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Churchdwon Park (the sequel) 18th july 2021

One of those places we love to come back to and today (despite the temperature) 9 of us helped open up the paths in the Pocket Park, remove more water soldier/reedmace/blanket weed from some of the ponds and rewove plus trimmed the willow tunnel in the ponds area.

Josie loved the waders, very cool in the heat
widening the path in pocket path
a good excuse to sit down on the job

We only worked for 2 and a half hours but nevertheless got through a lot of work. Well done team!

Back here again in October.

GVCV walk 26th June 2021

Four of the group set out from Charlton Kings at 9.30 for a 6 mile walk that took in Dowdeswell Reservoir, Lineover Woods and Ravensgate Common. A perfect morning for walking, not too hot and a bit of a breeze.

Followed Cheltenham Circular from Glenfall Way into grassland and past horse fields looking down towards the A40 (not in view thankfully), before meeting Cotswold Way into a wooded path alongside Dowdeswell Woods. Here, the buzzing of overhead lines soon went away and we reached the reservoir , where some sheep were grazing and Rob contemplated skinny-dipping but thankfully thought better of it for the good of the rest of us.

Crossing the A40 by the old Reservoir Inn – now a restaurant – we climbed up into Lineover Wood (Woodland Trust) up the now made-up path on the edge of the wood. Home to Small and Large-leaved Limes and open flower-rich grassland. Stopped at the top for a bite to eat and viewed some of the panorama across Cheltenham, watching butterflies enjoying the sunshine.

Onwards along Cotswold Way, held up for a while by a Roman Snail crossing the path, none of us had actually seen a live one before (you usually see the empty shells), Steve was particularly entranced by it, thinking about its welfare in getting across the path without being trodden on.

Once we left Lineover there was a steep climb up onto Ravensgate Common but loads of species of plant including Wild Valerian, Birds-foot trefoil and Kidney Vetch and we hoped we may see a Small Blue or two but did come across several Small Heath instead.

Descending down and back onto the Circular Trail through more meadows, including a large display of Betony, we reached Beeches Road and then met the A40 again after going past Balcarras School and Eastend Road, then returning to same grassland that took us back to our cars.

A great walk and worth repeating at some point.

Churchdown Park 23rd May 2021

A return visit to this lovely site with a wide range of habitats, play areas and allotments too. Today we continued clearing Water Soldier, Reedmace and blanket weed from five ponds, this allows more light into the ponds and keeps them as waterbodies for all the wildlife that uses them.

Pulling reedmace

An overcast and cooler day for May but welcome in a way, with all our pulling and raking. And we had another chance to use the waders…

Waders displayed by the delectable Trina

We came across a Moorhen nest whilst removing reed so stopped what we were doing and moved on to another pond. Fortunately the hen bird returned to her nest and didn’t seem perturbed. Newts were found in another 2 of the ponds which was exciting.

We had completed much of what we had hoped to do….

half the reed removed to open up pond

…and so deserved a bit of recreation:

Rob decides to try out a new mode of transport

Well done all.

2021.07.04 Elmley Castle, Evesham

 

GVCV TASK 04 July 2021 – Elmley Castle, Evesham

GVCV worked on 4 July 2021 at Lodge Farm, Elmley Castle, Evesham. We have previously worked on that site planting young trees including apple trees, and scrub bashing and clearing around a pond.

Two of us had also observed the installation of a set of leaky dams there with the idea that GVCV could replicate the process elsewhere. The technique used on the day however involved heavy mechanised plant manoeuvring substantial tree trunks. This was obviously well beyond the scope of GVCV. We did however decide that we could follow the principle but using smaller horizontals with intermediate vertical posts to hold them in place. The lighter construction is not an issue because the principle of leaky dams is to produce a slowing of the current by adding further dams in the ladder till the desired reduced flow is achieved.

Our specific task on that day was the removal of isolated clumps of blackthorn and bramble in a field of waist high grass. We were required only to stack the cut material for collection by others so really it sounded like a simple enough task.

