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


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.  For a trial period starting in January 2019, work sessions will start 30 minutes earlier than usual 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
For further details call Jennifer Rye – 01243 376926


Conservation Work session – Thursday 15th August 2019
Report by Reg Newnham.  Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
13 volunteers (including leader) turned out on a calm mid-summer morning.
This group photo was taken after the coffee break as Brian was late arriving!

The weather featured overcast sky but brightened up during the session with a temp. of 20°C & light breeze. Reg Newnham was leading.  After the usual brief welcome and safety instructions re the loppers was given by Maurice Lillie. Then tasks were described and allocated. The tasks were:
1. Power scythe cut Northern paths, and if there is time cut South Meadow paths.
2. Remove overhanging vegetation on the River and remove litter from River.
3. Litter pick.
The group split into two groups.
Maurice led a group to cut overhanging branches in the River and clear this growth to the dump by the North Bridge.

Owing to yesterday’s heavy rain the River was deeper than expected,
so extra care was required.

Gordon and Dave clearing fallen Willow cuttings

Pam busy clearing twigs

Terry and Dan spent time in the river clearing litter

Dumping the cuttings
Maurice emerging from the river with a barrow load of tools

Nigel Osborne and assisted by Graham Pitney operated the power scythe. This was Graham’s first time with this tool and training was given by Nigel
Lesley did her usual litter pick and sign case cleaning. This is a most important activity keeping the meadow smart and presentable.
A welcome stop for coffee at 10.55 with a good selection of biscuits. Thank you, Pam. The coffee break was held at Frank’s seat.
After coffee, work continued as above.
At 12.00 all tools were returned to HQ and a productive session was finished. HQ was finally secured at 12.15.

Wildlife Observations
David Minns pointed out a very pale Painted Lady resting on the ground, only the second on the meadow, though Dan tells me he’s still getting 6 or so on the Buddleja in his garden.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 4th August 2019
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
Fourteen volunteers (including leader) turned out on a calm mid-summer morning. The weather featured bright overcast sky, warm and rather close with no wind. Colin Brotherston was leading. All of the volunteers arrived at the start time except one who arrived at 10 and had to leave at 11. There were no new volunteers. After the usual brief welcome and safety instructions tasks were described and allocated.
The tasks were:
1          Litter pick and clean sign cases. (task not done)
2          Clear fallen tree debris in Seagull Lane patch (SLP) around HQ.
3          Cut branches from tree overhanging path in NE of North Meadow.
4            Remove branch at Lumley Gate to improve tractor access for mowing. (task not done)
5          Trim willow fence at river observation point in SW of Central Meadow.
6          Trim growth around river observation point in Palmers Road Copse (PRC).
7          Trim fence in SLP.
8          Tidy steps to Central Meadow. (task not done)

There was a significant quantity of fallen tree debris in SLP (task 2) so the majority of volunteers lead by Maurice started to tidy it up. The saw bench was used to cut longer branches into approximately four foot length to make an insect refuge while the twigs and leafy remains where placed behind the willows on the southern boundary.

Video clip of the work . . .

Resulting log pile for wildlife
At the same time four volunteers departed to the willow fence (task 5) with loppers and shears where they made an excellent job of trimming the hedge.

Unfortunately Lesley was not present to do her usual litter pick and it was decided to leave this task to another day.
A welcome stop for coffee with a good selection of biscuits was held at 10.45. Thank you Pam. The coffee break was held at HQ.
After coffee, as the initial tasks were completed, new tasks were started.
Maurice and Debbie set out to Palmer’s Road Copse to trim vegetation at the observation fence. (task 6).

Terry, Gordon and Nigel put on hard hats and went to lop growth off the willow tree in the NE of the North Meadow. (task 3) This was a heavy task which required strength and care. The branches were removed, thereby hopefully making the tree safer for members of the public. There is now a considerable amount of tree debris to be cleared.
The remaining volunteers started to trim back growth along the fence bordering the Western boundary of SLP. (task 7) This fence, so carefully laid a few years ago, was in danger of vanishing behind a curtain of hazel, hawthorn and other hedgerow growth.
At 12.00 all tools were returned to HQ and a productive session was finished. HQ was finally secured at 12.20.

