WORK SESSIONS 2020-21


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 10.00am 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.


COVID 19 UPDATE   March 2021
VOLUNTEER WORK SESSIONS RESUME
Volunteer work sessions resumed on Brook Meadow in March 2021.  We are taking our volunteer session guidance from TCV.org.uk as follows.
You can volunteer if:
* You are well
* You are not classed as clinically extremely vulnerable
* Nobody in your household has coronavirus symptoms or has tested
positive in the last 2 weeks.
Please let Colin Brotherston know if you would like to attend. We fully understand if you
prefer to wait another month or so when further relaxation of restrictions will allow us to return to regular style sessions. Colin Brotherston   07779 759696  colin.bmcg@btinternet.com


Conservation Work Session – Sunday 2nd May 2021
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Brian Fellows
Weather: 10 C overcast and part sunny. Continuing our carefully pre-planned session of volunteer work parties by Colin, to ensure compliance with Covid Rules, it was pleasing that twelve volunteers arrived at HQ at the usual time keen to “get on with it”. Brian took a record photograph of those present at the outset, socially distancing!

Four tasks had been arranged, as follows.
Litter-picking. Jennifer and John, appropriately armed with litter pickers, mauve bags, and hoop, set off to start at Palmers Road Copse and surrounding paths. Later reports that they filled a large bag with litter. What a difference that made.
Nigel driving the power scythe and Pam carrying shears and rake proceeded to the Rowan plantation to trim the around the trees and the spaces in between them. On the way there, Nigel stopped off to cut the ‘Play Area’ in the North Meadow.   An excellent job well done.

The main task was to remove the increasing spread of Hemlock Water-dropwort from the Lumley area to prevent it damaging what is the most important wild flower area on Brook Meadow. Assistant Leader Kathy assisted by, Debi, Dave P and Geoffrey, dug out, bagged, transported, and dumped 15 large bags of whole plants. Each bag was securely tied with a cable tie, to prevent leakage. A box of surgical gloves was provided to be worn underneath the usual gloves to ensure that the most likely point of skin contact would be eliminated as the juice from the plants can damage skin.

See below for a video clip of this work

I chose the space behind the grass dump in the south east corner of NM to place the bags for at least six months to ensure decomposition. This was an excellent heavy job well done. A further two sessions should see this task complete.
The ongoing task of rebuilding the dead hedge along the “S” bend continued under the watchful eye of Terry assisted by Helen Baco and John Hughes. A track made by dogs down to the river near the north end of he dead hedge was blocked with a short section of dead hedge construction. Here’s Terry erecting new fence posts.
In between taking photos of the work activities, Brian helped Dan to identify some of the plants that have recently emerged on Brook Meadow. Here’s a shot of Dan inspecting a growth of Hoary Cress on the bonfire site on the Seagull Lane patch. Interestingly, only two plants have successfully got a hold in the ashes of the old bonfire, namely Hoary Cress and Creeping Thistle.
Tasks not carried out and therefore moved to a later date are –
Mowing the ‘meeting circles’ in the North Meadow.
Re-cutting the scallops in NM and other places – CM and SM and SLP
Reinforcing the informal dead hedge in CM, north west corner.
South meadow servicing eastern edge path and clearing scattered twigs and branches.
North meadow northeast corner clear tree cutting debris and adding to hibernaculum.

Next volunteer work session will be on Thursday 20 May. Details will be circulated beforehand.

Video clip of the removal of Hemlock Water-dropwort


Conservation Work session – Thursday 15th April 2021
Report by Kathy Edwards. Photos by Brian Fellows
Fifteen volunteers (including leader) turned out on this lovely sunny spring morning. It was a calm day and the early slight nip in the air quickly became less evident once everyone started working on their tasks. Kathy was leading and ably assisted by Colin who had kindly co-ordinated the attendees and job list for her in advance.   Most of the volunteers arrived by the start time of 10.00 and we welcomed Beryl to the group.

Following some changes to the pre-assigned task list and a few safety reminders everyone busied themselves with the tasks In hand. The tasks chosen for today were:
1      Continue work on the dead hedge.
2      Distribute the remaining wood chippings on the paths.
3       Litter picking.
4      Collecting wood/bonfire,
5.      Clearing wood piles in the south Meadow
6.      Covering the dead fox in Palmer’s Road Copse .

The dead hedge working party was split into 3 groups. Terry and Reg continued to knock in further stakes . . .

while Pam and Dan sourced suitable willow branches . . .

for Jennifer and Gordon so they could expertly weave the willow branches in between the stakes.

The groups worked very hard at producing an effective and sturdy dead hedge. Hopefully the task will be completed at the next session. In between weaving the new dead hedge Gordon and Jennifer also did some repairs to the lower dead hedge that was obviously being used as a cut way to the main path, collecting some of the material from the long grass nearby.

The last of the wood chippings were finally laid on the paths, with Mike, Nigel and Tony filling and carting the wheelbarrows and Suzanne raking the chipping out on the paths. With very little rain in the last few weeks most of the paths are now fairly dry although there were still a few damp areas that have now benefited from the application of the wood chippings.

Lesley was as diligent as usual in her litter picking and cleaning sign cases, helped today by Beryl.
David S and Colin initially had the unenviable task of covering up the dead fox in Palmers Road Copse. It has now been dead some time and although fairly well hidden it was felt that covering it with branches/wood chippings would allow it to decompose naturally out of sight. David then lent a hand with the cutting of dead hedge material.

While the willow was being cut in the north meadow it was decided that Nigel would cut the small area of grass in front of the fallen willow. Nigel managed to get the power scythe working without any problem after its winter rest and once the cutting was completed helped Colin with raking up the arisings.

