Conservation News – 2019 (current)

Conservation work on Brook Meadow
Management of Brook Meadow is essential to maintain an appropriate habitat for wildlife and to enhance the biodiversity of the site. To achieve this, the conservation group works in co-operation with the local Council and other agencies to keep the meadow in good order both for wildlife and for public use. It holds regular conservation work sessions to manage grassland, scrub and woodland and, generally, to keep the meadow clean and tidy. The rivers are primarily managed by the Environment Agency to maintain a good flow of water, avoid flooding, and to create a good habitat for fish, Water Voles and other riparian wildlife.


Volunteer work sessions
Regular conservation work sessions on Brook Meadow take place on the 1st Sunday and the 3rd Thursday of each month throughout the year.  Work sessions start at 9.30am with a guaranteed finish time of 12 noon. Everyone is welcome and tools are provided. We meet at the new tool store HQ at the end of Seagull Lane. Safety for all volunteers is a priority and risk assessments by trained members are given at each session. There is a break when refreshments are served.
The main tasks include cutting and clearing of the grassland and scrub, removing broken tree branches and keeping pedestrian paths open and clear of obstacles. Clearing litter is a priority. Children and students from local schools and colleges are welcome to join in for work experience.
Special work session are also organised from time to time e.g. hedge-laying


Conservation Work session – Sunday 1st December 2019
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
Thirteen volunteers (including leader) turned out on a glorious early winter morning. The weather was initially overcast becoming sunny with light wind, temperature 5°C rising to 8°C. Colin Brotherston was leading. All of the volunteers arrived at the start time. There being no new members the usual briefing and safety reminders was rapidly concluded.
The tasks were:
1          Litter pick and clean sign cases.
2          Clear fallen wood from central meadow to a bonfire site close to the main arisings dump.
3          Mow and clear the area around the rowans and rake up arisings.
4          Thin the purple leafed plum bushes and remove surrounding suckers.
5          Mow NE corner of the meadow to remove growth from line of possible temporary floor barrier.

Leslie kindly volunteered to do the litter pick.
Maurice headed a team to remove fallen wood in the central meadow. The team also removed fallen branches from “Mike’s hedge”. The wood was moved to form a pile which might be burnt at the next work session if the weather permits.
Nigel started the power scythe and mowed the rowans area with Pam and David raking the arisings into piles.

Mike and Geoffrey started on the purple leafed plum trees. It was quickly obvious that this was a significant task so after a short while they were joined by Tony. As the trees were trimmed the arisings were moved to the gaps between the trees to discourage the formation of extra paths into the central meadow from the Lumley Gate.
At 10.50 we stopped for coffee at Beryl’s seat. Coffee and quality biscuits kindly supplied by Pam.
After coffee work on the three tasks continued. Lesley finished the litter pick by taking a large number of drink bottles to the bottle bank in Palmers Road copse. These bottles and other debris were uncovered during the clearing of the rowan area.
Another volunteer joined the plum tree group and a considerable amount of growth was removed. Larger pieces of wood were placed by the Lumley Gate for collection by firewood gatherers.  The team working on the Cherry tree posed for a photo!
The wood collection task was completed.
The power scythe was employed to clear the NE corner and some cutting of undergrowth around the cherry trees in the NE corner was done.
By 12.00 all tools were back at HQ and tidily stored. HQ was locked by 12.15. This marked the end of a very productive work session


Wildlife observations from Brian
Kathy pointed out the nest of a Harvest Mouse which the volunteers had uncovered during the clearance work on the centre meadow. We do occasionally see these tiny neatly woven nests on Brook Meadow but this is the first one in my records since 2015.
Nearby, Kathy also discovered a growth of what appeared to be Sulphur Tufts fungi growing on the marked isolated tree stump in the centre meadow. These have slightly sticky sulphur-yellow bell-shaped caps, darker in the centre with delicate white stems and crowded gills. We occasionally see them on Brook Meadow, though they are fairly common more generally.
Maurice Lillie pointed out another small group of fungi growing on a dead branch which are probably young Jelly Ear fungi.
Sulphur Tufts . . . . Jelly Ear Fungi

The clearance work on the Rowan plantation revealed a fine undergrowth of what I think might be Rough-stalked Feather-moss (Brachythecium rutabulum) – though there are many similar mosses.
The best sighting of the morning came right at the end of the work session when I heard the loud ringing tones of a Mistle Thrush in full voice. I spotted the bird singing from the top of a tall tree in the garden of one of the Lumley Terrace cottages. It did not move across the Brook Meadow while I was present, but that was the first Mistle Thrush I have recorded anywhere on Brook Meadow since 2010 when we had a pair feeding on the north meadow. Here’s a distant shot I got of one at the time.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 21st November 2019
Report by Reg Newnham. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
Eleven volunteers (including leader) turned out on an overcast but dry November morning. Reg Newnham was leading. All the volunteers arrived at the start time. There were no new volunteers.

