Quedgeley LNR

We visited Quedgeley local nature reserve to carry out path maintenance. There were 4 of us involved in levelling, as far as  possible, the main path into reserve and then laying chippings on the surface. This should make it more accessible and reduce muddiness in many places.

DSCN2508 DSCN2509

We shifted over a tonne of chippings and completed to beyond the path leading to the pond. There is still more to do but we were pleased with our progress.

DSCN2515 DSCN2511

DSCN2516

 

Buckholt Wood: Cotswold Commons and Beechwoods National Nature Reserve

Buckholt Wood lies to the north of Cranham Village and covers an area of 100 hectares (247 acres). It forms part of the Cotswolds Commons and Beechwoods NNR extending across 7.5 km of the Gloucestershire Cotswolds situated between Gloucester, Cheltenham and Stroud. Management of the reserve is carried out jointly by the owner and Natural England with the dual aims of conserving the diverse, uneven-aged beechwood with its rich wildlife and of producing timber.

The blank canvas awaiting our attentions
The blank canvas awaiting our attentions

This ancient woodland is believed to have existed since the original wildwood developed after the retreat of the ice sheets. The name derives from the Saxon for beechwood. The woodlands were used to supply timber and firewood from as early as the 12th century and parts of the wood were managed by coppicing, which continues to present day.

Forest anemones in profusion amongst the beech leaves
Forest anemones in profusion amongst the beech leaves

The beechwoods are amongst the most varied and species rich of their type. Dominated by beech, there are also ash, oak, whitebeam, wych elm and alder trees. Woodland shrubs are well represented, particularly holly and yew. Buckholt Wood is an outstanding site for wild fungi with over 780 species recorded. The ground flora in beech woods is typically sparse, however here it is richer including dogviolet, wood anemone, primrose, lords and ladies, and woodruff. On the drier slopes beneath the beech canopy, wild strawberry thrives and less common plants such as stinking hellebore, bird’s nest orchid and narrow-lipped helleborine may be found.

As Djokovic retreats to the base line Andrew cruises up to the net
As Djokovic retreats to the base line Andrew cruises up to the net

Our task on 03.04.16 was a continuation of that which we began last December, the construction of a “Dead Hedge” to prevent the mountjack deer from attacking the new shoots growing from recently coppiced stumps. Dead Hedging involves packing the coppiced material between pairs of uprights to form an impenetrable barrier. The good news is that we completed the enclosure to one area – the bad? news is that we began another area, so a return visit to Buckholt is assured.

A man on a mission - the warden with his chain saw
A man on a mission – the warden with his chain saw

We had a good day: we achieved more than was expected of us so the Warden was happy, the weather was kind to us and we got away from the site 15 minutes before the heavens opened up.

Dave rehearsing his Summer Nights number
Dave rehearsing his Summer Nights number
The latest in personal entertainment - headset with integral satellite aerial
The latest in personal entertainment – headset with integral satellite aerial
The conservation volunteers essential tool kit
The conservation volunteers essential tool kit
I wonder - should I have tied that off with a bowline or a clove hitch ?
I wonder – should I have tied that off with a bowline or a clove hitch ?

Stinchcombe Hill, Dursley

A welcome return to Stinchcombe Hill, managed by Chris Wiltshire for Butterfly Conservation/Stinchcombe Hill Trust. Six GVCV volunteers were joined by two others from Stinchcombe to assist Chris in clearing mostly Ash saplings from an area of former grassland with a view to restoring this for the benefit of butterflies and other invertebrates.

DSCN2457

Working on a slope we managed to keep out of the wind which on occasions was pretty cold.  A large area was cleared and Chris followed up by treating stumps to prevent regrowth.

DSCN2456 DSCN2462

It is a great place to work on with some amazing views, come back in May.June and you’ll see what all the effort is for with a variety of butterfly species particularly Blues.

DSCN2455

Scrub Bashing at Shortwood, Haresfield

Haresfield Beacon and Standish Wood is a National Trust site of some 270 acres near Stroud. The Beacon rises to 700 feet and has extensive views over the Severn estuary and beyond and is designated as a SSSI because of its extensive range of wildlife. The Cotswold Way runs through the area and the archaeology includes an Iron Age ditch and with rampart, a long barrow and the remains of a Romano British hill fort. The woods include some ancient Beech trees (more than 400 years old) GVCV have in the recent past carried out some clearance along the line of the ditch and rampart to expose their construction.

The task on 7 February was to clear an area adjacent to the ditch, cutting out blackthorn and bramble and thinning out the ash trees so as to improve the grass for the benefit of the conservation cattle (belted Galloways) from the nearby Ebworth centre which graze the Beacon.

