Conservation News – 2019 (current)

Conservation work on Brook Meadow
Management of Brook Meadow is essential to maintain an appropriate habitat for wildlife and to enhance the biodiversity of the site. To achieve this, the conservation group works in co-operation with the local Council and other agencies to keep the meadow in good order both for wildlife and for public use. It holds regular conservation work sessions to manage grassland, scrub and woodland and, generally, to keep the meadow clean and tidy. The rivers are primarily managed by the Environment Agency to maintain a good flow of water, avoid flooding, and to create a good habitat for fish, Water Voles and other riparian wildlife.

For Brian’s wildlife observations go to . . .
https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/wildlife-news/


Volunteer work sessions
Regular conservation work sessions on Brook Meadow take place on the 1st Sunday and the 3rd Thursday of each month throughout the year.  For a trial period starting in January 2019, work sessions will start 30 minutes earlier than usual at 9.30am with a guaranteed finish time of 12 noon. Everyone is welcome and tools are provided. We meet at the new tool store HQ at the end of Seagull Lane. Safety for all volunteers is a priority and risk assessments by trained members are given at each session. There is a break when refreshments are served.
The main tasks include cutting and clearing of the grassland and scrub, removing broken tree branches and keeping pedestrian paths open and clear of obstacles. Clearing litter is a priority. Children and students from local schools and colleges are welcome to join in for work experience.
Special work session are also organised from time to time e.g. hedge-laying
For further details call Jennifer Rye – 01243 376926


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Conservation Work session – Sunday 2 June 2019
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
10 volunteers arrived to hear what tasks had been line up for them. This included two new volunteers Vince and Susan. The tasks were related to the sudden spurt in growth of grasses and associated vegetation. Informal grass paths needed to be cut and their sides trimmed back, especially in regard to nettles and thistles that seem to respond to the adjacent open spaces of paths and grow into them. This can make a pleasant stroll through the meadow less pleasant than it ought to be. Dan had arranged to replace some of the Common Reed rhizomes that that had been planted along the riverbank but had perished in the prolonged periods of not enough rain.
The general growth spurt had crowded several young trees – three native Cherry trees and two silver Birches, which needed to be dealt with.
The riverbank restoration work by our contractor, needed to be back filled with rubble so that the adjacent path could remain drier for longer and hopefully throughout the year.
The tools selected were shears, rakes and loppers for the path sides and clearance around trees, power scythe for mowing.
Brian reported on the orchids in North meadow and Lumley Area of Central Meadows, whose numbers are rivalling those of last year. He then took the usual photograph of the assembled volunteers.  The photo does not include Nigel who was using the power scythe and Susan who arrived late.

Nigel set off early to cut the paths in South Meadow ahead of the army of path edge clearers.
The army, comprising Pam, Diana, Vince, Debi, Susan and Kathy, occupied themselves by removing the fierce nettle and bramble growth around the cherry trees before setting off for the South Meadow paths.

Vince also joined the army of ladies

It was a delight to find Jennifer and dog Flynn sitting on Frank’s seat.
**  See Jennifer’s poetic reflections on the meadow at the end of this report.
Dan and Terry clad in waders from chest to foot, descended into the Ems and waded along to carry out the replanting of new Reed rhizomes at water’s edge.
At 10.50 ish we broke for a well earned hot drink and biscuits, served by Pam, ably assisted by Jennifer. Thank you, ladies.
Tony and David collected the handcart from Dan’s house and collected several cart loads of brick and similar rubble, then tugged the laden cart along various paths to Palmers Road Copse to dump their load. Terry joined the hardcore gang and continued to transport heavy material to Palmer’s Road Copse.
Nigel continued mowing this time extending the EA flood barrier route.   The grass shearing army transferred their affections to the areas around the Rowan Plantation.
At noon work stopped and the tools were returned to the tool store (HQ) cleaned and put in their appointed places. Everyone was thanked for a hard morning’s work.

A reflection in verse of the morning’s joy from Jennifer
A corner of England, dear as it can be,
All June in flower, delighting eye and ear
The waving grass, the gentle breeze,
The trilling birds, the butterflies a-flutter,
People walking through and tasting nature’s sweetness,
And sunshine, pale gold everywhere.
Our own small Paradise. How it lifts the heart.


Wildlife observations
I noticed several Ladybird larvae on nettle leaves along the main river path. I think this one is the larva of a Harlequin Ladybird and appears to be preying on a small mite. Or is it the other way round?
I spotted several shield bugs on the nettle leaves including these two Dock Leaf Bugs mating.
This attractive Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) rested on a leaf for a photo. It is fairly common on Brook Meadow in summer.

