Category Archives: Uncategorised

2023.11.12 Hailey wood coppicing

2023.11.12  Hailey Wood coppicing

A new site for the Gloucestershire Vale Conservation Volunteers today helping to coppice hazel in a wood on the Bathurst Estate. This is part of a larger project that FWAG South West is working on the estate. This particular part of the wood had a lot of hazel clusters which will be managed on a 20 to 30 year coppicing rotation.

The forecast for the day was pretty wet, so it was waterproofs from the start. The strategy was to sweep out in a semi circle around the clearing, coppicing the hazel with hand tools. For the larger, gnarled stems, Ed was on hand with the chain saw.

The “inner semi circle” got coppiced and you can see the next layer that needs to be done ….

We wanted to save the best, straight cut stems as product that can be sold locally to hedge layers

A pile of sticks in the woods

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Product for bundling and selling to hedge layers

The unusable chunks were set aside for creating charcoal in the kiln which is on-site next year. The brash was used to cover the hazel stools over to give them some protection from passing deer.

Looking out to the track, kiln used to make charcoal can just be seen.

The idea was to cut the multi stems as low as possible. This is done by first cutting down to about a foot and then hand finishing the stumps to a sloped shape to allow water to run off. We kept a maximum of four younger, flexible stems which can be layered down with pegs into the floor which will encourage re-sprouting of the tree in a new spot.

A close up of a pile of moss

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Hazel stool cut low to the floor

Some stands needed heavier tools



Tidenham Chase, outside Chepstow, is largest remaining fragment of lowland heathland in Gloucestershire. The site is managed by Gloucestershire Wildlife trust who are expanding the heathland through conversation grazing and tree removal. The site is important for a range of wading birds such as jacksnipe and woodcock. Adders, slow worms and lizards can also be found on the heathland.

On 21st/22nd October 2023, a band of brave volunteers from GVCV headed over the River Severn for a weekend residential. Working alongside the resident (but thankfully docile) long horn cattle the group helped to clear and burn young self-seeded silver birch trees on the heathland.

Sian and Nige cutting in the rain on day 1

Dave provided a good fire on the first day which kept us going until Sunday afternoon. The group cleared trees from significant section of the health while ‘working around’ the long horn cattle. The cattle joined our efforts and were always ready to take a ‘munch’ on the silver birch leaves as felled trees were pulled to the fire for processing.

Cattle making themselves comfortable around the fire site
Sunshine at the end of a hard day’s work on Sunday

It was an enjoyable trip with the bonus of eating and staying together in Chepstow. Congratulations goes to Richard for finding the nice micropub on Friday night.


2023.10.15 Drystone walling at RAU Cirencester

On 15 October 7 GVCV volunteers worked at dry stone walling at the RAU Cirencester. The brief given was to form a 6 foot wide opening in an existing stone wall and face up the cheeks.  Also repairing the top courses of some sections which had become damaged.

We had expected the warden to be on hand to give detailed instructions, but he did not show so, full of confidence (ha ha), we carried on regardless. We located the wall easily enough with the general directions given to us but our first problem was that we found two locations where a start had been made on forming an opening. We made an executive decision to open up the gap nearest the weather station and to infill the other.

A couple of men building a wall

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We cleared away the stone down to ground level, stacking it for re-use. Then began the process of forming the cheeks, i.e. return faces on the wall. The initial courses were laid using carefully selected stones to form clean right angles at the corners and straight lines between. We then laid successive courses above, tying in to the adjacent existing section of the wall. We built the two outer skins and packed the centre of the wall with small stones and dust as we progressed so as to give the wall mass and stability. Occasional “through” stones linked the outer skins with the centre fill. We used builders lines to ensure our new build continued the line and coursing of the existing wall and steel pins to ensure verticality.

A person in blue pants bending over a stone wall

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A second squad concurrently tackled the infilling at the second location using the same construction techniques.

A group of people outside

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A group of people standing in a field

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A person sitting on the grass

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Morning coffee sitting in the sun.

Unfortunately the whole exercise came to a halt in the afternoon because we ran out of material. We had used everything we found, including stone which we found buried below ground including a convenient concrete slab, but the wall had obviously been “robbed” at some point and much of the stone removed.

We therefore placed a layer of random stone across the top of the fill to stabilise it, cleared all the loose stone into a tidy pile and headed home for a hot shower / bath to ease aching backs.

The weather was kind to us all day, ideal for working. Everyone learned something about drystone walling and we finished up with an end result, which though incomplete, fairly reflected the effort we had put into the task.

A field of flowers and grass

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“lest we forget them” – a carpet of red poppies in an adjacent field.