Today’s wildlife news – from Brian
Today’s work trimming the willow fence and clearing the brambles in front of the observation fence on the river bank has opened up the river, allowing more light and improving one’s view of the river.  This means we are likely to get a Water Vole sighting or two if the results of the recent survey are to be believed. I watched the river for about 30 mins today without seeing anything of interest except for a passing Moorhen.
However, I did spot a very nice male Banded Demoiselle perched on the leaf of Branched Bur-reed in the river. Banded Demoiselles are less common on the meadow now than Beautiful Demoiselles.
During the cutting of the willow fence by the sluice gate I spotted a good growth of Remote Sedge nestling in the outflow from the sluice. This is third place where this interesting and attractive sedge has been recorded on Brook Meadow – the others are on the riverside walk through Palmer’s Road Copse and on the river bank near the north bridge. Here is Vince clearing it from a tangle of grasses.
My count this morning of Marsh Woundwort flower spikes near the Weeping Willow is now at an astonishing 256. This is the best year ever for this attractive plant. They must be seen to be believed!
Dan Mortimer told me he had 6 Painted Ladies on the white flowered Buddleja in his garden in Lumley Road this morning. That could mean a mini invasion is in progress, though we have yet to see one on the meadow.
However, there is a glorious cacophony of wild flowers on the Lumley area, surely enough to tempt Painted Lady butterflies from Dan’s garden!? These include Common Fleabane, Creeping Thistle, Hogweed, Wild Angelica, Common Comfrey, Hoary Ragwort, Red Bartsia, Common Knapweed, Hedge Bindweed, Perforate and Squared-stalked St John’s-wort, Great Willowherb, Water Mint, Prickly Sow-thistle, Pepper-saxifrage.
Pam Phillips told me she and some of her neighbours for some weeks had heard screeching calls coming from the dense woodland of Lumley copse opposite to the house called El Rancho. Pam is fairly sure the calls are from a brood of Sparrowhawk chicks, she has also heard them in Nore Barn Woods and adults have been seen flying around. This does not surprise me as I have seen a couple of piles of feathers over the past couple of months indicating a Sparrowhawk kill. You can actually hear the calls of the chicks from across the meadow.
See the following link to recordings of juvenile Sparrowhawks . . . https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Accipiter-nisus

Annual cut news
As Martin Cull was not able to finish cutting the prescribed areas of the meadow last Thursday, the group has asked him to return for a second visit next week. Date to be confirmed.


ANNUAL CUTTING OF GRASSLAND – Thursday August 1 – 2019
Report by Brian Fellows
It was very good to see Martin Cull back on the meadow to do the annual cut of the grassland. Martin, and his father Brian before him, has been doing this very important management work ever since the group was formed in Year 2000.
Colin Brotherston welcomed Martin at the Lumley gate and outlined the areas to be cut.

Colin took a photo of Martin and me beside his sturdy tractor.
Martin discussing the cutting plans with Maurice and Colin
Martin started work on the north section of the north meadow
He used a area in the far north west corner behind the brambles for the disposal of the arisings.
Here is a short video of Martin at work . . . .


Conservation Work session – Thursday 17th July 2019
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
Twelve volunteers (including leader) turned out on a calm mid-summer morning. The weather featured overcast sky with drizzle (18°C improving to 24°C) with light breeze. Colin Brotherston was leading assisted by Reg Newnham. All of the volunteers arrived at the start time. We welcomed Neill Foster as a first timer volunteer.
After the usual brief welcome and safety instructions and a wildlife update from Dan on the Water Vole status of the river tasks were described and allocated.
The tasks were:
1            Remove twig barrier from the edge of the flower rich meadow.
2          Clear Lumley gate entrance of overhanging branches for mowing tractor access.
3          Cut low hanging branches over paths where appropriate.
4          Side cut paths, especially in the Palmers Road patch.
5          Install leaflet boxes at North and South entrances.
6          Mark out areas for annual cut by contractor.
7          Litter pick.
With a large number of tasks, the group split into sub groups.
Maurice led a group to cut overhanging branches and clear the overgrowth at the Lumley Gate.
Pam, Diana and Graham set to work removing the twig barrier, always a difficult task due to the growth of surrounding vegetation.
Jennifer arrived later to lend a hand

Dave and Brenda set about clearing paths starting in Palmers Road copse and working up through the meadow from the South bridge.
Colin and Reg fitted the leaflet boxes. The box at the South gate needs more attention to allow the cover to open fully.
Lesley did her usual litter pick and sign case cleaning. This is a most important activity keeping the meadow smart and presentable.