Just after our coffee break, Pauline Bond arrived with a request to see the Brook Meadow orchids. I jumped at the chance, for I just love showing people our beautiful orchids. After looking at and admiring the Southern Marsh and the Common Spotted Orchids on the main orchid area, we went down to the Lumley area to have a look at the Bee Orchids.
While we were walking on the path round the Lumley area, I happened to spot a tuft of the grass Crested Dog’s-tail with well developed panicles growing right on the path where people walk.   Wow!   That was a good find. Things got even better, for as we continued to walk along the path we found another three tufts of this attractive grass. Not an easy subject to photograph!
I picked a piece to show to the rest of the conservation group asking them to take special care when working in that area and certainly not to cut the path. Crested Dog’s-tail is a rare grass on Brook Meadow and has not been recorded since 2016 and only occasionally before that date. Thank you Pauline; if it was not for you asking to see the Bee Orchids I might well have missed this grass.
Many other grasses are now flowering and creating a fine spectacle including False Oat-grass and Cocksfoot which has red tinged anthers as shown in this photo.


Brook Meadow at the Pallant Gallery
If you are in Chichester next Thursday afternoon (6th June, 12.30 to 8.00pm) you might be interested to pop into the Pallant House Gallery where Brook Meadow will be on display for the first time!   All gallery volunteers have been invited to present a piece of their own work for display in the gallery on one day only. However, as I have no artistic talent, I have decided to present a photo montage of Brook Meadow as my contribution to the art day. I did suggest at first taking a display of wild flowers and grasses, but the gallery rules would not allow that. So photos were the next best thing. Here is a taste of what the montage looks like. I am still working on it.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 16th May 2019
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
Eight volunteers (including leader) turned out on a calm late spring day. The weather featured sunshine, warm (18°C) with light breeze. Colin Brotherston was leading. All of the volunteers arrived at the start time. There were no new volunteers. After the usual brief welcome and safety instructions and a wildlife update from Brian tasks were described and allocated.
The tasks were:
1          Cut grass in the north meadow in-front of the fallen willow and the two circles.
2          Rake arisings from the cutting and move said arisings to the central dump.
3          Cut grass on path around rear of the rowan trees and also cut around the base of the rowans.
4          Cut back nettle growth on paths from Lumley gate.
5          Saw off growth from willow tree by stream in the north meadow and prepare off-cuts for dead hedging.
6          Make further repairs to dead hedge by the S-bend.

Maurice arrived early to start cutting in the north meadow using the power scythe.
After the safety briefing Maurice, Dave and Tony departed with a bow saw and rope to trim the willow tree. (Task 5)
Pam, Cathy, Diana and Graham started the task of raking up the arisings which had been previously cut by Maurice.

Once the tree cutting was complete Tony used the power scythe to finish cutting the circles with Maurice assisting.
A welcome stop for coffee was held at 10.45 with a good selection of biscuits. Thank you Pam. The coffee break was held at Beryl’s seat.
After coffee, work continued with Cathy, Graham and Colin raking the remaining arisings. Tony and Maurice cut the growth around the rowan trees. Dave continued to prepare stakes and branches for dead hedging. Pam and Diana collected shears and cleared the paths from Lumley gate. When the raking was completed Cathy joined them.
Dave and Maurice finished the session repairing the dead hedge while Colin, Tony and Graham put tools back in HQ.
At 12.00 all tools were returned to HQ and a productive session was finished.

Wildlife observations from Brian
A second Whitethroat was singing on the west side of the north meadow in addition to the regular one by the causeway. A Song Thrush was singing magnificently on the west side of the north meadow behind the Gwynne Johnson Rowan plantation. I spotted one of our resident Carrion Crows wandering through the buttercups in almost Wordsworthian fashion.
I discovered the first Southern Marsh Orchid flowers, three on the main orchid area and one on the Lumley area. They are a few days earlier than last year. I have marked all with sticks. The orchids will now be emerging over the next week or so, so please go carefully to avoid treading on them.
The first Stream Water-crowfoot flowers are open in the river on the north bend. Marsh Foxtail is now out in the Lumley puddle area with its distinctive bent stem. Also out for the first time this year is False Fox Sedge on the Lumley area.

I did another count of the number of Ragged Robin flowering plants which now stands at 48. There is a long way to catch up with the total of 433 of last year.
The large Ash tree on the railway embankment that I have been concerned about is now in leaf, though the tree has a number of dead branches. I am still not entirely happy with this tree.

 

The Rowans on the east side of the north meadow are full of white blossom. There should be a good crop of berries for the birds to feast on.
The large Horse Chestnut tree which died quite suddenly has been removed from the northern edge of the garden of Gooseberry Cottage.