After the usual brief welcome the tasks for the session was described.
The tasks were:

David Perks to take a small work party to tidy up part of the Central meadow of small branches which had fallen and a larger willow bough which had been cut by a contractor. This wood was removed to a bonfire site

Pam Phillips led a party to remove the meadow cuttings from the Lumley area which had been cut one month ago. Additional support was requested and most of David Perks party were redeployed to this task.

Nigel Osborne operated the power scythe to extend the area by Franks seat, of brambles and nettles. This area will be set aside for the natural Christmas Tree decorations, which will be set up by the local school children.

The Cherry tree area fully cleared and ready for the Christmas event on Wed 18 Dec

A welcome stop for coffee at 10.45 with a good selection of biscuits. Thank you, Pam., The coffee break was held at the seat.
After coffee, work continued as above, with Nigel Osborne Power Scything, making a second cut at the Lumley area and this fresh silage was also removed.
At 12.00 all tools were returned to HQ and a productive session was finished. HQ was finally secured at 12.15.

The Lumley area fully cleared – all set for fresh spring growth


Wildlife notes from Brian
The only wildlife interest I noted was lots of fresh molehills.
This is a active season for moles when tunnel systems are being enlarged in preparation for the breeding season. The tunnel system, which is the permanent habitation of the mole, also acts as a food trap, constantly collecting invertebrate prey such as earthworms and insect larvae. As they move through the soil, invertebrates fall into the mole run and often do not escape before being detected by the patrolling resident. If you watch carefully, you can sometimes detect the hill being built as the mole pushes soil to the surface.   Males are rarely seen on the surface of the ground where they would be easy prey for predators.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 3rd November 2019
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
Nine volunteers (including leader) turned out on a glorious late autumn morning. The weather was sunny with no wind, temperature 8°C rising to 14°C. Colin Brotherston was leading with Maurice Lille. All of the volunteers arrived at the start time.

There being no new members the usual briefing and safety reminders was rapidly concluded.
The tasks were:
1          Litter pick and clean sign cases.
2          Rake and clear growth under cherry trees for Christmas decorations..
3          Tidy hedge in the Seagull Lane patch.
4          Cut and rake the flower rich area in the central meadow.
5          Move larger pieces of fallen branches from the central meadow to the path in the north meadow riverside.

Brenda kindly volunteered to do the litter pick.
Maurice headed to the hedge (task 3).
David cleared a branch that had fallen across the river just upstream of the north bridge. Tony fired up the power scythe and headed off to the central meadow.
The remaining volunteers armed with rakes and shears headed off to the cherry trees to clear an area in readiness for the Christmas school tree decorating day.
Cathy and Debi then joined Maurice on task 3, trimming the Seagull Lane hedge along the outside and moving the resulting debris into the meadow for later burning or disposal on the arising pile.
Terry, Dave and Maurice started moving some the branches from the central meadow
Nigel, David and Colin joined Tony in the central meadow to rake up the arisings from the power scythe cut.

At 10.50 we stopped for coffee at Frank’s seat.  Volunteers heading back for coffee break

Coffee and Biscuits kindly supplied by Pam.
After coffee, work on the three tasks continued and the cut of the central meadow flower rich Lumley area was completed. The piles of arisings where left for removal at a later work session. This is apparently good practice as it allows any disturbed organisms to migrate back into the cut area.
The hedge cutting task was completed.
Terry rescued a small tree saw which was spotted on the west bank of the river. Not sure if this saw was one of ours which might have been mislaid during a previous work session.
By 12.00 all tools were back at HQ and tidily stored. This marked the end of a very productive work session.


Wildlife notes from Brian
There’s not much in the way of wildlife news, but we did spot a Red Admiral fluttering around.
There were lots of hungry Mosquitoes flying around. I got bitten twice, but applied Anthisan immediately which is the best remedy for me. Otherwise, I react badly.
While clearing the ditch volunteers uncovered several plants of Guernsey Fleabane and some Bittersweet with berries.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 17th October 2019
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos by Brian Fellows
Nine volunteers (including leader) turned out on an unsettled autumn morning. The weather was overcast with frequent and heavy rain showers, temperature 10°C rising to 12°C. Colin Brotherston was leading. One volunteer not on the group photo.
Rain was heavy at the start of the session so the briefing was conducted in the shelter of HQ. As the weather appeared to be getting brighter it was decided to start the work session.
The tasks were:
1          Litter pick and clean sign cases.
2          Clear vegetation around the rowan plantation.
3          Plant rhizomes in Lumley stream and the Ems.