A welcome stop for coffee at 10.45 with a good selection of biscuits. Thank you Pam. The coffee break was held at Frank’s seat.

After coffee, work continued as above.
Dan and Terry spent some time watering the newly planted reeds and rescuing fish from parts of the river where the water level is very low.
Maurice, Reg, Terry and Neill finished by placing willow shoots in the central and north meadows to mark out the contractor cutting areas. Also finding the elusive tree stump in the central meadow.
At 12.00 all tools were returned to HQ and a productive session was finished. HQ was finally secured at 12.25.

It was good to meet up with Andy Skeet who was doing his final tree survey on Brook Meadow. Andy who has been a good friend of Brook Meadow since its formation in Year 2000 is leaving HBC after 31 years as arborist. He will be working with the East Hants Council. Andy said how he much he appreciated working with groups like ours which has opened his eyes to the ecological value of good tree management. Here is a group photo with Andy (in the orange jacket) taken just after our coffee break. Thanks for everything, Andy and all the best for the future.


Wildlife observations
A Song Thrush is still singing strongly from the west bank of the river near the S-bend.
A Moorhen family with at least one chick was on the river near the S-bend. Chick not shown on the photo.
Blue Water-speedwell and Purple Loosestrife are both now in flower on the River Ems south of the north bridge.

 

 

Berries are forming on the Alder Buckthorns along the main causeway.
Red Soldier Beetles are enjoying the large rounded flower heads of Wild Angelica on the Lumley area.


Water Vole survey
Dan Mortimer passed on the report and photos of yesterday’s Water Vole survey on the River Ems on Brook Meadow which was carried out by Sarah Hughes (Community Wildlife Officer for Chichester District Council) assisted by Dan, Terry Lay and Maurice Lillie. A good number of Water Vole signs were discovered in the area between the south bridge to the S-bend of the river, but none further north.
The signs included burrows, latrines and footprints, but no food larders.

They did not actually see any Water Voles during the survey, but the findings are very promising.   So, I ask everyone to keep a special look out for any Water Voles, though the river and banks are not very easy to see at present from the footpaths.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 7 July  2019
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
I arrived at 9.15 glad that I had donned a waterproof. By 9.30 nine more volunteers had arrived, mostly similarly attired.
The tools were selected and loaded onto wheelbarrows.

The first task was to cut back nettles, brambles and thistles, all of which had been competing for light as the vegetation around them was responding to the recent hot weather and the occasional showers of rain that had encouraged general growth spurts. The result was that tall plants when laden with rainwater sag into the nearest space i.e. the foot paths. We had repeatedly requested Norse to cut the path edges which would have prevented this, and the number of observations received by members of the public that there was a danger of stings and scratches. So, armed with shears, Pam, Debi, Diana and David set off to correct this. Thank you to that group for doing an excellent job that is back-breaking and boring.

The next task was to clean the sign cases. Lesley took the bag of rags and cleaning materials and did the circuit from North Bridge to Lumley Gate and South Gate, to remove the detritus that had taken residence on them. An excellent job well done.

The third job was to reinforce the North path (the one that is beside the river parallel with the railway lines). This path has been ailing for some years. The southern edge has been falling away and the northern edge a mound of self-seeded vegetation leaving only a narrow gravel surface for walking upon. This too has eroded, revealing some large lumps of stone and tree roots. The first task was to remove the sprouting of vegetation along the south edge and cut off the green growth on the north side. Then a vertical cut was made along the south side, 7.5 to 10cms deep.   Onto this a hardwood edge-board was rested and steel pinned tightly against gravel path.

Special path gravel was loaded into barrow from the white bags by Tony and Maurice and wheeled to the site and carefully placed against the upstanding board, then compacted in layers.

The first lengths were edged, although more gravel is needed to complete the surface.   It may be possible to get this done before the next workday so the next section of path can be done then.   I think the team of Mike, Geoffrey, Tony, Dan and Nigel (after he had done some much needed mowing in Seagull Lane Patch) all enjoyed themselves, they certainly made a most professional fist of this infrequent, but so necessary job.
Nigel mowing the Seagull Lane patch

At 10.50, break time, we assembled at HQ for a well-earned refreshment break provided by Pam, “thank you, Pam”.