This is an ideal area for children to play, climb and picnic. Brian was also pleased to have his favourite sitting area trimmed!
In keeping with current restrictions there was no coffee break and work continued until 11.30 when the tools were packed away. As usual everyone worked really hard and this was a busy and productive work session. The tool store was locked at 11.50.
The next work session is planned for Sunday 2nd May 2021


Conservation Work session – Sunday 28th March 2021
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos by Brian Fellows
Seventeen volunteers (including leader) turned out on an overcast morning with light winds and occasional gusts. The temperature was 10° C at the start of the session and there was no precipitation.
This meeting followed the usual COVID secure session format with no break for coffee and a shorter time span of 90 minutes.
Colin arrived early to unlock HQ and get tools ready. All but two of the volunteers had arrived by 10.00. There was no welcome talk and the register was pre-prepared. Most of the volunteers had communicated their intention to attend so tasks were pre-allocated and started almost immediately.
The tasks chosen for today were a continuation of those from the last session.
1            Spreading chippings on to the muddy paths in the north meadow and Palmers Road Copse
2            Installing posts and weaving the S-bend dead hedge
3          Moving cut branches from the NE corner to the central dump area.
4          Cutting dead Reed Canary-grass from the Butterbur area in the central meadow.
5          Litter picking

Lesley did a litter pick as usual.
Nigel refitted a wheel to one of the wheelbarrows. The tyre had been re-inflated and hopefully will be good for some time.
Kathy and Juliette started by planting some snowdrop bulbs. It is hoped that these will brighten the meadow in late winter. This task was quickly finished and they joined other teams.
Two teams of three worked on spreading wood chippings onto muddy paths. One team in the north meadow by Beryl’s seat and the other in Palmers Road Copse. The mud is beginning to dry but it is hoped that the chippings will encourage walkers to use the paths and not make new bypass routes.

Another two moved the cut wood from the north east corner (task 3). This task is not finished.

Terry led a team of 5 to continue work on the dead hedge (task 2), preparing and fixing posts into position and starting some of the weaving.
Maurice and Mike cut material for weaving between the posts. It is necessary to use freshly cut material for weaving as this will bend without snapping. There is still plenty of hedge to be repaired so this task will continue.
Another team of two/three worked on removing dead Reed Canary-grass  from the Butterbur area. Extreme care was needed to avoid stepping on the flower spikes of which there were plenty.

Thank you Catherine and Juliette

Brian and Dan will count the spikes next week and it is hoped that there will be an increase from last year when the count was low. Some of the arisings were placed at the entrance to the north cut circle. There is evidence of dog disturbance here and this needs to be discouraged to avoid damage to bulbs.
Colin organised the teams to ensure everybody was usefully employed.
The session ended shortly after 11.30 and the tools were packed away. The tool store was locked at 11.50. So ended a good session with good progress on all tasks.
The nest work session is planned for Thursday 15th April 2021.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 18th March 2021
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos by Brian Fellows
Thirteen volunteers (including leader) turned out on an overcast morning with no wind. The temperature was 7° C at the start of the session and there was an exceedingly small amount of precipitation.  This meeting followed the same format as the last COVID secure session with no break for coffee and a shorter time span of 90 minutes.
Colin arrived early to unlock HQ and get tools ready. Some volunteers were already waiting and everyone had arrived by 10.00. There was no welcome talk and the register was pre-prepared. Most of the volunteers had communicated their intention to attend so tasks were pre-allocated and started almost immediately.

Here are some of the volunteers at the start of the session.

Jennifer and Kathy signing a card for Wally and Rosemary Osborne’ 60th Wedding Anniversary.  Well done!   Wally was an original member of the group and former chairman.

Reg moving a trolley full of tools, etc

Terry the axe man

The tasks chosen for today were a continuation of those from the last session.
1            Spreading chippings on to the muddy paths
2            Installing posts and weaving the S-bend dead hedge
3            Erecting a barrier for the flower rich area in the north meadow
4          Litter picking

Kathy led a team of 5 to tackle task 1. The chippings which had been dumped in the Seagull Lane patch by recent tree cutting contractors were barrowed to the muddy paths between the North and Central meadows. The chippings were then raked onto the path. There are still plenty of chippings to be distributed. This task requires a lot of energy partly because the chippings have to be transported a considerable distance to where they are needed.

 

Terry led a team of 3 to continue work on the dead hedge (task 2), preparing and fixing posts into position and starting some of the weaving. There is still plenty of hedge to be repaired so this task will continue.
Maurice led the wildflower task with 2 volunteers. This task is now finished.

Brian wished to do his annual Butterbur flower spike count. But this task required that some of last season’s growth of Reed Canary-grass needed to be cleared away so the spikes could be visible. Despite the help of one volunteer this task proved rather difficult, the reed grass being too tough for a slasher.
It was agreed that at the next session on March 28th we would allocate two volunteers to assist with shears. Care needs to be taken to avoid stepping on the Butterbur flower spikes. Brian is of the view that as long as the count is made by the beginning of April it should not be too late.
Lesley and Jennifer departed to litter pick by Palmers Road car park.
Colin organised the teams to ensure everybody was usefully employed. There is one wheelbarrow wheel that has a soft tyre and this needs to be repaired before the next session.
The session ended shortly after 11.30 and the tools were packed away. The tool store was locked at 11.50.
So ended a good session with good progress on all tasks. Volunteers appeared to enjoy themselves. It is planned to continue sessions with this format for the next couple of months.
The next work session will take place on Sunday 28th March, one week earlier than normal to avoid clashing with Easter Day.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 7th March 2021
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos by Brian Fellows
Sixteen volunteers (including leader) turned out on a dry sunny morning with no wind. The temperature was 7 deg C at the start of the session but with some warmth in the sun it did not feel cold.
This was the first work session of the year. Sessions had been suspended in January and February due to the Covid 19 emergency. However as most volunteers will have received vaccinations and the infection rate falling it was deemed time to start up again with a few precautions.
Colin and Maurice arrived early to unlock HQ and get tools ready. Most of the volunteers arrived by the start time of 10.00. There was no welcome talk and the register was pre-prepared. Most of the volunteers had pre-announced their intention to attend so tasks were pre-allocated and started almost immediately. There was no break for coffee and the session was slightly shorter.
The tasks chosen for today were:
1            Spreading chippings on to the muddy paths
2            Installing posts and weaving the S-bend dead hedge
3            Erecting a barrier for the flower rich area in the north meadow

Volunteers preparing for the work session

Kathy led a team of 5 to tackle task 1. The chippings which had been dumped in the Seagull Lane patch by recent tree cutting contractors were barrowed to the muddy paths between the North and Central meadows. The chippings were then raked onto the path. This area is always very muddy and there remain many more chippings to spread at future sessions.

