Improving River Biodiversity in Hawley Meadows

Last week Jenny and I were joined by volunteers from Novartis to install woody debris in the River Blackwater at Hawley Meadows. The task went really well with colleagues collecting hawthorn faggots which were then fixed into the river bed using chestnut posts and wire. The woody debris helps to provide submerged foliage for invertebrates and fish fry to shelter in. Whilst narrowing the channel speeds up the flow which scours the silt, exposing the gravel beds underneath which are essential for fish spawning.

Cutting off the chestnut posts in the river

Proud volunteers by the river branches

There was of course a chance for some paddling with the team removing a fantastic 6 sacks worth of rubbish from the river.

Mucking around in boats

Thank you to everyone for all their hard work.

Senior Ranger Stuart

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Can you guess which wildflower?

Spring has sprung and even with this changeable weather our local wildflowers have made a beautiful showing. Here are a few species that can be found in the Blackwater Valley. Can you guess what they are?

Common Mallow

Wildflower 1

Speedwell

Wildflower 2

Mint

Wildflower 3

Ling Heather

Wildflower 4

Great Burnet

Wildflower 5

Answers to follow next week.

Countryside Ranger Jenny

Posted in Conservation, education, General Information, Hawley Meadow, Southwoood, Wellesley Woodlands, Wildlife | Tagged , | Leave a comment

New Sparkly Volunteer Task Programme

BVCP Volunteer Task Programme May 2018

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Laurel and Thorns 

Yesterday, 19th, in 28 degree weather, Bobbie and I were joined by Becky, Mike, John and Eric at Thorn Hill, Wellesley Woodlands, to cut back more Laurel. The central section of the woodland has been taken over by laurel which has been left to grow unchecked. 

Alongside this Bobbie chainsawed a snapped off limb from a tree lying in the meadow and couldn’t wait to get out of the chainsaw trousers afterwards!  The volunteers cleared this up, along with trimming back over hanging branches and clearing up old fencing.

We’ve been tackling the laurel in Thorn Hill for a few years and we’re beginning to see new plants growing where they once dominated. 

At the moment it’s mostly sycamore seedlings, bramble, nettles and bindwind but it’s a step in the right direction. The reduced laurel is letting in more light to the woodland floor so keep your eye out for what else might appear. 

Thank your for all everyone help.

Ranger Laura 

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Tractoring at Tices Meadow

This week I’ve been on the tractor helping Stu out on his bridge construction project. It’s been entertaining seeing how many different jobs we can use the tractor for.

Unloading the 6m bearers

I unloaded the bridge timber at Ash Lock then we drove down to site to take delivery of the rather long metal bridge bearers. The 6m ones were hung off the bucket, whilst the 8m ones were dragged on a wooden skid.

Moving the 8m bearers

Balancing the beams on strops on the bucket we could then position them close to the river, so with rollers and brute force we could position them on the abutments.

Moving willow brash

As a break from scraping the track, I lent a hand to Les by moving the cut brash piles on top of his fire. We’re all just loading up the vehicles again this morning, so I’m hoping for another satisfying bridging day.

Senior Ranger Stuart

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Layers of Fun

At Southwood Woodland our local volunteer group have continued to improve the woodland with a task every 4th Sunday of the month. On our last task we took to planting whips (young trees) and sowing seeds to improve the biodiversity of the woodland understory.

field maple whips

Field Maple whips

Just like a rainforest, woodlands have several layers. Each layer can support a host of different wildlife. By adding more native species to the different layers we can attract a bigger and more diverse amount of wildlife.

 

Southwood Woodland has a fantastic canopy of veteran Oaks and Downy Birch, among other species. The understory trees just below the tallest layer was added to with planted Field Maple and Hawthorn. Once these whips  have developed they will provide numerous nesting and food opportunities for smaller woodland birds. Whilst planting in the area pictured below we spotted a Treecreeper building nest!

liz whip planting

The volunteers then took to improving the field layer. This is the layer between the ground and the understory trees which can include Bluebells and Ferns. They sowed Red Campion, native Bluebell, Primrose and Lords and Ladies seeds. These wildflowers will supply food and microhabitats for a range of butterflies and other invertebrates. We spotted the Brimstone butterflies getting their first glimpse of sun.

peter whip planting

Thank you to the group for all their hard work. Keep an eye out for the flowers now Spring has arrived!

Our next volunteer task is this Sunday. We will be creating wig wams to protect Hazel stools and protecting a stumpery. All are welcome to meet us at the Old Kennels Lane entrance at 10:30am. If you would like to join us please call Jenny the Ranger on 07703449287.

Jenny Countryside Ranger

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Bridging at Tices Meadow

Today I popped down to see our staff and volunteers preparing for bridges at Tices Meadow, where we’ve been commissioned to install two pedestrian bridges over the River Blackwater. The Western Bridge is going in near the mound, to provide an easier access than the stepping stones from the Blackwater Valley Path. Whilst the Eastern Bridge 200m downstream opens up a land-locked section of the reserve.

For these 8m and 6m span bridges respectively, we’ve chosen a sturdy design we’ve found to work well at our other sites like Blackwater Reach and Wellesley Woodlands. For each bridge three steel bearers will rest on a pair of reinforced concrete abutments, which need to be substantial to raise the bridge up from the bank and spread the load. Each one is an engineering challenge, requiring careful laser-levelling and the addition of 1.4m3 of concrete.

Constructing the eastern bridge abutments

The unseasonably wet conditions have meant we’ve needed to borrow our shared tractor to help transport the materials, and tow out the truck when it gets stuck. Unfortunately with our tight time frame, the rutting and disturbance of the muddy ground is inevitable. However the team have worked hard to minimise the number of vehicle movements and where possible drive off the main pedestrian routes.

Transporting ballast with the tractor

The abutments on the Western Bridge are already complete, and the team aim to get the Eastern Bridge ones done today. They will then cure ready for us to return next week to start building the superstructure of the Western Bridge.

The completed western bridge abutments

Stu has done an excellent job managing the project in difficult conditions this week. Thank you to all the staff and volunteers who have worked do hard over long wet days to get the job done. I look forward to seeing the bridges taking shape with constructing the bridge structure.

Senior Ranger Stuart

Posted in Blackwater Reach, Farnham Quarry / Tices, Path, River, Volunteers, Wellesley Woodlands | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment