Conservation News – 2020 (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.


Coronavirus lockdown – Tuesday 24 March 2020
Note from Colin Brotherston Chair of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group
As a result of the lockdown on social contact and movement announced by the British Government yesterday  there will be no scheduled work sessions on Brook Meadow until the social situation returns to normal.
There is no restriction to anyone accessing the meadow for recreation purposes within the parameters laid down by the government.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 19th March 2020
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
Nine volunteers (including leader) turned out on a damp spring morning. The weather was overcast with light wind and persistent very light drizzle. Temperature 11 deg. C, typical for the time of year. Colin was leading assisted by Maurice.  The usual welcome, briefing and special safety reminders was rapidly concluded. Two volunteers arrived after the group photo. Group photo with volunteers well spaced in line with social distancing policy
Procedure for working safely to avoid infection from Covid 19 was explained and it was ascertained that all volunteers were happy with the arrangements. All volunteers received special instructions prior to the work session.  See the text at the end of this report.
Additional note. The ground was (still) exceedingly wet and the river in full flow.
The tasks were:
1          Litter pick and clean sign cases.
2          Finish clearing the pile of wood chippings and use them to improve some of the muddy paths.
3            Transplant newly growing grass from the dump in the North Meadow to part of the riverbank in the Seagull Lane Patch.
Leslie arrived to do the litter pick. She started on the verge of the car park in Palmers Road which is always a favoured site for litterbugs.
A team of four commenced task 2, One loading the barrows, the other three barrowing the chippings to re-enforce the previously laid chippings on the path between the North and Central Meadows.

The chippings were laid thickly on the path. A small channel to allow water to drain across the path was re-instated.
Maurice supervised the remaining folk to transplant grass. It was hard work lifting the grass as it had become turf with deep roots. This task may need to be continued on a later work session.

At 10.45 coffee and biscuits kindly supplied by Pam was dispensed at HQ.

We were pleased to welcome Jennifer who joined in with loading chippings into the barrow.
After coffee a couple of volunteers needed to depart. The chipping task was completed by 11.30. This task was quite arduous as it involved pushing wheelbarrows across very soggy ground. It was agreed that we would not start a new task today.
The session ended at 11.45 and the tools were packed away. The tool store was locked.


Instructions concerning the Covid 19 virus precautions
 . . . given to all volunteers prior to attendance at the work session.
As the sessions take place in the open air your committee is of the view that the sessions can still take place subject to a number of precautions. These are as follows:
1 If you feel unwell with virus like symptoms you should not attend. Stay at home and get well.
2 If you feel anxious or are particularly at risk then please don’t attend. We understand and hope to welcome you back when the panic dies down.
3 Work sessions will be conducted with volunteers generally keeping 2 metres distance from one another.
4 Only one person any anytime will be in the tool store.
5 All volunteers will wear protective gloves at all times (as usual) and may like to bring their own gloves.
6 Tools will only be handled with gloves.
7 Coffee will be available as usual using disposable cups.
8 Disposable wipes to be used if tools are handled without gloves.
There maybe other precautions which will become clear as we proceed.
I will be leading on Thursday and will assess the situation with volunteers who attend.
We hope that we do not have to cease work during this crisis but if we do then the meadow will flourish and there will be plenty to do later in the year.


Other observations – from Brian
Dan Mortimer told me the good news that the pair of Mute Swans on Peter Pond were now nesting in the reedbeds in the south west corner of the pond where they have nested in previous years and … they have a single egg!
Dan helped me to mark out the area below the seat for the Butterbur count which I shall be carrying out later this week.
Dan also confirmed that he would collect the signcase display boards from the meadow and deliver them to my house at his convenience. The spring displays up date is now overdue!
Maurice Lillie was stung by a Bumblebee while working on the river bank. Bumblebees are normally very docile creatures unless aroused. I suspect Maurice may have disturbed this insects nest in the ground and got stung for his trouble!   Queen Bumblebees are actively building nest sites at this time of the year.
I had a look at the planted Oak saplings in the Seagull Lane patch. The buds look healthy, but there’s no sign of leaves.
While out for a walk round Thornham Point Lesley Harris told me she had seen what she was sure were two White Admiral butterflies. I must admit I found this difficult to believe, since White Admirals are a typically summer butterfly of woodlands, such as Hollybank Woods. They overwinter as a caterpillar but I have never heard of any emerging this early. I checked the Hants and Sussex Butterfly Conservation sites but there was nothing there apart from the regular spring butterflies, ie, Brimstone, Comma, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, etc.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 1st March 2020
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
In complete contrast to weather forecasts ten volunteers, including leader, arrived at HQ in an almost cloudless sky, no wind and a temperature of 9ºC, later rising to 11ºC.
The main tasks were explained, and the risks identified.
The first task was litter picking and cleaning signcases which as usual was undertaken with her usual lovely smile by Lesley.
The second task was to overlay the recently re-laid gravel path, through Seagull Lane Patch, to even out the surface and infill the dips to bring the overall surface above puddle level. Neill, Nigel, Colin, and Tony carried out this task before moving on to assist with the third.

