Category Archives: Uncategorised

2022.07.03 Kemerton tree popping

2022.07.03 Kemerton tree popping

On Sunday 3 July 2022, volunteers from GVCV worked again for the Kemerton Conservation Trust, this time in a location new to us within the Kemerton Lake Nature Reserve

The lake is adjacent to an existing extensive arboretum and woodland area and the Trust wish to keep the section around the lake as limestone grass land rather than wooded. Alas this message has not been received by the trees and large numbers of unwanted willow, alder and silver birch saplings have appeared. The larger clumps have been chemically treated but there were numerous single stems or small clumps waiting our attention.

The tool of choice for this task was the tree popper. This is a metal device with a jaw which is locked onto the base of the stem and a long handle enabling the stem to be levered out of the ground, including its roots. This is fairly easy to do where the stem is small and the ground is soft but larger stems in dryer ground require some degree of effort. Swearing at it seems to help.

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There would appear that there are Munt Jac deer on the reserve and we found the remains of one which just didn’t move fast enough

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Often we had to hunt through the long grass and weeds to find the offending stems.

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The reeds in the pond were 8 or 9 foot tall and were home to a multitude of birds which we could hear, but not see.

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Tea break and lunch are essential markers through the day

The grassland already contains an abundance of wild flowers including :

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Ragged Robin                                                       King Cup

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Bee Orchid                                                           Goats Beard

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These wild flowers sustain large numbers of butterflies on the site including:

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Marbled White

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We were fortunate enough to find grass snakes, including some with eggs

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We stacked the spoil for others to remove – the height of the heap being the measure of our efforts.

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The obligatory group photo at the end of the task (less one early finisher)

2022.05.21 GVCV Social at Nailsworth Festival

2022.05.21 GVCV Social at Nailsworth Festival

On Saturday 21st May 2022, the Gloucester Vale ‘crew’ made the most of smashing Spring weather to visit the Nailsworth festival and Weighbridge Inn for lunch. The day included a very traditional duck race, live music, locally produced stuff and a good excuse to catch up over a pint. GVCV has socials throughout the year giving us an opportunity to catch up between tasks and visit new places.

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2022.05.22 Churchdown planting and pond works

Churchdown Park – Gloucester Vale Conservation Volunteers task 22 May 22

This task was arranged to help maintain Churchdown Park – a popular community space – for use by wildlife and by people.

Our regular group was joined by three enthusiastic helpers from Dowty Propellers (a GE subsidiary) who were keen to get outdoors together, build teamwork and contribute to the local community. The Dowty three planted the side of a tump with shrubs that will provide habitat and nectar for butterflies and bees.

Before

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During

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Nearly done

The group also cleared blanket weed from four of five ponds on the site, to prevent de-oxygenation and help pond biodiversity. Excitingly, great crested newts were found during this work (as well as smooth newts, dragonfly larvae and nesting moorhens). Work was curtailed to avoid disturbance to these creatures. Finding and identifying these will help guide appropriate management in future.

Pond clearing

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A healthier pond, showing community use

The team also found other work on the site: clearing nettles from a willow ‘tunnel’, modifying tree guards to help a (GVCV) previously-planted hedge to grow and discovering and clearing some invasive Himalayan balsam which we found on of the site.

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Anthony helping the hedge

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Balsam pulling

Evil Himalayan balsam

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Part of the team – still smiling

We even took time to enjoy a tea break ☺

2022.04.24 Kemerton – lifting non-native daffodils

24.4.22 – Kemerton Woods Nature Reserve Task

On Sunday 24th March 2022, volunteers from GVCV gathered on a beautiful sunny day to help clear hundreds of daffodils in the Kemerton woods. This particular part of the woods had a large area of cultivated daffodils that had spread considerably so needed clearing to give space for native daffodils to make it their home without the worry of hybridising with the cultivated ones.

Here is the picture of the woods before we started the challenge of removal of bulbs.

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The majority of the bulbs were very deep in the ground and we had the extra challenges of digging around the tree roots and various items such as chicken wire and miscellaneous rubble. It was very satisfying when they came free from the ground in clusters 😊

 

After a very enjoyable days work here is the end result culminating in two very large piles of future ‘compost’ and a cleared area for our native breeds of daffodils to grow their way into.

 

These are some of my merry helpers who contributed to the successful task.

2022.03.27 Nosehill quarry face

 

On Sunday 27 March 2022, volunteers from GVCV returned to the site on Nosehill Farm, Stow-on-the -Wold, to work again at the quarry face. This part of the farm contains a disused quarry with an exposed face which contains elements of geological interest including a rare rock formation known as “Cotswold Slate”. As the face is listed the farmer is obliged to keep it clear of scrub etc so that it can be viewed by any interested parties. That is where GVCV come in.

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The rock face as we found it – the “before” photograph

There is a wire fence near the foot of the quarry face to keep visitors safe from falling rock and then a wide open space leading to the lake formed in the deep part of the quarry. We have spent many hours in the past clearing this wide space so we were delighted to see on this occasion that the farmer had employed a contractor to run through with a tracked vehicle, levelling the ground and grinding the undergrowth into a bed of woodchip.

That left us with the section between the wire fence and the quarry face, about ten foot wide, filled with bramble, brush and young trees (up to about 15 foot). We started a the end nearest the site entrance and cleared a good length, as far as the dinosaur footprint. (There is the imprint of a dinosaur’s footprint in a rock with an explanatory information board.}

The cut material is problematic on this site. On most sites we burn it but on listed sites that is not generally permitted. We therefore leave the brash in piles which the farmer clears using a tractor with a fork lift.

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Multiple brash piles. We keep the smallish to allow continued access through the site. Note the mechanical stripping and levelling of the open area – previously done by us by hand.

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Raking the brash into piles – harder work than you might think !

On this task we were joined by a “next generation” volunteer, only 14 years old. He worked under close supervision and was ably assisted by the experienced volunteers around him. He certainly pulled his weight on the task, but I think the unaccustomed form of exercise will have left him somewhat tired and stiff the next morning.

 

Lunch – time to look back on the mornings work. Note our young volunteer elected to take “high tea”

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The lake, the trees and the scrub make the area attractive to birds and we certainly heard their song throughout the day. The song became a bit raucous when the Canada geese took exception to the farmer harrowing an adjacent field. There is a specific bank near the site entrance which is particularly attractive to butterflies, including the rare “Small Blue”. There are assorted mammals tunnelling near the lake and in fissures in the quarry face. The animal world clearly make this site a busy place, except on the one or two days in the year when there are hoards of volunteers tramping through it.

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Some of the happy band of volunteers who worked on this task. Note the drums are nothing to do with us, oil used by the farmer on his machinery we believe.

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The rock face as we left it – the “after” picture

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)