Job completed

Terry led a team of 6 to continue work on the dead hedge (task 2), preparing and fixing posts into position and starting some of the weaving. This task will be continued at the next session.
Maurice led the wildflower barrier task with 2 volunteers. This area will need further work at future sessions.

Colin organised the teams to ensure everybody was usefully employed and attended to a few minor tasks including erecting notices on the wildflower rich area and applying dry lubricant to padlocks which were becoming corroded with lack of use during the winter months.
The session ended promptly at about 11.30 and the tools were packed away. The tool store was locked at 12.00.
So ended a good session with good progress on the three tasks. Volunteers appeared to enjoy themselves. It is planned to continue sessions with this format for the next couple of months.
The next work session is planned for Thursday 18th March 2021 from 10am to 11.30am. Colin asks anyone who intends to take part in work sessions to contact him first so that the tasks can be planned in advance. colin.brotherston@btinternet.com Phone: 07779 759696


Conservation Work session – Thursday 17th December 2020
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos by Brian Fellows
Fifteen volunteers (including leader) turned out on a dry sunny morning with little wind. Colin was leading at this session, the last of 2020. All the volunteers arrived at the start time of 10.00 and the usual welcome, briefing and safety reminders were soon concluded.
The tasks chosen for today were:
1          Litter picking
2            Burning logs in the centre of the meadow
3          Laying wood chippings on the path in Palmers Road copse
4            Installing posts for the S-bend dead hedge
5            Clearing growth and debris from behind the hedge in Seagull Lane patch
6          Sorting out strimmers

Lesley cheerfully attended to her usual job of litter picking and cleaning sign cases.
Reg had started a bonfire early (about 8.30) and was successfully burning the wet wood. The dampness of the wood meant that the bonfire was slow and steady. He was joined by Maurice and Tony who helped feed the fire.

Kathy led a team of two (Gordon and Catherine) to Palmers Road copse to tackle task 3. The chippings which had been dumped haphazardly by recent tree cutting contractors were barrowed to the muddy path by the south bridge. The chippings were then raked onto the path.
Terry and Dean commenced work on the dead hedge preparing and fixing posts into position.

Pam and David started work on clearing behind the hedge as per task 5. This was a messy task with many very prickly brambles and wild rose growths. The rear of the hedge can only be accessed at one place and debris was moved out to form a pile for future burning. Colin also assisted with this task.

Dan and the other two Davids worked on the strimmers. There are two petrol strimmers and one hedge cutter. By the end of the session they had managed to get all three working and David S started work on the river bank.
No coffee break at this session but we finished work early at 11.30 and enjoyed hot punch supplied by Dan with mince pies and stollen bits supplied by Maurice.

At this point Jennifer was able to join us.

Maurice was presented with a card to celebrate his 80th birthday and he also provided a glass of sparkling wine.

After much discussion and good cheer folk drifted away.
The session ended at about 12.20 and the tools were packed away. The tool store was locked at 12.15.
Reg and Terry returned to ensure that the bonfire was safely extinguished.
So ended a good session with many tasks progressed and much achieved.

Video clip of the Xmas celebration


Wildlife observations during the workday – from Brian
Holm Oak
During the work session Colin pointed out a young Holm Oak sapling growing by the western approach to the south bridge.   It looks healthy, though whether this is the best place for a tree that will grow to 25 metres tall is questionable. Maybe it could be transplanted?

There are several Holm Oaks saplings along side the path immediately outside the south gate, but they are not on the Brook Meadow site. As far as I am aware there is only one other Holm Oak sapling on the meadow site – on the river bank on the north path.
Holm Oak is a large evergreen tree with glossy Holly-like leaves, especially when young as in this case. It is often called Evergreen Oak. It produces clusters of 1-3 pale green narrowly oval acorns. It was introduced to this country about 400 years ago from the Mediterranean region. It is native in the south, but widely planted in parks, etc.

 Mystery fungus
While loading up the bonfire with dead timber Maurice spotted a growth of a soft yellow jelly-like fungus on a branch of Crack Willow. My fungus identification app on my iPhone came up with two possibilities: Common Jellyspot (Dacrymyces stillatus) and Yellow Brain Fungus (Tremella mesenterica). Both these are common in the British Isles and grow on dead and rotting timber.
Of these two, my very tentative identification is Yellow Brain Fungus which is the right size and colour for the Brook Meadow sample. It is golden yellow and gelatinous when damp turning orange. It vaguely resembles the structure of a brain and is also known as ‘Witches Butter’.   It is not our first example of Yellow Brain Fungus on the meadow. I recall Mike finding some during on a workday on 5 January this year. Interestingly, Yellow Brain Fungus feeds not on the dead timber itself, but upon the crust fungi that themselves are feeding on the wood. Hence it is classed as a parasite fungus.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 6th December 2020
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos by Brian Fellows
Twelve volunteers (including leader) turned out on a dry partially sunny but chilly morning with little wind. Colin was leading assisted by Maurice at this session, the first after the November lockdown. All of the volunteers arrived at the start time of 10.00 and the usual welcome, briefing and safety reminders were soon concluded.
The tasks chosen for today were:
1          Litter picking
2          Moving logs of recently felled trees
3          Laying wood chippings on grass paths
4            Installing posts for the S-bend dead hedge
The working party split into 2 main groups.
Maurice supervised a team of four clearing up logs and fallen wood. The larger logs were moved to the Seagull Lane Gate where they are available for the public use in wood burning stoves.

The remainder commenced barrowing wood chippings from a pile in the Seagull Lane Patch to the west grass path in the North Meadow and raking them over the mud.

Lesley cheerfully attended to her usual job of litter picking and cleaning sign cases.
Coffee break was at 11.00 at the Tool Store, with drinks and biscuits kindly supplied and competently dispensed by Pam as usual.

After coffee most of the volunteers returned to finish off their previous tasks, with Terry and Dan starting to make progress with the dead hedge.
Nigel continued moving logs, this time to the Lumley Lane gate.
The remainder continued with the wood chippings task and by 12.00 they had completed the entire length of the path in the North Meadow and had used all the chippings. There are more paths waiting for wood chipping if we get any more.

Terry and Dan continued with the dead hedge where there is plenty of work to be done.

The session ended at 12.00 and the tools were packed away. The tool store was locked at 12.15.
The next work session is planned for Thursday 17th December.

Video clips of the work . . .


Conservation Work session – Sunday 1st November 2020
Report by Kathy Edwards. Photos by Colin Brotherston
Fifteen volunteers (including leader) turned out on a cloudy but warm morning with little wind. While the preceding week has been very wet and it was soggy underfoot, there was thankfully only one light sprinkling of rain during the morning. Kathy was leading for the first time and the encouragement from the other volunteers was much appreciated. She was ably assisted by Colin and Maurice, who helped to make this a busy and productive session. Most of the volunteers arrived at the start time of 10.00 and the usual welcome, briefing and safety reminders were soon concluded.
The tasks chosen for today were:
1          Rake up vegetation cut over a week ago on the southernmost section of south meadow (SM4) as well as clear brambles/fallen wood on part of this patch.
2          Cut grass from middle of paths at Seagull lane, together with areas of encroaching brambles on the side.
3            Clearing areas of fallen wood on the south west corner of the north meadow.
4          Mow area next to Mike’s hedge once branches removed.

The working party split into 3 main groups. There was a good demonstration of social distancing today, with a group of volunteers at either end of the meadow and one in the middle. There was also the excitement of the air ambulance helicopter landing on the north meadow and remaining for some time while the paramedics attended to a patient in a nearby road.
Maurice supervised a team clearing up the branches and fallen wood. Some of the branches were substantial and these were sawn into more manageable lengths, the larger ones being put out for the public to use.

Nigel undertook task 2 with the power scythe. He was well assisted by David S who raked up the grass and brambles once mown.
The group raking up the vegetation in the south meadow needed their muscles today as it was very sodden and heavy to rake and carry. Getting the branches out of the brambles added to the challenge of the task but everyone worked hard to clear the area.
Lesley and Jennifer cheerfully attended to the job of litter picking and cleaning sign cases.
Coffee break was at 11.00 at Beryl’s seat, with drinks and biscuits kindly supplied and competently dispensed by Pam as usual. Kathy brought butterfly cakes and rock buns which were enjoyed by all.
After coffee most of the volunteers returned to finish off their previous tasks, with Terry helping Dan to cart some of the larger wood up to the gates and Pam and Debi raking up brambles that Nigel had cut at the Seagull Lane area.

Colin returned to the south meadow with Tricia and Juliette to finish clearing up.

Job done!

Nigel continued his sterling work with the power scythe, mowing the area by Mike’s hedge that was now clear of branches, as well as mowing some of the pathways.
The session ended at 12.00 and the tools were packed away. The tool store was locked at 12.20.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 15th October 2020
Report by Reg Newnham.  Photos by Brian Fellows
Ten volunteers (including leader) turned out on a wonderful Autumn day with sunshine all morning (Dan arrived after the group photo had been taken).  The meadow temp. was 15 C. Reg Newnham was leading. There was one new volunteer – Matthew – at the front of the group. Welcome!
After the usual brief welcome the tasks for the session were described.
The main task was to rake and remove the meadow cuttings from the Lumley wild flower area on the centre meadow which had been cut some time ago, as the seed heads had now fallen.

The cuttings were hauled away to the dump.

Nigel operated the power scythe to trim off some of the remaining standing areas.
A welcome stop for coffee at 11.00 with a good selection of biscuits. Thank you, Pam., The coffee Break was held in the area that we were clearing.
After coffee we continued as before & we completed all the arisings removal. At 12.10 tools were returned to HQ as the session finished. HQ was finally secured at 12.20

Today, Westbourne Primary School arranged for a class of children to enjoy the Meadow, at first hand. For safety sake, our work parties moved away from the area they were exploring. It was arranged that when further visits were planned they would contact, our Chairman, Colin Brotherston to ensure all parties remained safe.
Video clip of volunteers clearing the Lumley area.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 11th October 2020
Report and photos by Brian Fellows
This morning 7 volunteers assembled at 10am at the HQ for an extra work session to the planned schedule – mainly to catch up with some raking and clearing of cut grass on the wild flower area on the north meadow which could not be done last Sunday due to wet weather.   The weather today was perfect, warm with bright sunshine.  The session continued for just 1 hour with no break for refreshments.   Kathy was leading. New volunteer John was welcomed. Here is the group at the start of the session
Dan arrived a too late for the group photo

All the volunteers set about the task with great gusto and enthusiasm, raking, hauling and dumping.

 

 

Kathy at the end of the session doing the paper work

Reg and Jennifer arrived at the end of the session, Jennifer looking fit and well following her new hip operation.