Sizing up the job before launching into felling mode
Sizing up the job before launching into felling mode

The National Trust Warden gave us some background of the site and explained the task for the day. He provided most of the tools needed for the work and gave the appropriate “tool talk” which saved us needing to do it. He also underlined the major hazard on the site which is the residue left behind by the army of thoughtless dog walkers every day.

A long standing and valued member of the group on his swansong – leaving us due to employment relocation
A long standing and valued member of the group on his swansong – leaving us due to employment relocation
But to balance the loss of one member of the group, two welcome additions out on their first task with us
But to balance the loss of one member of the group, two welcome additions out on their first task with us

The weather on the day was very mixed with periods of bright sunshine alternating with sharp squalls and windy most of the time. Overall it was fairly chilly which made the fire on which we burned the brash a popular place to be.

D:\Pictures\GVCV.07.02.16 Hareswood\IMG00373-20160207-1450.jpg

All too often we find ourselves dragging brash uphill to the fire
All too often we find ourselves dragging brash uphill to the fire

As is usual with these tasks the measure of our success was the blank expanse of grass we left behind us and the limitation on our success was the next defined section of scrub which we could see, waiting to be tackled on another day. Ah well, a conservation volunteers task is never done !

A vista of nothingness – the sign of our success.
A vista of nothingness – the sign of our success.

 

Ruskin Mill Farm Hedgelaying

After a drizzly start 6 members of the group set to the task of laying part of a hedge at Ruskin Mill Farm Nailsworth. The majority of the hedge is hazel and had been previously laid ten or more years ago (hedgelaying is a traditional management mostly aimed at providing stock-proof barriers but nowadays it has greater amenity and wildlife value). Two of the volunteers had no or little experience of this work but were shown the methods by the rest of us and particularly Peter the farm manager.

DSCN2442

The initial work involved clearing some of the old/dead material that wasn’t of use for laying – this took quite a bit of time. Then we partly cut through near the base of stems using axes, billhooks or saws creating a hinge with which to lower the stem (known as a pleacher) – the cambium layer just below the bark is where nutrients, water etc are transported up and down the tree.

After a break for lunch, posh biscuits and cake we continued the task and managed to lay stems from two more, what essentially were, coppice stools. Amy, Phil and Andrew also helped stake along the hedge and bound part of this with ‘heatherings’ – thinner stems cleaned of side branches and woven around the stakes to hold the pleachers in place (plus it looks good).

DSCN2446 DSCN2447

All in all I think we can be pleased with our efforts, hopefully next season we will be back for some more.

Richard Catlin

Grassland restoration at Juniper Hill

We spent today at the SSSI site of Juniper Hill near Stroud (Wick street), working for Natural England. The grassland is an important habitat for rare butterflies and is in the danger of becoming a forest, due to an army of ash saplings eager to grow and take over.

IMG_3196

IMG_3204

To restore the grassland, which has started to be grazed again, we cut the ash saplings while a member of staff from Natural England treated the stumps (that’s what the man in the green suit is doing!). We left any hawthorn or black thorn alone because of their habitat value.

IMG_3200

We had a good bonfire going!

IMG_3205

Although the day was grey, it was dry and it was nice to spend it outdoors in this amazing scenery!

IMG_3208

The end of a good volunteering day!

 

PS: If you fancy following Natural England Cotswolds on twitter, there they are:  https://twitter.com/NECotswolds

Bramble bash at Llanthony Secunda Priory

This task was mostly about clearing brambles in various areas of the site at Llanthony Secunda Priory in Gloucester. Thankfully the weather was dry for most of the day, which allowed us to get a lot done, to the trust’s delight. We also got not one but two bonfires going! Lighting them, especially the first one was a challenge because everything was damped and we didn’t have much dead wood to  burn.

Some of the bramble clearing was critical to allow some archaeological recording to take place.

 

Getting the second fire going!
Getting the second fire going!
A nice area now clear of brambles, allowing archeological work to be carried out.
A nice area now clear of brambles, allowing archeological work to be carried out.
Cleared area with the smoke of the second bonfire in the distance.
Cleared area with the smoke of the second bonfire in the distance.
Clearing more brambles, near the first bonfire.
Clearing more brambles, near the first bonfire.
Clearing brambles around the pond.
Clearing brambles around the pond.

