2 – Conservation News

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 from 10am to 12 noon on the 1st Sunday and the 3rd Thursday of each month throughout the year. 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 – 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 . . .

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  . .

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.

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!

All earlier reports for 2018 are on the archives pages.
Go to . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/workdays-2018/

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