The third task was to make the flooded section of the main grass path that runs through Central and North Meadows passable. This involved transporting several barrow- loads of wood chippings from the pile at Seagull Lane Gate through a very soggy North Meadow to the main gap in the row of Crack Willow trees that demark the two meadows.

The job also included cutting a narrow trench to encourage ponded water to flow from puddle to puddle. This would help the area to drain naturally. Debi and Juliette set about this with enthusiasm using fallen twigs to help bind the chippings together. After about half an hour the team from Task 1 arrived with a continuous flow of barrow loads of chippings.
Nigel filled the handcart with a few logs and hauled them back to their stored location near HQ. In the meantime, Neill helped with log clearance in SLP.
The fourth, very difficult task of digging out a few brambles in the North Meadow, was taking on by Pam and Diana later assisted by Nigel.
At 11.50 we were all relieved to take a break and enjoy the refreshments provided by Pam, thank you Pam. It was lovely to see Jennifer who popped in for a cuppa.

After the welcome break we all returned to our former activities.
Tony and I took the handcart and filled it with several logs for transport to the store point near HQ. The return journey was hugely difficult with Tony pulling and yours truly pushing. Nigel came to our aid and made light of it.
Throughout the morning Brian took photos of, firstly the whole volunteer group and then of each task being executed.
11.45 the tasks, as selected, were complete. The Volunteers were thanked.   Tools were cleaned and returned to the Tool Store.
The next volunteer work session is on Thursday 19 March 2020. All existing and any new volunteers would be most welcome. Meeting at HQ at 09.25 to be briefed on selected tasks. Refreshments provided. Instruction and use of tools will be given and first aiders will be present.

Video clips of the work

Wildlife observations
from Brian
There was plenty of Robin and Wren song around the meadow this morning. But I was most excited to hear the distant song of a Mistle Thrush wafting across the meadow from the Lumley Road area. I have heard this song on several occasions over the past month or so and hopefully indicates a male bird setting up its territory.
Jennifer Rye was most excited to tell me she had seen a Kingfisher flying down river south of the north bridge.
As for flora, the bright star-like yellow flowers of Lesser Celandine are now prominent particularly in the north meadow.
I also noted Red Dead-nettle on the north meadow and Summer Snowflake and Primroses on the new track created by the Environment Agency to the Lumley Stream. This looks promising.
The flower spikes of Butterbur are now prominent in the main area below the seat and will be ready for counting in a couple of weeks I reckon. Here is a close-up of the attractive pink flowers.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 20th February 2020
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos by Brian Fellows
Nine volunteers (including leader) turned out on a damp winter morning. The weather was heavily overcast with light wind, becoming wet by 11.00. Temperature 8 deg. C, typical for the time of year. Colin was leading assisted by Maurice. The usual welcome, briefing and safety reminders was rapidly concluded. Additional note. The ground was exceedingly wet and the river in full flow.  Photo shows 9 volunteers not including Terry who arrived after the photo was taken.
The tasks were:
1          Litter pick and clean sign cases.
2          Clear a large pile of wood chippings and use them to improve some of the muddy paths.
3            Sweep the path in the Seagull Lane Patch and lay more gravel.
4          Dig out brambles growing in the flower rich part of the North Meadow.
5          Clear fallen wood and debris from paths.
Leslie kindly volunteered to do the litter pick. She has made this task her own and we are very grateful.
Pam and Kathy departed with forks and secateurs to dig out the brambles as per task 4.

Job completed!

A team of three commenced task 2, barrowing wood chippings to the muddy path leading into the North Meadow from the bridge. The chippings were laid thickly on the path.

Job completed!

Maurice supervised the remaining folk to brush mud off the path in Seagull Lane Patch and then place fresh gravel on the path. The gravel was then raked and tramped down.

Job completed!

At 10.50 coffee and biscuits kindly supplied by Pam was dispensed at HQ. By this time light rain was falling.
After coffee and couple of volunteers needed to depart. The chipping task being largely completed (although there were still a good quantity of chippings to move) the finishing of the placing of gravel on the path continued.
Pam and Kathy made a start on task 5, clearing fallen wood from paths, especially in the South Meadow.
By 11.40 the tasks were largely complete, and the rain was settling in. The work session was ended.
By 11.45 all tools were back at HQ and tidily stored. HQ was locked by Colin. This marked the end of a good work session.

Video clips of the work

Other observations
The River Ems is still in flood mode. Here is a photo taken by Colin showing the river full flow through Palmer’s Road Copse and the sluice gate with the water high on both sides.