Jennifer arrived just in time for coffee
When the chattering stopped, everyone returned to their former jobs.
Noon arrived and the tools were returned to HQ, cleaned and put away. The volunteers were thanked for braving the elements and doing what they asked.
The next volunteer work session is on Thursday 18 July. All existing and any new volunteers would be most welcome. Meeting at HQ at 09.25. Refreshments provided. Instruction and use of tools will be given and first aiders will be present.

Wildlife observations – Brian
Some of the Lesser Burdock plants were inadvertently cut during work on the Seagull Lane patch. I asked Dan to hold up one of the cut leaves, large and fresh, but nowhere near the size of the Butterbur leaves which are now out below the main seat.
The tiny pink flowers of Great Willowherb are now out generally across the meadow.
Also in flower in the north-east corner of the meadow is the much maligned Ground-elder. This plant is the bane of gardeners, but is very welcome on our nature reserve where it takes its place well among the other wild plants.
There is a magnificent flowering Hogweed (at least 8 feet tall) on the east side of the north meadow.
The two experimental circular areas on the north meadow are starting to show the value of regular cutting from the conservation group. It has taken 4 years for the Corky-fruited Water-dropwort to show up after the seeds were originally sown in 2015. There are now several plants on the northern area in flower. The flower head is similar to that of Yarrow. As with all nature, the message is patience!
There is as yet no sign of the other two seeds that were sown at the same tine in 2015, namely Common Knapweed and Meadow Barley.
Two plants (not sown) which are doing well on these experimental areas are Selfheal
and Creeping Bent-grass. Here is a photo of the typical closed up red tinged panicles of this delicate grass.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 20 June 2019
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
The weather pattern prevailed in our favour for the duration. 15 volunteers arrived at the appointed time. The tasks for the morning were – strimming green paths, cutting back nettle and bramble where encroaching the gravel footpaths, litter picking and rubble back filling behind the chestnut piles placed along a section of the west bank of the Ems in Palmers Road Copse. Having explained the tasks, I highlighted the importance of careful responsible tool use in carrying them out. Jobs were allocated, first aiders identified, and Brian took the record photograph of the assembled group.

Tony set off with the power scythe to cut the paths with Brian as a guide to prevent certain plants from being cut until they had seeded.
Lesley and Gordon armed with purple bags hoops and pickers were charged with ridding certain parts of the meadow and adjoining spaces of accumulated litter.
Terry and Dan powered up the strimmers and set about removing unwanted vegetation along the east bank of the Ems just south of the north bridge.
David P and Graham took the handcart to Lumley Road to transport a pile of hardcore to Palmers Road Copse.

David M, Pam, Kathy, Colin, David Mc, Diana, armed with shears and slashers worked their ways along the gravel path edges around the Meadow and in Palmers Road Copse, cutting out brambles and nettles to make walking along the paths more pleasurable.
At 10.50, break time, we assembled at Frank’s seat for well earned refreshments provided by our redoubtable Pam.

When the chattering stopped, everyone returned to their former jobs. David Mc relieved Dan with the strimmer.
Noon arrived and the tools were returned to HQ, cleaned and put away.
The volunteers were thanked for great efforts in accomplishing the tasks without demur and no accidents.
The next volunteer work session is on SUNDAY  7 July. All existing and any new volunteers would be most welcome. Meeting at HQ at 09.25. Refreshments provided. Instruction and use of tools will be given and first aiders will be present.


Wildlife observations from Brian
I was most pleased to see my first Ringlet of the year on the Lumley area, particularly as I did not see one at all last year. That takes the total butterfly list to 16 seen on Brook Meadow so far this year. I also saw a rather ragged Red Admiral along with lots of Meadow Browns.

I had both male and female Beautiful Demoiselles on the path behind the Rowans.

Other news
David Minns told me about a single House Martin nest that he saw on a building in East Street Chichester. House Martins are such rare birds in our area.
Dan told me that the Mute Swan family on Slipper Millpond was down to 3 cygnets – I saw four there only yesterday.
Gordon told me that the flock white doves that nest in St James Church are causing some concern. Apparently, they were released during a wedding reception several years ago and are now established feral birds nesting/roosting on the church.
They are, in fact, are regular visitors to my garden in nearby Bridge Road where they do a good job in mopping up seeds falling from the feeders.


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


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