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Typical Blackthorn clump

What elevated it from a simple task to a bit of a nightmare was the series of torrential downpours which soaked us to the skin, time and again. There was some minimal shelter in one corner of the field but getting there still dry was a feat beyond Linford Christie. And then there was the issue of summoning up the will to go back out into the open field.

I have to confess I called an early finish to the task and we handballed all the kit back down the hill

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Waist high plus grass

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Concentrate on one clump at a time, then move on to the next one

We had great encouragement from the Gloucestershire FWAGSW rep and the farmer (plus his dog) who kindly transported us and our tools up the hill to the work site in his super all terrain pickup.

The compensation for all that aggravation was the panoramic views all around, us the song of a hundred skylarks overhead and a host of butterflies so thick it was difficult to walk without stepping on them.

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Tired and wet but unbowed and looking forward to the next task

2021.07.11 Thames & Severn Canal – Coates

 

GVCV TASK 11 July 2021 – Thames & Severn Canal – Coates

The Thames and Severn Canal, built in 1789, goes through Coates.  The canal once joined with the Stroudwater Navigation (west of Stroud) to provide a link from the river Severn to the river Thames (at Lechlade).

The Sapperton tunnel (3,817 yards long) was the longest tunnel in the country when it was opened (and still ranks 3rd longest). There is no towpath through the tunnel. The boatmen had to lie on their back on the deck, brace their feet against the tunnel roof, and “walk” the boat through the tunnel, a process called “legging” (2.2 miles remember)

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The Coates Portal to the Sapperton Tunnel

The canal was formally abandoned by an Act of Parliament in 1954 and gradually became derelict. Today the tunnel remains impassable, as it has done since around 1916, due to numerous roof falls.

The Cotswold Canals Trust aims to restore the canal as a fully-navigable route from the River Severn to the River Thames. They been awarded grants of National Lottery Heritage money to restore various sections. The Phase 3 restoration section runs between Brimscombe Port, near Stroud, and Gateway Bridge in the Cotswold Water Park, some 16 miles, includes the challenge of the Sapperton tunnel. Work is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

When finished it should allow boats to travel from Stonehouse and Stroud to Saul Junction by joining the Stroudwater Navigation to the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal.

Canal near Stroud

An already restored section

The project will bring a range of benefits to the local area. The canal corridor will help increase biodiversity by reconnecting previously fragmented habitats, including wetlands, ditches, scrubland and hedgerows. The variety of habitats that will be created or restored will become one of the UK’s largest biodiversity offsetting projects. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust will be helping to check the environmental quality of the work in the later stages.

It’s anticipated that the project will attract an extra 250,000 visitors to the area, who will inevitably gain from the health and wellbeing benefits of being by water. This is a belief that is firmly at the heart of both the Canal & River Trust and the CCT.

There is also a national significance to Cotswold Canals Connected. It’s a key part of a much larger project to reconnect the River Severn to the River Thames via a green and blue corridor. New walking and cycling routes along towpaths will allow people to get closer to water. The routes will flow through over 30 hectares of new protected habitats, providing a beautiful, safe wildlife corridor that will be one of the biggest in Europe.

Most of the work to date has been carried out by volunteers – some 700,000 man / woman hours so far. Much of this has been standstill maintenance, removing encroaching vegetation from the banks and from the dry canal bed and keeping the towpath clear to encourage the large number of walkers who currently. use it, (possibly followed by lunch in the adjacent Tunnel House Inn, when Covid allows)

GVCV task on 11 July was to continue this standstill maintenance. We worked in conjunction with the Cotswold Canal Trust volunteers under the direction of the Warden responsible for this stretch of the canal. Specifically we were clearing the towpath using brushcutters and removing more substantial growth on the opposite bank using chainsaws. Vital to these operations were the squad clearing away the cut material.

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Hard at work with a brushcutter

We were blessed with weather which was just right for working and this was one of the tasks where we could get the satisfaction of looking back and seeing the results of our labour, (Just don’t think about how much still remain

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The tow path after the strimmer had been through

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Just start at the edge and work your way in, they said.