Video clip of the clearing and raking work


Conservation Work session – Sunday 4th October 2020
. . . CALLED OFF . . .
Report and photos by Brian Fellows
A group of 9 volunteers braved the steady rain to assemble for today’s work session at 10am on Brook Meadow. They were greeted by leader Colin Brotherston who had planned to rake up and clear the arisings from the recent cutting of the wild flower area on the north meadow. However, after some discussion it was decided that this task would be too difficult and hazardous to carry out in the present weather conditions, so the work session was called off, leaving the cuttings in situ for a more suitable occasion.
This is the first work session that I can recall for many years that has had to be cancelled due to bad weather.  Here is the wet, but happy group of 8. Jennifer left before the photo was taken.
Notwithstanding the rain, Lesley arrived with her trusty litter picker and trolley and she and Catherine set about scouring the meadow for litter and giving the signcases as rub over.

Colin collecting up the leaflet boxes

Wildlife observations
I showed Colin the site on the Seagull Lane patch where I had scattered seedheads from the Greater Burdock (Articium lappa) plants on the Washington Road path. We felt it would be valuable to try to grow some of these locally rare plants on the Brook Meadow site as they are under threat from the planned Cold Harbour Farm housing development. We already have a good colony of the more common Lesser Burdock (Arctium minus) nearby.
Pink and white flowered Common Comfrey plants are out on the river bank.

Yesterday, I heard a Cetti’s Warbler singing from the scrubby area on the west side of the river south of the S-bend. This often heard, but rarely seen, bird is a regular spring visitor to Brook Meadow but is unusual at this time of the year.
This has been a particularly good year for Cetti’s Warbler on Brook Meadow with 18 sightings/hearings between April and June, sometimes with two and even three birds present.
Nearby I spotted a Chiffchaff working its way through the foliage of the Willow trees. This is probably a bird getting ready to migrate to the Mediterranean for the winter – lucky chap!


Conservation Work session – Thursday 17th September 2020
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos by Brian Fellows
It was the first open meeting following the publication of new rules that limited social groups to six. However, the first exception listed excluded the necessary activities of charitable organisations which clearly included work parties of organisations such as Brook Meadow Conservation group. It was therefore a relief when ten volunteers, including Julia Birkett, joined me at HQ on a warm Autumn morning, evidently keen to find out what was planned for them. A glance at the three wheelbarrows already laden with rakes, hay forks, loppers, saws, beware signs and carry bags put off nobody which was quite a relief to me as leader. Brian recorded a photograph of those present.
I had planned nine tasks in case hordes of volunteers appeared, but It was decided to tackle just four of these, as follows:-,
Litter picking. Lesley had already arrived armed with a shopping trolley filled with the necessary tools for the job so, there was no need to ask for a volunteer.
Brian donated 50 Snakes Head Fritillary bulbs that he suggested could be planted in the north mowed circle in NM.  Suzanne agreed to do this helped by Gordon, forming holes in the hard ground and watched over by Brian. All went smoothly.  Now to wait for the flowers!!

Everyone else, (Pam, Terry, Colin, Karen, Kathy, Julia, Dan and I) raked up the arisings from the vegetation cutting on SM1 that had been done on 6th and finished on 12th September (by Nigel). The raked material was gathered into carry bags, carry sheets and armfuls and dumped nearby on a large pile of twig and branch prunings.

All this material needed compressing for stability. This was started by Terry at ground level but the best sight was of Kathy standing on top, about 2metres above path level vigorously stamping on the accumulation of nettle, bramble, bindweed, fleabane, Stitchwort,meadowsweet and such.
We pruned several dead twigs and branches of Elder Buckthorn, planted there to provide food for the larvae of Brimstone Butterflies and tasty berries for our avian residents.
Gathering branch prunings from trees along the gravel path running through South Meadow. Reducing large branches to approx. 1metre long pieces, placed near Lumley Gate for anyone with a wood burner to take for fuel. Small branches placed on debris pile.
At 11.00 we all gathered at the raised path seat for some welcome refreshment and socially distanced chatting.
As usual drinks were supplied by Pam and her usual tin of tasty bikkies (Jammy dodgers, Jaffa cakes and digestives). It was great to be joined by a remarkably sprightly Jennifer. She was also seen carrying armfuls of cut vegetation to the dump point.

Dan got his apples ready for the Water Vole rafts.

We were pleased to greet our Council Litter man Robert doing his job thoroughly as usual.  Thank you.

After the break, the volunteers returned to their previous tasks before returning tools to HQ, where they were checked and re hung.

Video clips of the work . . .

The next volunteer work session is on Sunday 4 October 2020. All existing and any new volunteers would be most welcome. Meeting at HQ at 09.55 to be briefed on selected tasks. Refreshments provided. Instruction and use of tools will be given and first aiders will be present.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 6th September 2020
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos and wildlife  by Brian Fellows
The weather was almost exactly as forecast with almost no wind, sunshine appearing from behind clouds and a pleasant Autumn temperature of 18ºC. 10 volunteers including the leader, arrived at HQ at 10.00 for a briefing of the morning’s planned work.
The first task was for Pam, Debi and Juliette to rake the grass and other vegetation lying on Seagull Lane Patch which had been cut on two previous ad hoc visits by Nigel and Maurice. The arisings were gathered in bags and dumped at the north end of SLP.
In parallel with this, a second task took the power scythe driven by Nigel down to the north section of South Meadow for its planned cut.
It was necessary to remove a quantity of tree pruning debris hiding in the nettles, brambles and bindweed, and dumped on a nearby pile by Dan, Terry and Gordon. This trio also tidied up a pile of other tree pruning debris from another earlier task that had removed three branches near Lumley Gate to increase headroom. This pile was on the site of an old grass dump in the north east corner of South Meadow near the Weeping Willow and Red Plum Tree. Other tree pruning debris from a victim of Ash Die-back was also placed here.

After this tree debris clearance Dan, Terry and Gordon raked the arisings, from Nigel’s mowing, into rows for future gathering and dumping.
Whilst all this was happening, Lesley and Brenda carried out a thorough litter pick.
At 11.00 we all gathered for some welcome refreshment and socially distanced chatting. As usual drinks were supplied by Pam with a large variety of biscuits. It was great to be joined by Jennifer looking remarkably fit after her recently acquired new hip.
After the break, the volunteers returned to their previous tasks before returning tools to HQ.
During a visit to the Meadow yesterday, Nigel and I found several wasps nests, hence the most recent warning sign fixed at each entrance. Nigel and the power scythe discovered another such nest this morning, the inhabitants of which took exception to this and responded as they are wont to do.
The next volunteer work session is on Thursday 17 September 2020. All existing and any new volunteers would be most welcome. Meeting at HQ at 09.55 to be briefed on selected tasks. Refreshments provided. Instruction and use of tools will be given and first aiders will be present.

Wildlife observations from Brian
Blackbird’s nest
Terry drew my attention to a bird’s nest that he discovered during the clearance on the south meadow. The nest was sturdy construction woven with grass and dried mud and firmly attached to a Bramble spur.
The bowl of the nest was lined with grass which identified it as a Blackbird’s nest in contrast to a Song Thrush’s nest which would have a smooth mud inner surface. We left the nest in situ for others to see. The nest is unlikely to be used again as most birds generally make a new nest for each brood.
Fighting Wasps
As I was walking through the centre meadow my attention was caught by a couple of Common Wasps fighting on the ground right in front of me. The focus of the conflict appeared to be a Flesh-fly which one Wasp had caught. I managed to capture some of the fighting which lasted a good couple of minutes on the following video clip. Personally, I have never witnessed this behaviour in Wasps before, though there are a couple of other videos of Wasps fighting on YouTube.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 20th August 2020
Report by Reg Newnham. Photos and wildlife  by Brian Fellows
Nine volunteers (including leader) turned out on a calm summer’s morning. This was after the previous day’s very heavy rain. Therefore, in places, the ground was saturated, but in view of the amount of perception the paths were surprisingly not too sodden. The weather, sunny and joyous after yesterday’s rain. The temperature was a steady 24°C all morning. Reg Newnham was leading. We welcomed Karen as a new volunteer. Terry arrived after the group photo was taken.
After the usual brief welcome the tasks were described.
1. To use some of the wood chippings to improve the pathway by the River at Palmer’s Road Copse. Maurice Lillie led that party.
The wood chippings were taken from the pile on the Seagull Lane patch

and transported to Palmer’s Road Copse in wheelbarrows by Maurice and Dave

2. Remove the side growth from the pathways. The rain had beaten this summer’s growth down so that the paths had become narrow and restricted.

3. Make a start on clearing the tangled growth of vegetation from the river bank below the north bridge.

A welcome stop for coffee at 11.00 with a good selection of biscuits. Well done, 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 from Brian
While in Palmer’s Road Copse I looked in vain for any sign of Water Voles.
Wren and Woodpigeon were singing.
The red berries of Bittersweet were hanging like jewels from trees on the west bank.
I spotted a Great Pied Hoverfly (Volucella pellucens) resting on a leaf. This large hoverfly is distinctive in having white band across the top of its black abdomen. It is probably the easiest hoverfly to identify! See photo below . . .
A Dock Leaf Bug (Coreus marginatus) was sunbathing on a leaf along the north path.

As Terry was clearing the river bank near the north bridge, he found a tiny Ladybird on a sprig of Common Nettle. From the large number of dark spots on its slightly hairy wing cases my guess is 24-Spot. I am open to correction!
The clearance of the river bank revealed the regular crop of flowering Purple Loosestrife which I had previously not been able to see. That takes the total number of herbaceous plants recorded on Brook Meadow this year to 128.
I had hoped to find Blue Water-speedwell which I have seen in the river at this point in previous years, but it may be still hidden further south.
Colin and I had a look for the Pepper-saxifrage on the east side of the Lumley area and were delighted to find two plants in flower in the regular spot where the path goes down to the Lumley Stream. Previously I had only found one in flower further to the south. However, this must not disguise the fact that this rare meadow indicator appears to be in decline on Brook Meadow.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 2nd August 2020
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos by Brian Fellows
Fourteen volunteers (including leader) turned out on a cloudy still morning. Little light wind and pleasant temperature. Temperature typical for the time of year. Colin was leading assisted by Maurice and Reg. All the volunteers arrived at the start time of 10.00. The usual welcome, briefing and safety reminders was rapidly concluded.
The tasks chosen for today were:
1          Cut overhanging branches from fallen tree by the North Bridge.
2          Cut grass from around Frank’s seat and in the circles in the North Meadow.
3          Mark areas to be mown next Tuesday.
4          Clear overhanging growth in the route to the central grass dump.
5          Clear growth from around the trees were the bat boxes are mounted.
6            Replace leaflet box at the Seagull Lane entrance.
Leslie was not available to do the litter pick. She hopes to be able to do this later the following week.
The working party split into groups.
Maurice and Reg supervised a team to attend to task 1. This was a tricky job as the branch to be trimmed was high and possibly unstable. Further some of the branches which were to be removed were heavy. A ladder was used and a rope to ensure the sawn-off branches were lowered safely.
Nigel took the power scythe to Frank’s seat and attended to task 2.

The area around Frank’s seat was raked by Juliet

While the mowing was being done Kathy started the task of removing the wooden barrier from around the flower rich area.

This was not identified as a task for today, but it was a good opportunity to get it done. The summer growth made this a taxing task and many volunteers got involved.

Two volunteers disappeared into the wood to attend to task 5 and one attended to task 3.
At 11.00 coffee and biscuits kindly supplied by Pam (not present today) and apple cake brought by Kathy, was dispensed at Frank’s seat.

After coffee most volunteers got involved with the task of dismantling the wooden barrier and dragging the wood to the pile at the Central Meadow dump.

A pile of twigs from the barrier

Dan and Nigel departed with the power scythe to mow the area under the trees by the S-bend.
The tree work was completed successfully.
Colin attached a new leaflet box to the Seagull Lane gate in the hope that it will attract new members and not be the subject of further abuse.
The session ended at 12.00 and the tools were packed away. The tool store was locked at 12.30.
The next workday will be on Thursday 20th August.

Other news from Brian
Annual cut
Colin informed us that Martin Cull will be coming to Brook Meadow with his large cut and collect tractor on Tuesday arriving at 10.30am to carry out the annual cutting of the grassland. That’s good news.  Martin will cut about half of the grassland and the remaining areas of the meadow will be cut by volunteers once the wild plants have finished flowering.   Tricia managed to find and mark the location of the tree stump on the centre meadow so Martin can avoid hitting it.

Water Vole rafts
Dan and Terry installed a second Water Vole raft in the river close to the first one, near the reeds on the north bend.   Dan already has installed a raft on the Lumley Stream, so that’s three we have on the meadow.
Dan has been using a trail camera to check the visitors to the Lumley Stream raft. The apple bait is regularly taken by a Fox, but there has been no sightings of Water Voles.   Unfortunately Dan’s trail camera became waterlogged, but he hopes to get another one – properly waterproofed!
While watching Dan install the Water Vole raft I noticed a good crop of Gipsywort in flower on the east bank behind the Branched Bur-reeds.

Bats
David Search has examined the bat boxes in Lumley copse and all are intact on the trees where they were installed. He’s waiting for Nik Knight to carry out an examination of the inside of the boxes. David  told me that we have three species of Pipistrelle bats on the meadow, Common, Soprano and Nathusius.

Hoary Ragwort is now in flower on the orchid area and the Lumley area. But there’s no sign of any Cinnabar caterpillars!!
Colin pointed out a fresh growth of Reed Canary-grass in front of the laid Hawthorn hedgerow on the north meadow.


Special work session – Saturday 18th July 2020
Report and photos by Brian Fellows
Maurice Lillie called an impromptu work session for 10am this morning to deal with two trunks of a large Crack Willow that had fallen onto the small Hazel copse near the north bridge. Five volunteers responded to Maurice’s request: Nigel, Terry, Dan, Reg and Pam. They set about trimming off the smaller branches of the two trunks to relive the pressure on the Hazels and removing the cuttings to a pile nearby.   I took photos of the work.

The fallen Willow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cutting the fallen tree back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Job finished

The cutting work revealed a good number of Mossy Willow Galls. I counted a total of 14, though there could well have been others that I missed. Some of the galls were quite large, up to 4 ins (10cm) wide, and ball shaped, resembling, Maurice thought, a Long-tailed Tit nest. This gall is an abnormally distorted catkin and is probably caused by a virus or phytomplasma, though the precise nature of the causer has not yet been identified.
For more wildlife observations from the morning go to . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/meadow-blog/


Conservation Work session – Thursday 16th July 2020
Report by Reg Newnham. Photos by Brian Fellows
Twelve volunteers (including leader) turned out on a still summer morning. The sky was overcast but dry, with a mean temperature of 20 C.
Reg Newnham was leading, with the help of Kathy Edwards who was shadowing with a view to leading the work parties soon. There were no new volunteers. After the usual brief welcome the tasks were described.
The two tasks planned.
1. The bank of the southern part of the River Ems by the South Bridge has already been reinforced with chestnut palings and back filled with donated hard core in 2019/20. Unfortunately, between placing the hardcore and surface capping (Covid 19 lockdown) some of the hardcore material was removed by vandals and dumped in the river.  Kathy led a small party to retrieve this material and barrow it to the North Meadow to reinforce the path which is subsiding. The river is low at present and with waders most of this material was retrieved. However, the bed became very cloudy and we will have to complete this task at the next session.

2. The summer meadow growth along the Eastern border had been cut and most of the work party raked up this material to the designated dumps.  This clearance work has opened up the Gwynne Johnson Rowan plantation.  The trees are covered in bunches of red berries

A short branch off this path leads to Lumley stream and this was also raked.

The finished track leads to the Lumley Stream

3. Lesley collected litter and cleaned the three signcases. Here she is at the south signcase.  Spot the friendly Robin on the red sign.
A welcome stop for coffee at 11.00 with a good selection of biscuits. Thank you, Pam. The coffee break was held at Beryl’s seat.
After coffee, work continued with all members raking in the north-east corner.

At 11.55 all tools were returned to HQ and a productive session was finished. HQ was finally secured at 12.00.

Wildlife observations
Brian was most excited to discover a very good patch of Giant Fescue (Festuca gigantea), a tall grass with characteristic loose nodding panicles beneath tall Crack Willow trees at the start of the path going north from the centre meadow at Grid Ref: SU 75085 06079. This grass is rare on Brook Meadow and has previously only been seen in a small amount in Palmer’s Road Copse.
For more on this and other observations go to . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/meadow-blog/


Conservation Work session – Sunday 5th July 2020
Report by Colin Brotherston.  Photos by Brian Fellows
This is the first official volunteer work session since the start of the C19 restrictions.
Twelve volunteers (including leader) turned out on a sunny but breezy summer morning. The weather was mostly sunny and warm with light but significant wind. Temperature typical for the time of year. Colin was leading assisted by Maurice. All the volunteers arrived at the slightly later start time of 10.00. The usual welcome, briefing and safety reminders was rapidly concluded.
The meadow has experience plenty of growth during our period of reduced management and so there are many tasks available.
The tasks chosen for today were:
1 Litter pick and clean sign cases.
2. Cut back growth from paths in the South Meadow.
3. Remove and cut wood from the fallen tree in between the North and Central Meadows to make the main path more passable.
4 Clear debris (mostly wood) from the route to the central grass dump.
5 Remove growth of the cherry plum which is crowding one of the two new birch trees.
Leslie arrived to do the litter pick as usual. She stayed until coffee time.

The working party split into two groups.
Maurice supervised a team of four (including himself) to attend to task 3 and 4.

The remainder headed to the South Meadow with shears and scythes to clear growth from paths.

Particular attention was given to the path along the bund along the eastern boundary. The brambles were cut back towards said bund to widen the path.