A group of people standing next to a stone structure

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A tired but happy band at the end of the day

2023.10.07 Stroud Walk

Myself and Nathan enjoyed this GVCV social walk from Stroud Cemetery LNR to Rodborough Common via Prince Albert pub.

We set off mid morning from the Old Cemetery Bisley Road Stroud (worth a wander round with its varied habitats and interesting gravestones, many covered in lichen, and diversity of wildlife). Walking along the footpath extending from Horns Road through woodland with disused quarries we went up some muddy and slippy steps towards Wasa Wasa and across to The Heavens, one of the higher points in the landscape as its name suggests. Over Claypits lane and through Park Wood, with much felling of Ash here, down the hill at Far Thrupp then across A46 reaching the Canal to follow Thames and Severn Way towards Bowbridge.

Here we had good sightings of Common Darter inc a mating pair and a Heron that we hoped to see picking out one of the many fish but it seemed a bit shy of us. Meeting the road from Bowbridge to Rodborough Common we walked up the steep slopes onto the Common, where we had splendid views across Stroud with the Cemetery in the distance whilst we stopped for lunch. Continuing on and down past the Fort onto The Butts and a well earned pint in the Prince Albert.

After refreshment we headed back along Rodborough Lane taking a footpath that lead back to the Canal and alongside the Railway to Bowbridge across at the lights and up to the cemetery for the end of the walk.

by Richard Catlin


On Sunday 1st October 2023, GVCV returned to Chruchdown to complete annual pond clearance work. The ponds at Churchdown support a range of wildlife including birds, dragonflies and newts. Regular autumn/winter clearance is important in maintaining healthy ponds.

Before – Chris and James hunting for the first pond
After: Pond three – now with clear water
Pond crew after a hard days work


On Saturday 9th September 2023, volunteers from GVCV combined a task and social activity (best of both worlds). In the heat wave that the UK experienced at the start of September the group spent the morning ‘raking down’ a recently cut limestone wildflower meadow. The Hay Rake is important to maintain the low nutrient levels which are preferred and a range of limestone meadow plants including rare orchid species.

The hay removed from the land was transferred to a neighbouring farm as winter animal feed.

Following a morning of hard work the group enjoyed a well-earned BBQ and beer.

Raking down the meadow – removing the hay to help maintain low nutrient levels


Cows winter grazing following hay day – an important element for the management of the site

2023.07.07 Sud Meadow Kissing Gates

Nine volunteers turned out to replace stiles with kissing gates along the footpath that runs around Sud Meadow, near to the former Hempstead landfill site which is now being regenerated for people and wildlife. These gates will be easier for people to use than the old stiles whilst presenting an obstacle for illegally ridden motorbikes.

Not a common task for us, a little forward-planning with tools and materials paid off and we were pleased to get all three in.

Thanks to Meyrik from GWT and Steve from Enovert for looking after us and making it happen.

Anthony, Trina and Rob dig holes for the first gate after removing the awkward wood and wire fence.

In goes the gate: Trina, Sian, Rob, Anthony and Dave

Clearly the best-installed gate.

Nathan and Richard work on gate 2

Richard powering on with Gate 3, ‘supervised’ by Nathan and Sam

Steve mucks in

The ‘runners up’ in the ‘best gate installation’ competition: Richard, Steve, Candy, Nathan and Sam

All done!

2023.06.23   Churchdown SUMMER TASKS VISIT

On Sunday 18th June 2023, volunteers from GVCV spent a warm day working in the wildlife area at Chruchdown Parish Park. Tasks included mulching young trees to help them cope with the warm weather, path widening and conducting a basic plant survey of the meadow.

The group also cleared Himalayan Balsam from along the brook. Clearing the Balsam prevents this invasive plant from damaging the sides of the brook and spreading to other areas.

Ant showing Balsam pulling in full flow.

Lucy ensuring we pull all the Balsam – its good at hiding between the bramble and nettles

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.

A moth on a leaf

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Barberry Carpet moth

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

2023.04.02 – Emley Castle

GVCV Task @ Emley Castle – Sunday 2nd April 2023

The weather was with us for this year’s task at Emley Castle. The sun was shining as we helped local landowners (Tim and Nola) to clear bramble from a deer fence in need of repair, prune the orchard and remove willow from an area managed for bog loving plants.

Tim and Nola provided a fantastic lunch for the volunteers to say thank you for our efforts. A great farm site managed for wildlife with great hosts.


Edward helping clear bramble for his Duke of Edinburgh Award …


… with a little help from Sian and Candy.

f001e170-5af8-41e6-b142-6f329f8d89a1.JPGOrchard before pruning …

aaf41e40-39c8-44e5-a8ed-075391298bc3.JPG and after.

Lunch – normally we have lunch outside and bring our sandwiches so this was a special.