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A well deserved lunch break

2021.06.06 Woodmancote on the Kemerton Estate

GVCV TASK 06 June 2021 – Weoodmancote on the Kemerton Estate

We worked this day on land at Woodmancote which belongs to the Kemerton Estate.

The area was an Ash plantation and fairly recently the ash had been coppiced leaving bare stools. The stools will re-generate but in order to enhance the copse extensive new planting had been added 1 or 2 years ago, The new planting we found was an eclectic mix of Ash, Oak, Beech, Sycamore and Holy. The saplings as we found them had grown to 2 or 4 foot tall (except for the few which had died).

The plantation was completely surrounded with deer fencing and all of the saplings planted were had plastic guards around them as added protection. Deer love browsing on young tree growth, hence the need for protection. In the past the deer had managed to get to the trees because we found some with clear evidence of having been nibbled. The deer are still active, when I inspected the site mid-week a deer led me along the field edge, from the track, past the gate into the copse and continued on into some trees/shrubs beyond.

The site as we found it – spot a sapling if you can!

Our allotted task was to halo the saplings i.e. to clear away all of the vegetation around the young saplings so that they did not have to compete for light, moisture and nutrient in the soil, giving them a better chance of surviving to maturity.

Halo around a sapling inc exploratory track to find it

Our initial difficulty was in locating the new saplings… They stood between 2 and 4 foot tall but they were completely lost in a jungle of grass, nettles and thistles rising to 5 foot tall We had to embark on a game of “hunt the sapling” which involved clearing exploratory pathways through the undergrowth with slashers etc (which are crude control tools) whilst exercising great care not to cut through or damage the saplings,

Careful use of the slasher

At the day we had successfully haloed a fair number of saplings though far fewer than we expected to, due to the effort needed to find them. The fact of it being the hottest day of the year so far was another factor.

No shade – but a welcome break non the less. Where was Mike when I took this shot ?

We know that there are many more saplings waiting to receive the same treatment and hopefully we will return to the site at some point in the near future to continue the process.

2021.04.25 Overbury estate

GVCV TASK 25 APRIL 2021 – OVERBURY ESTATE

Like most farms now the Overbury Partnership is a mix of arable, sheep, forestry, leasing long term and holiday property, leasing conference and office space, a stud and in this case a children’s pre-school group – diversity being the key to survival.

The land is rich at around 100 feet in the Evesham valley, reducing to poor at 1,000 feet on Bredon Hill and so a range of crops and techniques are required across the farm.

There are three techniques showcased on the farm. The first is rotation such that the land is never left fallow. A mix species cover crop of radishes, clover, mustard etc is grown over the winter, which reduces soil erosion and which is grazed by the sheep, then a summer crop of grain or barley is sown through it, the residue of the cover crop being left on the surface as a mulch. The second technique is no-till cultivation; there is no disturbance of the deep levels of soil and fertilisers etc are contained within the upper layers. The third technique is automation; computer and satellite information is used to help control the  operation of seed drills, harvesters, sprayers etc all informed by bang up-to-date data from drones overflying the fields.

Overbury is a demonstration farm for LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) aimed to showcase best practice  in crop production, animal welfare and environmental protection.

On 25 Aril 2021 we were given two tasks; one group clearing scrub around a lake (the pond team) and the other group recovering used plastic sleeves from saplings planted in previous years (the hill team). Two separate work groups ensured we complied with Covid Regs on numbers.

The Pond team

The lake is an extensive man-made lined reservoir as a source for irrigation in summer. The excavated material was tipped around the perimeter so as to form a bank which was planted with trees including specifically willow. Over the years the remainder of the bank has been invaded by bramble, black thorn, nettles etc so that it is no longer possible to walk around the perimeter of the lake. Our job on 25 April was to remedy this, or at least make a start on the remedy.

We are well practiced at scrub bashing and the glorious weather that day made an accustomed task into a pleasure, at least until the afternoon when weary muscles reminded us – “first the pleasure, then the pain”.

In term of wildlife, we watched a Martin scouting the eaves of the grain store at the meeting point. Around the lake there were large numbers of Orange Tip butterflies, with a solitary Moorhen on the water and remains on the bank of some substantial fish, possibly taken by otters ?. We were shown a square of corrugated tin on the grounds, attractive to grass snakes in warm weather and an adjacent “nest” built to encourage the snakes to breed.

One of the farm hands (Gordon) stayed with us for the day (with his dog, Archie) and he talked to us about the lake and the farm, and he showed us the grass snake location.

By the end of the day we had formed a clear access around about 100 yards of the lake and could look back on a clearly visible achievement – very satisfying. This was an excellent introduction to GVCV for a first-time volunteer who turned out – she admitted to having enjoyed the experience and would turn out again – plucky girl.

A well earned break at lunch time and an opportunity to “catch some rays”

The bank cleared to just beyond the willow tree – a good start to a large overall task

The Hill team

A small group of 4 volunteers worked in a substantial copse planted approx 20 years ago collecting the plastic tree guards that originally protected and supported the growing saplings.

These discarded guards littered the woodland floor and many were still attached to the tree, trapped in the bark which had overgrown the bottom edges. These had to be painstakingly pulled away or cut free.

We collected 8 large sacks full. A useful job to get done and one for the farm manager to tick off his “to do, sometime” list.

The tree guards obviously served their purpose well because there is now a healthy close planted woodland copse, which may well require thinning out at some future time by GVCV.

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!

2020.12.20 Churchdown park

Another visit to this wonderful community site in Churchdown – with something for everyone including play area/skate park/allotments/ponds and orchard. Today half a dozen volunteers were active in the pond area (5 ponds and two reed beds), which is part of a flood alleviation or Sustainable Urban Drainage Scheme (SUDS). We were removing some of the reedmace/bulrush, water soldier and blanket weed this opens up the ponds allowing more light in and preventing build up of nutrients from rotting vegetation that sinks to the bottom.

removing water soldier using rakes and a crome

It was a mixed day with sunshine and showers, not that it mattered us being immersed in water (well some of us were), testing out the new waders to full effect.

Richard smiling in his fashionable garb, posing with a water soldier plant

We almost completed the work but sadly a leak became apparent in the waders which stopped us splashing about in ponds. Fortunately this occurred in Pond E, the last one so we had managed t o remove about 25% of the reedmace – just 50% more to do in January when we return.

In pond E pulling out reeds, before the waders sprung a leak

After a spot of lunch, making use of the picnic benches supplied and partaking of some mince pies (as you do this time of year), we adjourned to some brambles nearby to clear these away from the ditch and fence line. Again, to be continued…..

All in all a successful day out in the park.

2020.12.05 Churchdown

  1. Churchdown Park

The troops were called in to help Churchdown Parish Council plant some trees that would have been part of a community project. The first task was to put in nearly 200 saplings (whips), from The Woodland Trust, along the line of an original hedge by their pond area. This area is a little gem for the community – 5 small ponds, copse. orchard, playing field and children’s play area with skate park.

Here we put in a varied mix of native species, slit-planting with stakes and rabbit guard (to be removed in a few years time and recycled). Enough space to spread out too.

The crew made simple work of it and we were done here, in the winter sunshine, in no time at all. Well done everyone, can’t wait to see it all growing up.

Now for part 2…

2. John Daniels Park

So, after out lunch break by the ponds in Churchdown Park we set off to John Daniels Way to plant a double row hedge by the chain-link fence at the far end of the playing field.

The weather was definitely with us as we used up the rest of the trees (about 150 left) to plant and hopefully provide a screen to the fence and a habitat for insects, birds and mammals once established. Quite hard to plant into as thick clay so a bit of extra digging involved.

We didn’t quite have enough to go all the way along so hope to be back next year to finish this off. Thanks again to all the volunteers for their efforts.