Brian was on hand to rescue to clump of Marsh Woundwort which only grows at this spot on the meadow. A map must be prepared with plants of interest marked so they can be encouraged.  Sadly, some Marsh Woundwort was cut, but there’s plenty more to come.
At 11.00 coffee and biscuits kindly supplied by Pam was dispensed at Frank’s seat.

We were pleased to welcome Jennifer just after coffee.

After coffee a couple of volunteers attended to task 5. There is still more cherry plum to remove but a good start was made.
Maurice and Nigel attended to a tough lump of concrete which has become a hazard on the river path. They broke it up and levelled the path surface. (Many thanks from Brian)
Dan decided to replace the Perspex sheet on the south notice board. He requested that more sheets are ordered of both sizes to make good damage. (dog scratches in this case)
Dan with a new signcase window

Jennifer helping Dan to move the window through the meadow
– with Reed Canary-grass in the background.

What shall we do with the damaged window?
The remainder continued to clear paths in the South Meadow were good progress was made. It will be possible to mow the paths at a later work session.
The session ended at 12.00 and the tools were packed away. The tool store was locked at 12.15.

Extra notes from Brian
During coffee break, Lesley showed us one of the silver canisters which she has been finding hundreds all over Emsworth. It is thought they contain the gas nitrous oxide, also known as ‘laughing gas’, which used to be used in dentistry and is now on general sale as an agent in whipped cream dispensers. Apparently, they are freely available and are used by youngsters to get a ‘high’.

Jennifer and I accompanied Dan to the Lumley Stream where he has installed a special Water Vole raft. We watched as Dan placed fresh pieces of apple on the raft – a fruit much loved by Water Voles. Dan reports that previous apple pieces had been nibbled and removed, but by what we don’t yet know.   However, he plans to mount a trail camera on a nearby tree to catch the creature in question. Let’s hope it is a Water Vole. So watch this space!

Wildlife observations – from Brian
I managed to get a nice shot of a first summer female Large White with distinctive spots on its upper wings.  The male has none.
On the way home, I met Dave and David at the top of Seagull Lane looking upwards at several Swifts flying overhead. Dave counted five which is a good number in this year of scarcity of this species.


TUESDAY JUNE 16 – 2020
Volunteers Work Session
Report by Maurice Lillie.  Photos by Brian Fellows
Delighted to report five successful clearing up jobs.
The first was to reinforce the raised path bank with a quantity of hardcore, in the north west corner of North Meadow. Neill and Geoffrey drew the short straw, as they arrived first and barrowed a dozen shopping bags of material to the selected place.
Neill, Geoffrey and Dean moved the last few barrow loads of scalpings from the Car park, to surface the reclaimed section of River Ems bank in Palmer’s Road Copse. We plan to finish off the surface with topsoil to encourage vegetation.
The third task was the removal of the clearance debris around the sadly affected Ash Die-back trees, near the bench seat overlooking the Central Meadow. The ground vegetation relocated to the main dump in North Meadow and the dead wood from the trees placed near a bonfire location for burning in due course. NB this is well away from any other Ash Trees. This was able carried out by Kathy, Pam and Terry, Dean helped after finishing in PRC.

Pam and Kathy

Dan, assisted by Geoffrey removed the last pieces of tree debris from removal of branches off the Goat Willow in the north east corner of South Meadow.
The last job, raking and dumping the grass arisings following mowing the second ‘circle’ in north meadow. All three mowed areas in North Meadow will be cut several more times this year, as it in previous years, to discourage dominant course grasses and encourage wild flowers and herbs.
Huge thanks to the bunch of volunteers who responded to the call. Watch this space for news of more mini tasks.


THURSDAY JUNE 11 – 2020
Volunteers Work Session

Report by Maurice Lillie.  Photos by Brian Fellows
Continuation of the work started yesterday reinforcing the river bank in Palmer’s Road Copse
The English weather in the shape of a torrential downpour arrived just in time to spoil an otherwise perfect conclusion to our task of the day. This was to have been adding the final layer of material to the backfilling of the chestnut piles that reinforce the eroded section of Ems riverbank in Palmer’s Road Copse. About another half hour on another day will see it completed.
Huge thanks go to Terry, Colin, Dean, Neill and Tony for collecting tools from HQ narrowing them to PRC, and back again afterwards.

Colin and Neill loading up the barrows with gravel

Tony wheeling the materials down to the river bank

Maurice and Terry spreading the new material to reinforce the river bank
The result will be a slightly raised section of path through the copse to minimise the sometimes flooded part. No doubt this will be tested before long.


WEDNESDAY JUNE 10 – 2020
Volunteers Work Session

Report by Maurice Lillie.  Photos by Brian Fellows 
Three short tasks this morning.
The first was to complete the re levelling of the gravel surfaces to the recently installed steps down to Frank’s Seat in north Meadow. Terry had done most of this a week ago but had run out of time so, David S completed it. Two barrow loads of gravel had to be wheel barrowed from Seagull Lane Patch for this.
Second, Tony used the power scythe to clear the vegetation around the sickly Ash trees near the central seat, to enable David S to have access for cutting off dead wood from these Ash Trees. The wood will be burnt in due course, hopefully to destroy the Ash Die-back fungus within the wood.

A view of the diseased Ash trees

Tony clearing the grasses from around the trees.  David cutting off dead branches

Meanwhile the third task was being carried out by David Mc, Colin, Dean and Terry. This was a tough job breaking hardcore and levelling it behind the chestnut piles placed along the riverbank in Palmers Road Copse to stop further erosion. Part of this task was to wade into the river and retrieve hardcore that had been thrown some while ago after the first loads of stone and broken brick had been laid.

Colin and Terry clearing bricks and rubble from the river

Breaking up the larger bricks

Job finished

All this is in readiness for some scalpings that are scheduled to be delivered tomorrow by Buildbase. Another team of volunteers will arrive then to cart and spread this material over the hardcore to provide a new surface at path level in the copse above all but the highest flood water.


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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