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churc hdown park 10th october 2021

Today we made a welcome return to Churchdown Park where we worked on the ponds and alongside the Orchard. there were seven of us and we split into two groups one on the ponds and the other cutting back overhanging branches from the Orchard.

Continuing our task to remove Water Soldier and a proportion of Reedmace/Bulrush from the five ponds. This meant getting stuck in literally and pulling up the reed by hand and raking out the water soldier. We were told by a couple who were walking round that they had been involved in the original scheme at the site, they apologised for having included water soldier in the planting mix as it has spread (or marched) from one pond originally into two others.

Raking out water soldier
getting down and dirty with reeds

the other group were busy removing branches overhanging the orchard and clearing back vegetation from the fence. It was also an opportunity to fill a few bags with apples from the orchard (mostly Gloucestershire varieties) so thank you to the Parish Council for that.

It was a splendid day and we managed to complete 4 of the 5 ponds and virtually all the cutting back, so well done all who turned out. Another visit is due here in the new year.

removed reed
Raking out from ponds
the after effect.

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

2021.10.01 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

2021.09.12 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

2021.08.29 Nosehill Farm – exposing quarry face

 

GVCV TASK 29 August 2021 – Nosehill Farm

This was a disappointing day with only 3 volunteers turning out, our lowest number this year, obviously Bank Holiday weekend offered more attractive options.

The objective on this site is to clear the undergrowth away from a disused quarry face, the face containing examples of a rare rock formation known as “Cotswold Slate”.

Our initial activity was to create access by clearing the waist high vegetation between the pond margin and the guard fence at the base of the rock face.

We took particular care to clear around the information board describing the adjacent imprint of a dinosaur footprint in the rock (a Theropod, a dinosaur of the group which includes Tyrannosaurus Rex, all bipeds walking on hind legs and with three toed feet. The largest of this group grew to 18 metres and weighed 6 Tonnes)

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This allowed us to see the area between the fence and the rock face, the object our exercise. To our dismay, the area which we had completely cleared in April, was now hidden by vegetation 5 – 15 feet high. We spent the rest of our day attacking this growth but our efforts did not achieve anything near to our pre-formed ambition.

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Hopefully we can get back to this site soon with a larger team to properly reveal the rock face.

2021.07.18 Churchdown Park (the sequel)

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.

2021.06.26 GVCV walk

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.

2021.05.23 Churchdown Park

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.