Category Archives: Uncategorised

2022.01.16 Hempsted Infill Site tree planting

The weather thawed for Gloucester Vale’s first ever task at the Hempsted Infill (former landfill) site.

There are plans to convert the site over several years into a new country park for the benefit of the local community and wildlife. We spent the task planting over 300 trees to help establish a new woodland on the site boundary.

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The “Before” picture with mesh to mark the area to be planted this time and a wheelbarrow full of compost to give the saplings a good start.

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The “loneliness of a long distance tree planter” Sounds like the title of a book to me. Just look at that sky, to die for if you are a landscape painter.

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The middle part of the task. All beavering away digging pits, planting whips, composting around the base, fitting protective sleeves around the whip and supporting cane to prevent deer etc from having the saplings for breakfast, leaning backwards on ones spade to ease an aching back.

Tree planting is a great way to stay warm during a winter task and the sunshine made for a great day out. Thank you to Mez from the Wildlife Trust and the local team for hosting.

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The finished product. Only a few short years and it will be a forest, hopefully.

2022.01.02 Hempsted – pond work

On Sunday 2nd January 2022, volunteers from GVCV braved the muddy and wet conditions at Hempsted to help continue tree clearance around the lakes. This work helps to create new habitats around the pond edges benefiting ground plant species, small mammals and waterfowl.

The group also built new log piles which are great for nurturing fungi species found onsite such as polypore (photo).

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The log piles serve a purpose but there is a vast amount of associated brash created which serves no purpose and this needs to be disposed of. The practical solution to this is to burn the material – not ideal in environmental terms but a necessary to maintain access. We burned a proportion of the brash accumulated from previous tasks but the heavens opened after lunch and dampened our fire as well as our enthusiasm.

This has been an ongoing task as we clear around the perimeter of the pond in bite sized stages but now we can see an end to the work in this section – you can see from the photograph below how pleased our volunteers are to hear that.

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2021.12.19 Overbury Estate hedge maintenance

GVCV TASK 19 December 2021 – |Overbury Estate

There is a national campaign underway to encourage planting of trees and hedges to improve the environment and to encourage wildlife and Gloucestershire farmers have bought into this campaign.

GVCV were engaged to plant some of these trees on the Overbury Estate on 19/12/2021 but we were then told that they had already planted all of the stock which was given to them and did not expect to receive a further supply until January. The task was therefore amended to cleaning the grass, weeds etc from around a double row of whips planted last year as the beginning of a hedge, in order to remove the competition they constituted to the whips for light, air and moisture.

Our assembly point before moving on to the work site was the massive grain store belonging to the farm. Naturally the grain attracts rodents but these are largely controlled by the farm cats. These started as one stray, joined later by another stray and both cats being female they produced litters so now the cats are a significant force on the farm and the rodent population is rapidly decreasing.

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Grain Store at Middle Farm – main building

Two of the farm hands guided us to the site and explained the work to us. These were the farm workers, two brothers, who had performed the same function for us on previous tasks so we were all acquainted. Essential to their team was of course Gordon’s dog.

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Before and after shots

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The process between “Before” and “After”

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The process between “Before” and “After”

There had been some damage by weather or wildlife since the original planting and so we were provided with a supply of spare whips, tree guards and supporting canes which we used to repair / replace as necessary.

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Am I working hard!! Have you ever seen a blister that size ?

The weather was mild enough throughout the day but the temperature inversion and the lack of any degree of wind meant we were working in a mist the whole day, which varied between thick and even thicker. It did not affect the close range work we were doing but it wrapped around us and was slightly depressing. It made it totally impossible to see the location of the second work area at the opposite diagonal of the field.

We moved across to the second work site after lunch which included a roller coaster drive across the medieval Ridge and Furrow formations, still very much in evidence after 400 years.

We had a smaller work force post lunch but we managed to clear about 30 metres run, removing weed which was denser than that on the morning section.

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Description automatically generated The second work site was similar to the first but a bit rougher

We cut the working day a bit short; the light was going, the mist was getting thicker and our energy levels were dropping but we left a large part of the hedging in far better condition than we found it.

2021.12.05 Severnside Hempsted

GVCV TASK 05 December 2021 – Severnside, Hempsted

GVCV TASK 05 December 2021 – Severnside, Hempsted.

The site we work at Hempsted is a Severn Water Sewage treatment installation with extensive lakes, pond, streams etc. We have carried out several tasks at this location and the current exercise is clearing the scrub and excess Willow growth around the main pond area. We have done this on previous occasions, we are gradually working our way around the perimeter of the pond.

The work in itself is not complicated – just a solid slog, cutting and clearing. The problem we have is disposing of the material we cut. Habitat piles are all very well but when they cover half of he site other measures need to be found of disposing of the brash.

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One of our many piles of small diameter brash.

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One of our many piles of larger diameter brash

We would normally dispose of the brash by burning but there is currently an issue with the tenant of the adjacent land which we believe will be resolved shortly allowing us to have a GRAND bonfire when we return to the site in January.

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Solid work, in the bitter cold, Is pretty enervating and the volunteers (and the warden) are are pleased to sit down for their lunch break. The only problem is of course, getting up on cold stiff limbs to go back to work.A group of people sitting in the woods

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Great to see that the local inhabitants appreciate our efforts on their behalf.

2021.11.21 Overvbury Estate willow coppicing

Overbury Estate 21/11/2021

GVCV TASK 21 November 2021 – Overbury

Volunteers from Gloucester Vale support a range of conservation activity on the Overbury estate.

