two workdays: Thursday March 15 and Sunday March 25, the latter being brought forward from April 1st, which is both Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day, so we are avoiding it!
Hope to see many of our regular volunteers at one, other or both of these, and if any new members come along they can be sure of a warm welcome.

WILDLIFE NOTES – from Brian
Birds heard singing this morning, included Robin, Wren, Blackbird and, for the first time this ‘spring’ Dunnock. In fact, two Dunnocks were singing in competition. This is the best snap I got of one of them in a bramble bush.
Nick pointed out a mass of tiered bracket fungi on a fallen Crack Willow across the river south of the north bridge. From a distance they look like Many-zoned Polypore.

Dan thought he saw a Water Rail on the river bank south of the north bridge.  Please keep a look out for it.
I had a phone call from Caroline French who was concerned about a pair of Swan on the pond on Hampshire Farm. However, as she was talking they flew off!

Hedge Laying  22-23 February 2018
This was a special two-day work session organised by Maurice Lillie and led by Rachel Bryan of the Trust for Conservation Volunteers. The plan was to lay the second section of the mixed hedgerow on the western edge of the Seagull Lane patch, continuing the work started by Mike Probert and others last year on the first section. Rachel thought this second section, comprising mostly Hawthorn with some Hazel, Cherry and Holly, was ideal for laying. The final section of the hedgerow to the north of the site remains to be done later.

Hedge laying Day One – Thursday 22 February 2018
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Brian Fellows
What a wonderful morning to begin laying the second section of the Seagull Lane hedge. There is a saying that the Sun only shines on the righteous and so, Terry, Phil, Maurice, Gordon, Dan, Tony and our leader/mentor Rachel Bryan of TCV, must qualify.
Rachel gave a quick run through of the process and demonstrated the techniques. She explained the tools and emphasised the importance of keeping the billhooks sharp. She then stood up said “get on with it” which we did and with excellent results.
We selected which ‘trees’ were suitable for laying and removed the remainder. Then we trimmed the larger side branches on the leaning side and, with sharp billhooks, chopped a tapered cut on the opposite side three diameters of the trunk up from the ground until the trunk was thin enough to bend without splitting. At this point the ‘tree’ stopped being a tree and became a ‘pleacher’.

Having ‘pleached’ three fifths of our intended task for the two days, we laid the pleachers, removing superfluous side and leading-edge branches to facilitate closer laying. The last job for the day was to drive posts into the heart of the laying hedge, ready to bind tomorrow when the remaining section of hedge receives the same treatment as today.

A most impressive effort by a virtually unscathed but hugely enthusiastic team. The second session is tomorrow Friday at 09.30am.

Hedge laying Day Two – Friday 23 February 2018
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Brian Fellows
A slightly earlier start, but bright and sunny. The overnight chill quickly changed to a Spring-like warmth or perhaps it the effect of sheer hard work. Dan, Tony, Maurice with our leader Rachel, set about pleaching the last few ‘trees’ and then laying them.
Sadly, Terry a most able and enthusiastic volunteer had hurt his hand, so was unable to join us. It is surprising how long the pleachers are and laying them is quite difficult because they tangle with adjoining pleachers all of which, by now, have been reduced in thickness at their bases to enable them to be bent over without snapping. The process of disentanglement is therefore most difficult.
Having laid them the next task is driving posts into the ground along the centre of the hedge.
Dan carried the cut stakes to the stakers
Then follows the binding process. One binder starts at each post, two binders down tucked behind the post. Then, the binder is woven in and out along the line of posts. The accumulation of six binders becomes extremely and necessarily tight which makes inserting the end of the binder quite difficult. Then, having completed the insertion of the binder the binders to be compressed and into a horizontal. A piece of removed tree trunk makes an excellent binder basher, a necessary tool to force the binders down to line.
Job done. Completed as far as we intended, at about 13.10. Thanks to all the volunteers who made all this possible and especial thanks to Rachel who guided us through a fascinating and very worthwhile job. We experienced a steep learning curve, hugely enjoyable and truly satisfying.
I hope that all our members, not just the volunteers go to see the laid hedge and feel the same sense of pride that we feel at being part of the Brook Meadow conservation project.


Note on the Seagull Lane Hedgerow
by Brian Fellows
The hedgerow that is being laid marks the western boundary of what we call the Seagull Lane patch. It was planted in three phases: the southern section closest to the gate was planted in March 2010. Here is a photo of the planting. You may recognise some of the volunteers.
This first section was subsequently laid by volunteers led by Mike Probert in two sessions in Nov-Dec 2016. Here is a proud Mike with the finished job – a work of art!
The second section, which was the focus for the present exercise, was an extension northwards from the first section and was planted in Jubilee year in March 2012. As you can see the weather was dreadful for people but good for trees. The three oaks were planted on the same occasion.
The third section of the hedgerow was planted sometime later (not sure of the exact date).

Tree maintenance – Palmer’s Road Copse – 22 February 2018
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photo by Brian Fellows
At the opposite end of the meadow, in the Palmers Road Copse, Mike Reed and his gang carried out a fabulous clearance of tree debris and removal of dead tree parts that could be dangerous to passers-by. They also removed a couple of large trees that had fallen against others that consequently were at risk of being knocked over. Larger tree debris was cut into lengths for use in the river to slow down some sections with the intention that some water will be retained for a while longer during periods of low flow. Smaller branches were chipped and piled for later use as mulch and meadow path maintenance.

Mike kindly removing a overhanging branch that Brian just hit his head on!


Conservation Work session – Thursday 15th February 2018
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Brian Fellows.
At 10 o’clock, seven volunteers, aka the ‘A’ team, arrived at HQ, pleased that the pattern of alternating weather gave us a mild, sunny morning. The one task for the session, was to continue clearing the intertwined vegetation and removal of the old wire stock fencing around the Willow and Alder copse in the southwest corner of North Meadow. The session leader, Maurice, explained the tools to be used and outlined the hazards to be wary about, when working in a confined space on saturated ground, with head-level branches and brambles everywhere. Brian took photos of the assembled volunteers and later the work in progress.
Kathy and Pam using loppers, shears and strong arms led the way clearing access to the fence.  Terry cut up larger branches.

Phil, Tony, Terry and Mike followed with sundry tools needed to liberate the wire fence from old timber posts. The wire was rolled and stowed behind HQ
At 11 o’clock Pam provided much needed refreshments gratefully received by the workforce. After the break we continued the task, hoping to complete it, but sadly, we ran out of time. This will be finished off at the next volunteers meeting.
Noon arrived just as we were completing the hedge making. After that, the tools were cleaned, counted and returned to their store. The Leader thanked everyone for their hard work and complemented them on their hard work.

It was noted that the copse holds a large quantity of dead, fallen twigs and branches some of which has fallen to the ground but a surprising amount was still trapped in amongst the trees several metres up. No doubt this material would find its way to terra firma in time. After discussions with Brian, it was decided to leave a substantial amount of this on the ground as it provides cover for all sorts of creatures. The remainder will be used to create an informal barrier around the copse to restrict access and so maintain the habitat.

The next work session on Sunday, 4th March. Meeting 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.

 

The next phase of the laying of the hedge along Seagull Kane Path will be carried out next Thursday and Friday 22nd and 23rd February lead by Rachel Bryan of TCV. A schedule of our volunteers for this job has been circulated.

Also on 23rd, this years planned tree work in Palmers Road Copse will be done by Mike Reed’s team.

Wildlife notes from Brian
Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) is now in flower on the Seagull Lane patch. As it grows from a bulb, it comes up in the same place each year.   This plant is misnamed as it flowers in early spring. I was surprised to read that it is native to this country, though is far more widespread as a garden escape, which is what I suspect this particular plant is.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 4th February 2018
Report by Jennifer Rye. Photos by Brian Fellows.
9 stalwart volunteers braved the cold north wind, and were rewarded with lovely bright sunshine.
Jennifer described the aim, which was to remove the wire stock fencing which encloses the belt of willow and alder trees just north of the S bend, in the south west corner of the central Meadow. We assume this must have been put up more than twenty years ago, presumably to protect the newly planted trees from long deceased cattle, or maybe deer, but it has long since ceased to serve any useful purpose and is now actually cutting into several trunks. Brian reminded us of the habitat value of dead trunks and undergrowth, and we agreed to work carefully to avoid disturbing residents. Here is a view of the copse in question
After the usual safety advice and group photograph was completed, we set to work. Phil was I/c the job and had brought some useful additional tools, but even so the extremely high grade wire which had been stapled to fence posts defeated our wire cutters, so Colin kindly went home and returned with a hacksaw. With that, and two persuaders, the job proved just possible. Bit by bit sections of the wire fencing were removed, mainly by Phil and Colin, while others cut back overhanging branches and brambles, and we decided to use them as a rough hedge beside the copse, to discourage walkers and others from going exploring after the wire was removed.