Leslie conducted her usual litter pick and cleaning of sign cases.
Five of the volunteers, Pam, Suzanne, Cathy, Brenda and Dave armed themselves with shears and set out to the rowan plantation. Once there they cleared vegetation from around the bottom of the trees in spite of frequent heavy rain.

The volunteers took shelter under trees

Dan and Terry attended to planting the reeds.

At 10.30 we stopped for coffee at HQ. Two volunteers left before coffee as they were very wet. After coffee the tools were placed in HQ such that they could dry out. Dan kindly volunteered to take the wet flash jackets home to wash and dry. The work session then ended.
Dan and Terry spent a few minutes planting some remaining rhizomes before locking up HQ.
The volunteers are to be commended for getting a task done in somewhat adverse conditions.
Suzanne donated a heavy duty ratchet lopper which is in excellent condition. The lopper features extendable handles and should be extremely useful. Thank you very much.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 6th October  2019
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
The early morning torrential rain had given way to sporadic sunshine and a temperature of about 18C, when I arrived at HQ. Nigel arrived just before 9am, ready for a major, first mow of the Wildflower area in North Meadow. His early arrival had been prearranged to get the job well under way before the body of volunteers arrived. We cleared the way for the power scythe removal. Nigel checked the fuel, started the scythe and set off towards the wildflower patch.
My early arrival enabled me to make a start on selecting the necessary tools and check them for functionality before the general arrival time. Terry joined in a few minutes later. Colin followed by Tony shortly after. By 9.30 the wheelbarrows were loaded with tools, six more volunteers and Brian had arrived to be briefed on the morning’s activities. Tony set off to accompany Nigel.
Lesley carried out the dual task of cleaning the sign cases and litter picking.
Dan and Terry planted a tray of Pendulous Sedge seedlings along the foot of the river bank.
The other task for the volunteers was to gather up the remaining debris from sundry tree works and complete the infilling along the meadow side of the reinforced section of the north footpath which runs beside the river parallel with the railway. Incidentally, it was good to see that the river was once again flowing. I explained how the infilling was to be done i.e. largest logs at the lowest level overlaid with successive layers of branches of reducing diameter with the final layers of small branches/twigs. The purpose of this whole task was to support the steep bank with available heavy material and leave it looking reasonably workmanlike and not tempting to those visitors with log burning stoves. The team for this task was Kathy, Geoffrey. Debi, Colin.

At 10.50 we paused for refreshment near Frank’s seat. Tea, coffee and biscuits supplied by Pam but delivered by Dan, who also produced a boxful of delicious brownies, leftovers from his daughter’s birthday party. Thank you, Pam and Dan and Jennifer for dispensing the beverages.
After our welcome break the volunteers dispersed to the remaining tasks. These were
1, raking up the mowed grass over the wildflower area, much of which had already been done by Tony and Nigel. Geoffrey, an, Terry and Colin assisted forking the grass piles into carry bags and emptying then onto the grass heap in the south east corner of North Meadow.

Jennifer arrived to give a hand

2, finalising the backfilling along the north path. The finished job is exactly as I wanted to see. There is still a large quantity of brash, beside the north path, on the west riverbank near the north east bend, on the east side of north meadow where three trees were recently felled and in the north west corner of the central meadow. In addition, throughout the meadow there is a scattering of fallen branches, mainly small but needing to be gathered into piles, ready for winter bonfires.
At 11.55 the tools were returned to HQ, cleaned, checked and stowed away.
The next Volunteers’ workday will be Thursday 17th October. 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.
Outstanding tasks.
Mowing the last section of the Environment Agency’s preferred route for their temporary flood barrier, in the north east corner of north meadow. Mowing the wildflower area in the Lumley wet area of central meadow. Tree pruning in various parts of Brook Meadow, yet to be confirmed by the Tree subcommittee of Colin, Dan and Maurice. Completing the backfilling with gravel of the reclaimed area beside the river in Palmers Road Copse. Filling the gravel surface on the north path up to the new boards.

Wildlife Observations from Brian
I discovered a small Holm Oak sapling of on the river bank on the north path that I had not seen before. It was partly hidden by Brambles, but looked healthy. The younger leaves of this tree tend to be spiny, green on top and felted white beneath. I pointed it out to Maurice and Colin who promised to keep an eye on it.  The only other ones I am aware of on the Brook Meadow site are just outside the south gate. However, I am sure there will be others in the two copses.
A Common Toad was disturbed while volunteers clearing the orchid area. They managed to avoid damaging the creature and I got a short video as it scrambled into safety of the remaining undergrowth.

 

It was good to see the first Michaelmas Daisies opening on the far side of the Lumley area by the stream. These plants are always late flowering and provide a useful nectar source for late flying bees and butterflies.
The only butterfly I managed to capture on camera today was a Speckled Wood basking in the warm sunshine.


Various videos of conservation work


Reports for 2019 are on the archives pages at . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/conservation-news-archives/


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