After a drizzly start 6 members of the group set to the task of laying part of a hedge at Ruskin Mill Farm Nailsworth. The majority of the hedge is hazel and had been previously laid ten or more years ago (hedgelaying is a traditional management mostly aimed at providing stock-proof barriers but nowadays it has greater amenity and wildlife value). Two of the volunteers had no or little experience of this work but were shown the methods by the rest of us and particularly Peter the farm manager.
The initial work involved clearing some of the old/dead material that wasn’t of use for laying – this took quite a bit of time. Then we partly cut through near the base of stems using axes, billhooks or saws creating a hinge with which to lower the stem (known as a pleacher) – the cambium layer just below the bark is where nutrients, water etc are transported up and down the tree.
After a break for lunch, posh biscuits and cake we continued the task and managed to lay stems from two more, what essentially were, coppice stools. Amy, Phil and Andrew also helped stake along the hedge and bound part of this with ‘heatherings’ – thinner stems cleaned of side branches and woven around the stakes to hold the pleachers in place (plus it looks good).
All in all I think we can be pleased with our efforts, hopefully next season we will be back for some more.
This was a task for National Trust at Newark Park Osleworth. We were working primarily for the tenant farmer. Under the Higher Level Stewardship scheme we were helping restore grassland by removing a large area of scrub and bramble on a steep slope. With seven GVCV and two National Trust volunteeers plus the ranger, we managed to clear a large area, despite the sometimes inclement weather. The cuttings were burnt on site.
This is a site we hope to return to in the future.
On Sunday 20th September 8 volunteers helped to clear reeds from about 2/3rds of the pond at Quedgeley Local Nature Reserve, that had become overgrown. This opened up the pond to benefit local wildlife. Indeed in the process we came across frogs, a female toad, two common newts as well as dragonflies and a comma butterfly; a Great Spotted Woodpecker called from the top of one of the trees and later on we watched 8 Buzzards soaring above . We also began to cut back some bramble and clematis from nearby areas of grassland to improve the area for wildflowers.
Following on from the walk at Cleeve Hill in July we ventured forth onto Alney Island Nature Reserve in Gloucester. Quite a different type of habitat, much of it influenced by flooding but also areas with calcareous species.
Four of us set off from the reserve car park and only just the other side of the gate into reserve were looking at Willowherb, Tall Melilot (a member of the pea family), Knapweed and St John’s wort. Again the aim was to introduce some of the characteristics of the plants to aid identification. All together we were able to identify over 60 species as well as 8 species of butterfly. Alongside the cycle path we came across some damp grassland plants such as Gypsywort and Figwort, plus an area nearby with plants more associated with limestone grassland such as Common Centaury and Ploughman’s Spikenard.
It proved to be a fruitful morning in terms of plants and just goes to show that you don’t necessarily need to venture far to come across a wide range of species.
We hope to include some more of these walks in 2016 and also another Winter Tree ID event later in the year.
A reasonably bright but windy day was spent at Cleeve Hill Cheltenham looking at wildflowers. Eight of us took part, led by Richard Catlin, an amateur wildflower enthusiast (and also treasurer of the group). We started from the golf club car park and headed across Cleeve Hill towards Prestbury Hill Nature Reserve. It didn’t take long before we were identifying some of the typical plant species to be found on limestone (calcareous) type grassland, aiming to observe the characteristics to look for. Species such as Rock Rose, Yellow-wort, Dwarf Thistle, Pyramidal Orchid, Wild Thyme and Salad Burnet were encountered, amongst many others. We were also lucky to spot a Humming-bird Hawkmoth as we sat down to lunch. Nearby was a patch of Fragrant and Common Spotted Orchids. On Prestbury Hill we came across several species of butterfly including Small Blue and a fleeting view of what may have been a Duke of Burgundy Fritillary (we can only hope).
An interesting time was had by all participants and hopefully, despite the rain lashing we got at the end, everyone went away having learnt a bit more about plant identification.