stinchcombe hill 20 October 2019

GVCV TASK 20 October 2019 – STINCHCOMBE HILL, DURSLEY

See GVCV previous report dated 26/02/1017 giving a detailed description of the Stinchcombe Hill site and of our efforts to reverse the decline of the butterfly population with especial reference to the Duke of Burgundy, the Dingy Skipper, the Heath Fritillary and the Large Blue.

http-butterfly-conservation-org-files-duke-of-bu
The Duke of Burgundy Fritillary, the beneficiary of our efforts, we hope.

The site is managed by a warden from the Stinchcombe Hill Butterfly trust with a team of volunteers and their objective is to bring the site back to its original state of untreated Cotswold grassland forming an environment favouring orchids, butterflies and sky larks.

This is an uphill struggle because lack of resources has allowed extensive encroachment of trees and shrubs.  

The lower slopes are by far the most in need of clearing, but this is private land belonging to Stinchcombe House and cannot therefore be included in our scope of works.   Discussions are however in progress with the current owner.

Our task on Sunday was to progress the clearance of the scrub etc on the Western slopes of Drakestone Point consisting mainly of Blackthorn and Ash all bound together with bramble.  

This slope is just below the plateau known locally as “the village green”, notwithstanding that it is remote from the village.

The warden keeping an eye on our activities at the fire

The volunteers tackled the blackthorn etc with loppers and bushsaws, dragging the cut material to a fire site

There is some debate as to the ecological significance of bonfires as opposed to retaining the cut material in habitat piles but as soon as the material reaches any significant quantity then the advantages of habitat piles become disadvantages as the retained material covers the very grass we are trying to expose.  

Better by far is a roaring bonfire, consuming the brash and warming the volunteers on cold days on what is a very exposed site

Last night in the disco they all learned a new energetic dance which they now regret.
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Is this a Genie appearing in a puff of smoke – or has a volunteer managed to get the fire going
The pink Hawthorn blossom around the site is attractive at this time of the year
Caterpillar of the Fox moth (Macrothylacia rubi)

An unexpected find was a Fox Moth caterpillar, named for the fox red stripe down its back.

It feeds on bramble and enjoys sunning itself on paths etc (we had some hot sunny spells that day). It over-winters in leaf litter or loose soil and then pupates in spring for a month before emerging as a Fox moth.

The caterpillar is more striking than the duller coloured adult moth
A well earned lunch break, surveying the whole world laid out below our site
Sore feet at the end of a hard day’s work

Nature being nature, the material we cut begins to re-grow as soon as we turn our backs and there are many sites where we return year after year to repeat the process in the same location.  

In order to try to prevent this, the cut stumps are painted with glyphosate which penetrates downwards to kill the roots of the plant.   This painting must be done within minutes of the stem being cut else the capillaries will self seal.  Use of this powerful chemical can only be by a trained and licensed operator, in this case the Warden on the site.  

So theoretically, in a few years we will have worked ourselves out of a job, but the expression “dream on” springs to mind.

 

Kemerton wood 30 june 2019

A continuation of our work opening up the stream side at Kemerton Wood nr Bredon. We were able to complete this up to one the small wooden bridges across the stream. During the course of this we came across 40+ peacock butterfly caterpillars and also an eel. Exciting to know that the stream had such life in and around it.

Quedgeley local nature reserve 16th june 2019

A return to this nature reserve in the midst of Quedgeley. The task was to block off a path that lead too close to the pond. In this respect we decided to erect a dead hedge – mostly using previously cut material from when we did some coppicing. Knocking in some posts we then weaved in various small branches, some of which we had to cut fresh (mostly sycamore). It did the job, so well pleased with our work.

Huddinknoll Common 19th May 2019

A Natural England managed site that they are grazing with sheep. The task today was to move the electric fence to another part of the grassland, giving the sheep more grass to chew on. Quite a task to shift and roll up the fence material ready to resite it. Forunately the sheep didn’t take long to move across.