After a very welcome coffee break, the work continued. By 11.50 about two thirds of one of the long sides of the rectangle was clear. All the wire was carefully collected and returned to HQ, ready for the next trip to the tip.

Meanwhile Maurice and Terry attended to other jobs which had been identified, including securing the informal dead hedging on the west side of the south Central Meadow, repair of the edging in front of the main seat on the central causeway, and repairs to the dog entry point to the river near the north east corner.

A good mornings work in all, and the wire clearance will continue during future workdays till it is all removed and the trees can flourish. No nests were found, but a cheerful Robin kept a close eye on proceedings all morning. We hope the Blackcaps will be singing there in due course.

BRIAN’S WILDLIFE OBSERVATIONS -DURING WORKDAY
Sunday 4th February 2018
Volunteer Terry pointed out to me the first Butterbur flower spike beside the main path near the sluice gate.   I found several more just emerging on the large Butterbur area below the main seat.   This is not especially early. In some years I have found them out in January.

I shall be doing the annual count of the Butterbur spikes in a few weeks time when they are all well developed. For earlier counts go to . . .   https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/plant-counts/

I had a little mooch around in the Lumley copse. It is not easily accessible, but OK if you go carefully. I found plenty of fresh growth of Lords and Ladies (Arum) leaves.
There was also, lots of a light green feather moss growing on trees and twigs. I will tentatively identify this as Brachythecium rutabulum, which is one of the mosses that Rod Stern identified during his survey of the site in 2001.   The photo shows fruiting of inclined capsules which are produced on rough reddish stalks in autumn, winter and spring.
I also noticed a few fronds of what I assume is Male Fern.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 18 January 2018
Report by Dan Mortimer. Photos by Dan Mortimer (group) and Brian Fellows.
Dan Mortimer reports. After last nights heavy winds and rain, I expected a poor work party turnout but was pleasantly surprised when 10 volunteers arrived at HQ.
Tasks were explained and we split into 2 groups. The first group tided up the fence that we laid on the previous work party with additional posts and bindings. Also, the hedge which we made by the tree area opposite the S bend received attention, posts were laid making it look a professional job.

he other group had the horrible task of tiding up the river bank south of the North bridge, very carefully weeding nettle roots by hand , back braking work. All part of our ‘ Bring back the Water Voles to the River Ems scheme’.
After break we all put down wheel barrow loads of wood chip by the steps on the very wet and muddy path by the North bridge.
Again many thanks to Pam for tea, coffee and biscuits.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 7 January 2018
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Brian Fellows.
The first work session of the New Year. Bright sunshine flooded Brook Meadow as eleven volunteers arrived, although the temperature was only a few degrees above freezing. Maurice Lillie, leader for the session welcomed everyone and explained the tasks to be carried out. Brian photographed the assembled gathering.
The main job was to complete the dead hedge at the “S” bend of the river bordering the Central Meadow. The first activity was to obtain the materials – posts and binder/weavers. These were sourced from the group Osiers on the east side of the North Meadow by Phil, Gordon, Tony, Terry and Colin who cut the timber and sorted them. The posts were cut to length and carried to the job site where Colin pointed them before driving them into the path edge.

Meanwhile, Lesley did a litter pick over the three meadows and in Palmer’s Road Car Park
Kathy and Jutte assisted by Dan, removed the pile of debris from the fallen Elder, a casualty of the weekends storm, and placed it between three trees in the Central Meadow close to the “S” bend as a barrier. During this work they discovered a cluster of Jew’s Ear fungi attached to a small twig. Fairly common around the meadow.

Jennifer, climbed down into the river and sawed off a broken willow branch that threatened to create a local blockage.
A constant supply of binders and weavers arrived to be woven into hedge posts by Pam, Colin, Jennifer, Dan, Terry and Maurice. Maurice’s hat blew off his head and he had to scramble down the river bank to retrieve it.
Kathy and Jutte transferred their affections to the willow hedge near the sluice in the north-west corner of South Meadow, where they removed the extensive growth of shoots on the top and sides, so that passers-by have a view of a section of the river.
At 11 o’clock Pam provided much needed refreshments gratefully received by the workforce.
Noon arrived just as we were completing the hedge making. After that, the tools were cleaned, counted and returned to their store.

Maurice Lillie provided a photo of the completed dead hedge with an unusual design
And one of the Willow hedge tidied to provide a view of the river
Maurice thanked everyone for their hard work and congratulated everyone for their efforts and excellent team spirit. The next work session on Sunday, 18 January. We will 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.

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