A Cherry Plum tree in the Seagull Lane hedgerow has been pushed over by the strong winds exposing its roots. The conservation group will attend to it in a future session.
The Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) near ‘my’ Oak tree on the Seagull Lane patch has opened more flowers.
Lesley Harris showed us a gold bracelet that she had found in a bush close to the interpretation board on the Seagull Lane patch. Lesley put a notice on the board about the bracelet, but has had no responses.  If anyone has lost one or knows who it might belong to please get in touch with Lesley at . . . lharrisemsworth@ntlworld.com

 


Conservation Work session – Sunday 2nd February 2020
Report by Maurice Lillie.  Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
I arrived at HQ just before 9 to find a bonfire ablaze thanks to Reg who had arrived before 8.30 to start it. Nigel was also there as stoker. This was made possible not only by the presence of Reg and Nigel but also a dry mild morning 12 deg C.
By 9.30, 10 more volunteers had arrived to hear what else was arranged for the morning. I explained the task – to complete the removal of brambles that were using the Ash and Hawthorn trees as climbing frames on the meadow side of the north gravel path. The task included reducing the height of the blackberry growth so that the view from the path across North Meadow could be reinstated. The briefing concluded with a few health and safety notes concerning fire safety, use of tools and care walking on uneven and muddy surfaces. First aiders were identified. Brian recorded on camera those present.
Tools were handed out and the volunteers Pam, Juliette, Mike, Diana, Vince, Terry, Debi, Neill and Kathy set off along the path to the designated location. Reg and Nigel were joined by Tony to deal with the bonfire.
The larger team working on bramble clearance worked in groups to –
1, rake up and gather the arisings from earlier sessions and drag them away to the bonfire site
2, detach bramble climbers from the trees and gather up the arisings for drag bagging to the bonfire site
3, reduce the height of the brambles to about 1.8metres. Terry took charge of the long armed lopper to disentangle the very determined sky-seeking bramble fronds.

As usual a Robin arrived to watch us, possibly the one the always seems to appear whenever we have a task of this sort in that part of the meadow.
It was noticed that the river water level was very high and carrying much silt.
It was also noticed that the Cherry Plum tree near Lumley Gate was in full beautiful full flower.  See Brian’s wildlife report below . . .
At 10.50 we stopped for a well earned break of tea, coffee and biscuits at HQ.   These were greatly enjoyed by all – thank you Pam, as usual.
Mike planted two young hazel saplings close to the other group near the north bridge.
After the break, we all returned to our earlier jobs. Nigel power scythed the perimeter paths of Seagull Lane Patch and then filled two barrows with water scooped from the Ems north bridge in readiness for the dousing of the bonfire.
The tasks were completed by 11.40. Tools were returned to the Tool Store, cleaned and put away. Feeding the bonfire had ceased and the process of putting out the fire was well under way. More water was obtained from the river and poured over the ashes until safe.

The next volunteer work session is on Thursday 20 February 2020. All existing and any new volunteers would be most welcome. Meeting at HQ at 09.25 to be briefed on selected tasks. Refreshments provided. Instruction and use of tools will be given and first aiders will be present.

Video clip of the bonfire at the start of the session . . .


Wildlife observations from Brian – 2 Feb 2020
There was a good selection of bird song around the meadow including Robin, Wren, Great Tit and 4 Song Thrushes, two on the north meadow and two on the south meadow. That augers well for the breeding season.
The white blossom is now emerging on the Cherry Plum on the causeway and should be a fine sight in a couple of weeks.
This tree was well trimmed by the conservation group in an earlier session and makes an attractive contrast with the yellow of the Gorse right opposite.
There is also a smaller Cherry Plum in full flower on the river bank at the north bend. Blackthorn is not yet out, always later blossoming than the Cherry Plum.
I spotted a single Lesser Celandine flower on the river bank along the north path, though there will be many more in the coming weeks.
Other news. Mike reported seeing two Spotted Redshanks in the Nore Barn stream. This is not unusual, though it is the first sighting of two this winter.
Neill reported seeing a flock of Greenfinches on the allotments behind Bath Road. This is particularly interesting in view of the scarcity of this once common species in gardens due to the disease trichomonosis.

From Brook Meadow I walked down to Peter Pond where I found the new pair of Mute Swans on the grass bank near the seat.

There was a second pair on Slipper Millpond by Chequers Quay. It will certainly be interesting to see if both pairs manage to nest.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 16th January 2020
Report by Reg Newnham. Photos by Brian Fellows
Twelve volunteers (including leader) turned out on a calm winter morning. This was after we had two severe winter gales in the week. Therefore, the Meadows are wet and sodden.
The weather, a bright start but became overcast during the work session and it ended early with the onset of rain! The temperature was 10°C and improving to 11°C. Reg Newnham was leading. All the volunteers arrived at the start time. There were no new volunteers. After the usual brief welcome the task was described.
The single task was to remove all undergrowth from the trees along the North path so that they could have unrestricted light to fully grow.