Conservation Work session – Sunday 5 May 2019
Report by Maurice Lillie. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
Contrary to expectations, the morning was bright and sunny with only a slight cool breeze.   Eight volunteers arrived to hear what Maurice, leader for the session, had in store. Maurice explained the tools to be used and the care to be taken, in using them.   Brian reported the presence of four Whitethroats on the Meadow plus several Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. He then took the usual photograph of the assembled volunteers.

There were two tasks, one, to extend the dead hedge along the main path by the “S” bend and the second to burn the remaining brash that resulted from the hedge laying preparation a few weeks ago. The fire for this was well under way before the start of the session, thanks to Nigel who had turned out early to help Maurice with it.

See video clip of the bonfire at the end of the report . . .

The first task was explained to ensure that not only would the dead hedge perform as required but would look workmanlike and last the last of the year. The first and main activity was putting in new posts at about a forearm’s length apart, this would ensure that whatever the length of the binders, they would still function. Nigel, Debi and Geoffrey organised collecting posts, some from behind the tool store and others from a set aside pile near the bend and some needing to be sourced.

If not already pointed, all posts need to be so. Geoffrey and Nigel positioned the posts under the watchful eye of Debi whose task was to introduce the binders once the posts were in place. The binders were also behind the tool store and others had been put to one side during the hedge laying job. Later, Geoffrey sourced more binders from the “play area” where dozens of willow shoots had sprouted to form a visual curtain on top of two fallen willows in north meadow.
The completed fence

See video clip of the work below . . .

Back in the Seagull Lane Patch the bonfire continued to flourish under the management of Tony with a constant supply of material provided by Diana, David, Pam and occasionally Maurice.
At 10.50 everyone gathered near the bonfire for refreshments, kindly prepared by Pam and served by Diana. Thank you to Pam and Diana.
After the welcome break we continued with our earlier jobs. Nigel transferred his affections to the power scythe and recut six scallop edges in North Meadow. Debi offered to give the signcases a good cleaning. David and Diana finished off the clearance of vegetation buried brash at the north end of SLP. Tony stopped feeding the bonfire and started to water it down.
The tools were returned to HQ, cleaned and counted. Everyone was thanked for their hard work.

Video clips . . .

There were many visitors mostly with dogs, to Brook Meadow today and it was good to hear their gratitude for the work that we do.   There were also several young boys with fishing tackle, the same group, on two occasions seen fishing, but denied this and announced that they were off to Slipper Mill Pond. I explained to them on each occasion that as the river is part of a Local Nature Reserve, they are not permitted to angle. I suspect that they will return. My only other concern about this is that if they are not dissuaded, we could end up with bank vegetation becoming flattened, bait and hooks being left lying around.

The next volunteer work session is on Thursday 16 May. All existing and any new volunteers would be most welcome. Meeting at HQ at 09.25. Refreshments provided. Instruction and use of tools will be given and first aiders will be present.


Wildlife observations from Brian
A Whitethroat was singing well near the causeway, but I could not find it for a photo. A Song Thrush was singing loudly from trees near the Lumley gate. This was the bird that Ruth Roberts reported to me earlier.
I got a shot of Maurice walking through the avenue of Cow Parsley along the main river path. This flower is likely to get better in coming weeks.
What looked like a Bumblebee was feeding on the flowers of White Dead-nettle along the main river path. However, after consulting several guides I think the insect was more likely to be a solitary bee, possibly of the Anthophora family. I will ask Bumblebee expert Bryan Pinchen for his view.
I always have a good look at the nettles along the main path and today I noted a Dock Leaf Bug
and two Ladybirds, one a native 7-spot and the other an alien Harlequin.

Leaves and now sprouting on the large Ash tree on the railway embankment, so maybe my concern over the tree’s health was unjustified. In fact, looking at the other Ash trees near the seat all are very late coming into leaf this year, whereas the Oaks have been out for some time. Some we are likely to get just a splash this summer!
The large Horse Chestnut tree in the garden of Gooseberry Cottage behind the signcase at the Lumley gate is completely dead. That is sad as it was a beautiful tree with fine candle-like flowers and a fine crop of conkers every year. Last year the had a severe infestation of leaf miner grubs on the leaves which might have been the cause.

I met David Gattrell at Peter Pond digging out channels in the reedbeds.

David told me that during the past week he and Sarah Hughes (Sussex Conservation Officer) both saw a Water Vole swim under the footbridge at the northern end of Peter Pond and into the small pool into which the Lumley Stream runs. This is excellent news and shows these much loved creatures are still in the area and hopefully will eventually make their way back to the River Ems on Brook Meadow.
David tells me that there has been no sign of Minks in his traps on the pond which is also good news.


