All posts by David Evans

2023.04.16 Coates canal works

Task at the Thames and Severn canal disused section near Coates, April 16th2023.

Five of us from GVCV met five Cotswold Canal Trust volunteers at the disused canal section near the old Tunnel House Inn. Half of us worked to clear saplings from the steep side of the canal, not an easy task because of the steep slope and some water in the canal. The rest of us worked further along the towpath outside the neglected roundhouse built in 1791 as a dwelling for the ‘lengthsman’ whose job was to keep the towpath and drainage ditches clear.

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The Roundhouse

Our job was to cut saplings actually growing in dry stone walls and to clear vegetation which was smothering new barberry shrubs (Berberis vulgaris) which had been planted to encourage the rare Barberry Carpet moth which feeds on them.

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Barberry Carpet moth

Both sites looked much clearer at the end of the day, a satisfying outcome.

2022.09.11 Nosehill farm – – clearance of the Bowl Barrow

2022.08.11 Nosehill farm – clearance of the Bowl Barrow

Everyone has heard of prehistoric long barrows and round barrows. Bowl barrows are much less conspicuous; they are shaped like inverted saucers. The bowl barrow on a farm in the east of Gloucestershire is one such. Our task was to clear the vegetation growing on and around the edge of the barrow so as to reveal its form and preserve its character.

Four volunteers did an amazing job of clearance using saws, loppers, rakes and a brush cutter. The accompanying ‘Before’ and ‘After’ photos show what a difference we made. We plan to go back in November to finish the task.

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“Before” photo

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“ After” photo

Dave E

2022.08.20 Phil Hermes memorial walk

22.08.20 Phil Hermes memorial walk.

Phil Hermes was a volunteer with GVCV from 1989 till 2018 when he died at the early age of 60 after contracting skin cancer and then having a heart attack.

Phil was particularly keen on tasks which required skill, such as dry stone walling and hedge laying.

Phil sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of hedge laying with the “young uns”

He liked to holiday in Greece each summer, carrying out footpath clearance work at Mount Athos.

Phil, from a 1995 GVCV newsletter

In his spare time Phil also liked bird watching on Cleeve Hill, so it is appropriate that his ashes are scattered there and that there is a plaque to his memory around the ‘lone tree’ on top of the hill.

Each year in August, to commemorate Phil’s life we organise a walk up Cleeve Hill to the place where his ashes are scattered. Some friends, family, and ex-work colleagues from European School Books join us conservation volunteers to remember Phil. Afterwards we adjourn to the local pub the Rising Sun for a convivial drink and lunch. This year 2022 it was on Saturday August 20th.

David G Evans.

2021.08.07 Phil Hermes memorial walk

Phil Hermes memorial walk

On Saturday August 7th we held the third annual walk in memory of Phil Hermes 1958 to 2018.  Phil was a long-standing volunteer with GVCV.  About a dozen of us walked, including conservation volunteers, Phil’s brother Mike and ex-colleagues of Phil from European School Books.

We started out at 10.30 am from the Rising Sun car park and walked in a clockwise loop around Cleeve Hill to the Lone Tree where the plaque with its poetic tribute to Phil is situated, together with other plaques, and where his ashes are scattered. Phil was fond of roaming and birdwatching on Cleeve Hill, and his birthday was on August 9th, so the walk was appropriate.

Afterwards we adjourned for lunch, a drink and convivial conversation at the pub.

David G Evans, Phil’s close friend.

Cleeve Hill

2021.04.11 NOSEHILL FARM, Stow on the Wold


The site is south-facing under a low cliff-face, a geological SSI containing Geological items of interest plus a preserved imprint of a dinosaurs foot.

The five of us did a good job on Sunday of clearing brambles and saplings.

The vegetation had grown back hugely in the intervening two years since we last visited – so much so that we’ll have to organise a follow-up task to complete the job.

Weather was cold, mainly dry but interrupted by bursts of sleet or soft hail – interesting but we all had a good day!

2017.02.26 Stinchcombe Hill


Stinchcombe Hil, near Dursley, is a small site covering some 0.91 hectares / 2.25 acres, owned by Stinchcombe Hill Recreation Ground Trust. It is a SSSI and sits within the Cotswold AOB. The majority is a plateau at an elevation of some 200m with superb views into the Severn valley (when not obscured by rolling mist and rain) with a large part of it leased to a golf club.

The site is managed by a warden from the Stinchcombe Hill Butterfly trust with a team of volunteers and their objective is to bring the site back to its original state of untreated Cotswold grassland forming an environment favouring orchids, butterflies and sky larks. This is an uphill struggle because lack of resources has allowed extensive encroachment of trees and shrubs.





Our task on Sunday was to progress the clearance of the scrub etc on the Western slope having first to gather up and burn the brash left behind by a contractor who had been employed to machine cut part of the slope. We were somewhat surprised to see that the slope had been left covered with shredded stumps six inches high above ground – our normal practice being to take everything down to ground level (except large diameter stumps to be later re-cut and treated with herbicide)



During the lunch break conversation turned to butterflies, the focus for all of our efforts that day and especially to their dramatic decline in their numbers and distribution, particularly referring to the Duke of Burgundy. Reports state that the incidence of butterflies in Britain has declined by 70% over the last 40 years due mainly to habitat depredation.

In the countryside this is due to the action of farmers aggressive spraying and planting genetically modified crops which are resistant to weeds (weeds being the food source for most butterflies). Economics have dictated that cultivation of fertile soil has become more intense, leaving no untilled margins to the fields and also conversely by not cultivating unprofitable (ie no CAP subsidy given) land allowing poor pasture to be abandoned and overgrown with scrub etc.

Decline in Urban areas is even greater than in countryside due to building on urban green space, the loss of surprisingly wildlife-rich brownfield sites, council cuts, the neglect of parks and pesticide-wielding gardeners who have turned lawns and flower beds into driveways and patios.

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The good news is that large scale conservation projects (that’s us folks) are producing some recovery eg Duke of Burgundy, Dingy Skipper and Heath Fritillary and the Large Blue has been re-introduced and is now spreading.



The second main influence on butterfly population is global warming. On the one hand the warmer weather is allowing species to spread further northwards and some summer migrants like the Red Admiral are now overwintering here and producing UK resident populations. Some species are now producing two broods each year (though this puts pressure on habitat and food sources). On the other hand the Exceptional Weather Events which come with global warming are having huge effects on butterflies, not yet fully appreciated. Certainly warm spells in the winter cause butterflies and larvae to emerge too early and to be then killed by following frosts. The Big Butterfly Count in 2016 was dramatically down following the exceptionally warm winter of 2015. Many species are sensitive to events such as heat waves, heavy rainfall and droughts. The Ringlet population crashes after every drought.

This is not just a British problem, it is worldwide. He most common butterfly in USA is the Monarch, in their overwintering groves there were once so many Monarchs that the sound of their wings was described as a rippling stream or a summer rain. In 2016 they recorded a 68% reduction in 22 years and in 2017 the count was down 30% down again Spraying and genetic modification of crops to eradicate Milkweed, food of the Monarch is generally considered to be the cause.

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In Europe grassland butterflies declined by 50% between 1990 and 2011 due, it is thought, to Intensifying agriculture and abandoned land. The Europeans are pinning their hopes on legislation to force positive action by the farmers. I think the appropriate expression is something about a snowballs chance in Hell.