It was good to see David Search at the work session. 

This undergrowth was removed and carried mostly by hand taken to Seagull Lane area for fuel for a bonfire for the next work session.

The pile of cuttings building up on the Seagull Lane patch

A welcome stop for coffee at 10.55 with a good selection of biscuits. Thank you, Pam. The coffee break was held at HQ. After coffee, work continued as above.

David and Reg having a chat at the end of the session
At 11.45 all tools were returned to HQ and a productive session was finished. HQ was finally secured at 11.55.
The next work session will be on Sunday 2nd February 2020.

Video clip of the work in progress . . .

Before and after shots of the area – photos from Maurice Lillie


Elisabeth Kinloch
Pam passed on the news from David Gattrell that Elisabeth Kinloch had died over the Christmas period aged 97 years! She had been ill with dementia for many years and had been cared for at her home in Westbourne.   Elisabeth is the owner of Peter Pond and we trust David will be able to carry on with his excellent management of the pond. Elisabeth was also an active member of the committee of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group in the early days of the group. She was also a distinguished architect and designed the present Emsworth Surgery.   I hope to make a tribute page for Elisabeth on this web site, so would be grateful for any appreciations and memories from those who knew her.
Here is a nice shot of Elisabeth with David in 2008 on Peter Pond


Conservation Work session – Sunday 5th January 2020
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
Thirteen volunteers (including leader) turned out on a quiet dry winter morning. The weather was overcast with light wind, temperature mild for the time of year. Colin was leading assisted by Maurice. Most of the volunteers arrived at the start time. We welcomed one new volunteer, Juliette Webb. The usual welcome, 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          Clear fallen wood and debris in Seagull Lane Patch and move to bonfire site at HQ
4          Mow and clear the area around Mike’s laid hedge and trim hedge lightly.
5          Start a bonfire at HQ
6            Remove Christmas decorations from the cherry trees.
Leslie kindly volunteered to do the litter pick. She has made this task her own and we are very grateful. Today Lesley was joined by Brenda on litter picking.
Maurice headed a team to remove fallen wood in Seagull Lane Patch. At the same time Debbie supervised the lighting of the bonfire. After a slow start with damp paper the fire soon took a hold of the fairly dry material.

A small team of two headed to the cherry trees to remove the decorations which had lasted very well but were beginning to look somewhat past their best.

They had to borrow Brian’s walking stick to reach the higher one

 

Juliette and Dianne with the decorations . . . and their final resting place!

Mike Kathy and Colin headed to Mike’s laid hedge to do some trimming.

At the same time Nigel and Tony brought out the power scythe and mowed each side of the hedge and some overgrown regions between the central and north meadow, thereby reclaiming ground lost to fallen branches.

At 10.50 coffee and biscuits kindly supplied by Pam was dispensed at HQ where the bonfire was burning well. At coffee time we were joined by Jennifer who stayed on to enjoy meadow activities and check we were all behaving ourselves.
After coffee the main tasks were collecting more wood for future burning. There is now a pile at HQ and in the central meadow close to the arisings dump.
By 11.30 the bonfire was doused with water from the river. The wood collection task was completed. The last few Christmas decorations higher up the trees were removed.By 12.00 all tools were back at HQ and tidily stored. HQ was locked by Maurice. This marked the end of a good January work session
The next workday is on Thursday 16 January.

Wildlife observations – from Brian
Mike discovered an attractive bright yellow small jelly-like fungus growing on a dead twig during the clearance. I know it as Yellow Brain Fungus (Tremella mesenterica) though more imaginatively it is also known as Witches Butter. It is fairly common on dead twigs in winter, though in dry weather it shrinks and darkens. It is not poisonous, but is not worth eating! As with most fungi, it is so much better to enjoy and appreciate it in situ.
Winter Heliotrope is now in full flower on the river bank.
A Great Tit was singing a somewhat truncated song high in a tree

Several volunteers had seen the mystery goose that has been hanging around Peter Pond for the past week or so. Here is a photo of it taken by Patrick Atkin. The bird is a Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides) whose natural breeding range is inland Mongolia, north eastern China and south eastern Russia. It is migratory and winters mainly in central and eastern China, but never flies as far as Britain!   The birds we see in Britain are escapes from domestic collections. The Peter Pond bird had a ring on its left leg which clearly indicates its domestic origin. It is widespread in Britain.


For reports for 2019 go to . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/conservation-news-archives/archives-2019/

For all past workday reports see . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/conservation-news-archives/



Video clips from workdays in 2019

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