Conservation Work session – Thursday 18 April 2019
Report by Colin Brotherston. Photos and wildlife by Brian Fellows
Eleven volunteers (including leader) turned out on a calm mid Spring day. The weather featured hazy sunshine and warm (18°C) with very light wind. Reg Newnham and Colin Brotherston were leading. Nine of the volunteers arrived at the start time.

We welcomed a new volunteer; Graham Pitney at 10.00 and one other arrived between 10.00 and 10.30. After the usual brief welcome and safety instructions, including a more detailed discussion about how to use loppers, and wildlife update from Brian, tasks were described and allocated.
The tasks were:
1          Start a bonfire and burn scrub and small branches which have accumulated in the Seagull Lane patch (SLP) and North Meadow (NM).
2            Barrow chippings from Seagull Road gate to spread on the muddy paths east of the flower rich area.
3          Water new plantings along river south of the north bridge.
4          Re-enforce dead hedge by S-bend.
5          Clear branches from the main paths. (this task was not started today)
6          Litter pick and clean signs. (this task was not undertaken today)
Maurice and Reg arrived early to start the bonfire and begin to gather scrub from the SRP. Maurice cleared some grass paths using the power scythe.
Pam collected dog food which is being distributed on the meadow. This is an unpleasant and unwanted problem which requires further watching to find out who and why this food is being put on the meadow.
Most volunteers arrived promptly at 9.30 when tasks where described and allotted.
Pam, Diana and Suzanne set out to barrow the wood chippings to the muddy paths east of the flower rich area. It is hoped that the chippings will encourage visitors to use the path rather than make tracks to the side.

Dan started by donning waders and going into the river where he passed water to Terry to put on to the new planting.
Reg and Tony continued to feed the bonfire which was burning very well in the warm dry conditions while the remained collected scrub and branches.

A welcome stop for coffee at 10.45 with a good selection of biscuits and (cold) hot cross buns. Thank you Pam. The coffee break was held at HQ.

After coffee work continued on the tasks already started. At about 11.30 the team stopped feeding the bonfire and started measures to put it out.
Larger branches were cleared from SRP and sawn up for collection by members of the public.
Terry and Dan made a brief start on placing poles in the S-bend dead hedge but time ran out and this task awaits a further work session.
At 12.00 all tools were returned to HQ and a productive session was finished.

Wildlife observations from Brian
Several what I assume were Small White butterflies were fluttering around the meadow, but none stopped long enough for close inspection. They are a couple of weeks later than usual. Here is one taken last year.
There was a collection of about a dozen blue Flea Beetles (Altica lythri) on the nettle leaves on the main river path. These are fairly common on the meadow in spring time. They get their name from their ability to jump when touched.
Nearby was a pair of 7-spot Ladybirds mating.

I saw dozens of young Nursery-web spiders ‘sunbathing’ on the nettle leaves along the main river path, some with front pairs of legs held rigidly straight out in front of them, others (less mature?) with their legs twisted up.

These spiders get their common name from the dense silk nursery tent that the female builds for her spiderlings. These are often seen dotted around the meadow in summer, usually with the female standing guard nearby.

While standing under one of the Black Poplars I listened to the sound of hundreds of tiny green seeds cascading down onto the ground around me, hitting the ground like tiny hail stones. The seeds were all over the ground, resting on nettles and other vegetation. That confirms my earlier speculation about these trees that they are definitely female!

A close-up of a single seed
I am moving towards the identification of our two Black Poplar trees as ‘Florence Biondi’ – ‘straight stemmed, graceful with fairly sparse foliage denser at the crown’ (Collins Tree Guide. p.158). Here are some young leaves.
Dead-nettles
I had a close look at the two Dead-nettle species which we have on Brook Meadow both of which have very attractive flowers when looked at closely. White Dead-nettle is the more robust of the two plants, standing tall, with white flowers arranged in well spaced whorls. It has pointed heart-shaped leaves, which could be mistaken for Common Nettle leaves but they have no stinging hairs.
Red Dead-nettle is a smaller plant with whorls of reddish purple flowers and rounded heart-shaped leaves which are stalked. It also has no stinging hairs, though its leaves are unlikely to be confused with Common Nettle. I gather young plants have edible tops and leaves, though personally I prefer to see these lovely plants untouched in the wild.
I was interested to learn recently that Red Dead-nettle occasionally has white flowers, though I have not seen this aberration myself. Henbit Dead-nettle is a similar plant to Red Dead-nettle, but has unstalked leaves. Both Dead-nettles are very ancient introductions to this country and are now common and widespread.


 


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


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