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.

For Brian’s wildlife observations go to . . .

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.  See note about times below.  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
For further details call Jennifer Rye – 01243 376926

The group has decided, for a trial period starting in January 2019, that work sessions will start 30 minutes earlier than usual at 9.30am with a guaranteed finish time of 12 noon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteers clearing scallops

Volunteers working in the north-east corner

Volunteers complete clearance of the Black Poplar with a little hug

Volunteers burning arisings on bonfire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video clip of bonfire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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