On Sunday 21st November 2021, volunteers worked on glorious winter sunshine around the estates reservoir.

Pollarding (cutting a waist height or above) mature willow maintains the habitats around the reservoir which in turn supports a range of animal species including kingfisher

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Tackling the willow around the edge of the reservoir

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.Stacking the smaller stems for re-use

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Stacking larger stems for re-use

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Beautifully trimmed willow trunk ready to regenerate

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Fully cleared area around the lake allowing access and enabling light to reach the water

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The happy fullfilled group at the end of the day (plus Dave behind the camera)

2021.10.01 The Cheese Rollers Pub, Shurdington

Skittles Social

On Friday 1st October 2021 GVCV enjoyed an evening of food, beer and highly competitive skittles at the Cheese Rollers pub in Shurdington.

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Wooden balls hurled down a wooden alley. Noisy but really satisfying when the pins thump down.

 

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Hi-tech super accurate scoring system.

 

The skittles was a close match, but new group member Geri showed how it was done winning the all important cactus boobie prize. None of us can remember who won – though the photos are a good hint 😊

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Presentation of prizes. Was to be free holidays in the Bahamas, but Covid prevented that so we up-graded to a home made medal and a prickly baby cactus

2021.09.18 Rodborough hay raking

18.09.2021 Rodborough – hay raking.

The (now annual) Hay Day in Rodborough is held in late summer or early autumn to remove cut grass from a 1/3 acre wildflower meadow (near Rodborough Common) which is owned by Candy and Dave – GVCV members. 

This task reduces soil fertility, reducing the growth of species such as rye grass, thistles and nettles and allowing a wide range of meadow plants to thrive – 30 were counted in 2021 including three species of orchid.  These, in turn, attract butterflies, wild bees and other insects and support a food pyramid that allows other species such as swallows to thrive. 

Cutting the meadow also makes the site attractive to cattle, let in from neighbouring fields, who then keep the grass under control until the spring and provide cow dung-habitat for fungi and beetles.

The event was postponed this year because the farmer was unable to cut the meadow when hoped, however five volunteers were able to attend at short notice on a second date and rake the vast majority of the hay off the meadow in about three hours.  Four volunteers raked hay into long furrows whilst the fifth rolled them on to a tarpaulin and dragged the hay to a compost heap at the bottom corner. 

Lunch was provided by Dave & Candy.  Special thanks go to Pete for bringing special hay rakes from his Bradford-on-Avon conservation group – these made the task significantly quicker.

Dave

2021.09.26 Leckhampton Hill gorse clearance

Joint Task With Friends of Leckhampton Hill and Charlton Kings Common (FOLK) 26th September 2021

The second joint task of the year with FOLK saw us working on the side of the hill.  Eight GVCV members with a similar number from Folk mustered in Tramway Cottage car park on a warm and sunny early autumn day before setting off to collect our tools.

  The work  was to cut a nine foot wide corridor through an area of gorse to encourage the movement of butterflies from one area of the hill to another, in particular the rare Duke of Burgundy which is present on specific areas of the hill. 

Rare Duke of Burgandy butterfly

The group split into two and worked from each end of the designated section with the hope of meeting in the middle.  Fires were started at each end of the corridor to burn off the cut gorse which was rapidly piling up.   

Gorse Flower Cordial Recipe
Gorse – very prickly and highly invasive

The warm sunshine and stunning views of Cheltenham created a tranquil, almost spiritual backdrop to the work which was enhanced when a nearby gorse bush went up in flames!  Fortunately it was soon extinguished.  With the butterfly corridor created by lunchtime most people departed although a few remained into the early afternoon to tidy up and let the fires burn down. 

Here’s hoping to a procession of Duke of Burgundy butterflies next spring.

Rob Niblett

2021.09.12 Bowater, Stroud footbridge repairs

GVCV Task Report

Bowater – 12 Oct 21

This task was for Gloucestershire County Council’s Access Team, restoring a 8m steel and wood footbridge over a stream at Bowater (Stroud). The footbridge (point A on the map below) is much used by walkers, especially in the winter when it can become impossible to ford the stream.

 

Alan Bentley of the Access Team supported the task with a preparatory visit on Monday 6 Sep, spending about an hour with the group at the start of the session on Sunday 12 Sep and by providing materials.

The group parked along Bowbridge Lane whilst tools and Candy’s truck were bought closer to the work site via a gate at the end of Gunhouse Lane. Eight members attended.

The group successfully achieved the following:

– Path clearance to the bridge for access.

– Removal and replacement of the bridge deck, adding recycled plastic runners underneath the new deck to improve expected life.

– Replacement of kick boards.

– Replacement of half of the bridge rails.

This left the bridge in a usable state and it should remain so for several years.

Problems with materials (rails too short for one section of the bridge, grip strip too long for the deck without appropriate tools and PPE to cut it) prevented full completion, however these tasks are now on a slightly shorter ‘to-do’ list for the Access Team’s contractors to complete. The decision was made half-way through the day not to start any work on a second nearby bridge as it was important not to leave this in an un-usable condition.

This was an unfamiliar task for the group:

– New skills were learnt, with overall efficiency improving from amateur (but keen) to ‘a bit better’ through the day.

– Attention was needed through the day to ensure that all members had work that they were able to progress.

– The variety from more familiar tasks was a positive and getting the bridge to a much improved state gave a sense of achievement.

Before:

 

Overgrown paths before and after:

 

Teamwork fitting plastic runners and deck boards:

7/8 of the team on the completed bridge: Mel, Mark, Vanessa, Trina, Josephine, Dave and Anthony

 

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