 

Coppicing at Coopers Hill LNR

Coopers Hill LNR is an SSSI consists of 137 acres of Atlantic Beech woodland, with pockets of orchid rich limestone grassland (good for fungi and species including the Roman snail), now owned by GCC and managed by the Warden from Crickley Hill (currently Julian Bendle). It includes High Botheridge Camp Scheduled Ancient Monument, the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, possibly the largest in Gloucestershire. The Cotswold Way runs through the reserve and of course it is the site of the annual Cheese Rolling Race, said by some to date from Pre Roman times.

These woodlands were listed in the Doomsday book in 1086 being part of the holdings of the monks of Gloucester Abbey (who built nearby Prinknesh Abbey) When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries he made Prinknesh a hunting lodge and made the surrounding woodland, including Coopers Hill, a Royal hunting Ground. Coopers Hill has been registered as Common Land since medieval times with the commoners having rights of Herbage, Pannage, Estovers and Turberry (grazing for cattle, sheep etc; allowing pigs to forage for acorns; cutting or gathering wood; digging turf or peat for roofing or fuel)

The Before picture
The After picture

An ancient form of woodland management is coppicing where trees, generally Hazel, are cut down to ground level, resulting in multiple stems emanating from the stump. This process benefits many forms bird and insect life. Every ten years or so these shoots are harvested for use in hedging and the production of hurdles and other items. GVCV coppiced one area last autumn and the task on Sunday 20 December was to continue the process on the next adjacent area.

As well as making use of this material on the site an amount is also provided to schools in the area who operate Forest Schools to educate their children in aspects of nature, woodcraft etc. We selected and stacked suitable material for this by the side of the track for later collection and delivery by the Warden.

Our precious Faraway tree has been at risk many times but we have always managed to keep it safe from harm
If we grasp it from both sides we can surely push it straight onto the fire, don’t you think?

Our activity produced quantities of brash, material with no real use, which we burned on a fire, carefully monitored by the warden as was necessary on a fine but fairly windy day. We made good secondary use of the fire by cooking potatoes in tinfoil, just the thing for a hot, filling lunch.

I could have washed the car if I’d stayed at home today
I’ll find that baked potato if it’s the last thing I do
So tea break at 11, lunch at 12, finish at 1 and a pint in the pub on the way home. Everyone happy with that?

We managed to coppice a significant area as well as clearing a quantity of bramble and the like and as the light faded and we packed away our tools we were able to look round with some satisfaction at a large area of nothingness (where once there was dense woodland and scrub). But we know where we will be working again in 10 years time!

Newark Park

This was a task for National Trust at Newark Park Osleworth. We were working primarily for the tenant farmer. Under the Higher Level Stewardship scheme we were helping restore grassland by removing a large area of scrub and bramble on a steep slope. With seven GVCV and two National Trust volunteeers plus the ranger, we managed to clear a large area, despite the sometimes inclement weather. The cuttings were burnt on site.

This is a site we hope to return to in the future.

Scrub Clearance at Woodchester Park

Woodchester Park, a tranquil wooded valley, contains a ‘lost landscape’ with remains of an 18th- and 19th-century landscape park. The early 19th Century gardens were associated with a Georgian mansion in the grounds of the park, which was later replaced by Woodchester Mansion.

 

A short prayer to the Sylvian spirits before attacking the trees
A short prayer to the Sylvian spirits before attacking the trees
This 'ere job needs a bit of thinking about
This ‘ere job needs a bit of thinking about

The National Trust has been working for 17 years to reduce the area of planted woodland and increase open areas such as pasture and natural landscape. Work has already been done to return 20 hectares of land to grazed pasture, to benefit the population of rare greater horseshoe bats. The greater horseshoe feeds off the invertebrates associated with cattle and sheep, and so providing more land for pasture in turn creates more feeding areas for these rare bats. The Ebworth Centre in the Park contains a herd of conservation cattle.

 

Volunteer and warden working in tandem
Volunteer and warden working in tandem

The work that we carried out was scrub clearance on Scotland Bank which is at the bottom of the park. The work is part of a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme to revert the area back to grassland which is how it was 30 or so years ago.

The weather forecast was for bitterly cold weather all day but in the event it was benign, relatively warm and with bright sunshine for most of the day. Those wearing Long Johns soon regretted their caution, especially around the fire where we burned the brash.

We cleared and burned brash previously cut by the Warden, whilst he worked with a chain saw to ensure that we did not run out of material to process.

 

“I wanted to be a National Trust Warden ever since I was this high”
“I wanted to be a National Trust Warden ever since I was this high”

 

The Gallic technique with a bush saw
The Gallic technique with a bush saw

P1010666

 

It was great to look back at the end of the day and see clearly the difference our efforts had made.