Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

Conservation group report for January

Posted on Thursday 6th February 2020 at 8:58 pm by SH (Editor)

Photo of a group of volunteers on the annual hedgelaying weekend.

By Sara Messenger of Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group.

Our annual hedgelaying went well with us running out of hard hats for the first time. However, this year, we did manage to lay 38 paces of new hedgeline reaching as far as the gate onto Bradley Stoke Way. Not all of last year’s hedge is thriving, so we have also planted a few more hedging trees alongside the thinner patches.

We were delighted to welcome a few new volunteers, the youngest, being 5, considerably reduced the average age of our volunteers! Although we thought it best not to let her loose with a bill hook, Tiegan, along with her dad proved very capable at dead hedging and before they headed off for lunch, Tiegan planted also two hazel trees for us too.

Photo of a young volunteer on the hedgelaying weekend.

Green Gym had cleared the hedging area for the Saturday group, but this year we also went back to finish the planting and do a little hedgelaying of our own. Not that we’re boasting, but over two weeks we managed 68 paces! Much of this was re-establishing an old hedgeline but was, we think, still pretty good going!

More: More trees planted around the nature reserve »

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Conservation group review of the year

Posted on Thursday 30th January 2020 at 8:48 pm by SH (Editor)

Photo of volunteers standing by the newly constructed disabled access gate into Savages Wood.

By Sara Messenger of Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group.

Well that was yet another very busy year which seemed to fly by, if only our goals could have achieved the same speed! But for all its challenges, annoyances, foul weather and delays, it has, I feel, still been a satisfying year for us. Although our now swan-less lake is still full of silt, our bridges are rotting and we mourn the loss of our water voles and our skylarks, we do now have grizzled skipper and small egger butterflies, stoats and some decent paths. What’s more, our otters have returned and we won the battle of the balsam!

The Savages Wood paths project has been a long hard slog but it has been worth it. Now that we have approved methods and contractors, we hope to be able to improve more paths on the reserve, including those by the lake. And if we could manage these projects ourselves, it would keep the costs down.

The disabled access gate, located behind the sports hall at Bradley Stoke Leisure Centre (see map below) has been a good addition to the reserve, not only for mobility scooters but for push chairs too. It’s been a joy to see another generation discover all that the reserve has to offer whether that’s hunting for bugs, catching falling leaves or watching the squirrels play in the slanting sunlight high up in the trees.

Looking forward to 2020, we hope to have more of our hugely popular foraging forays and bat walks, fewer fires, less vandalism, more water vole and butterfly improvements and fewer diseased and falling trees. We also have plans to install a star-gazing bed with its own planisphere! We have applied for a British Science Week 2020 grant and hope to be able to ‘launch’ the bed during British science week (6th-15th March).

More: Map showing accessible paths in Savages Wood »

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Nature conservation group report for September

Posted on Thursday 3rd October 2019 at 9:07 pm by SH (Editor)

Group photo from the foraging walk.

An update from Sara Messenger of Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group.

We’ve had a very busy last couple of months but we have at last seen our Savages Wood paths project completed. The contractors that completed the work are called Greenfields and we think it all went well, although I’m not sure their lads would all agree. It wasn’t all plain sailing – a new ramp was added at the last minute, a lorry broke all our paving slabs and there was quite a bit of head scratching over how to install the new disabled access gate (a big thank you to the Disabled Ramblers group for all their help). I think Jack felt he’d dug more holes than an entire family of moles, as both gate posts were moved several times and then the main gate was vandalised, requiring them to return and replace the posts yet again. However, I think we are all in agreement that it’s been worth the effort as now not only can wheelchairs access the woods but also those with pushchairs and those not quite so steady on their feet, as well as our usual dog walkers, runners and cyclists both young and slightly older.

Our new slowworm refugia have also proved to be an asset. Last year a few hundred of the reptiles were translocated from a building site onto the reserve and we agreed to survey the population to see if it was successful. Refugia have been put in place around the reserve to monitor the slowworm population, we’re very pleased to see that it appears to be thriving and in areas that we weren’t previously aware we had slowworms. They are a protected species, so if you find a refugia please don’t disturb it as slowworms can, when they feel threatened, shed their tails. A slowworm is a legless lizard not a snake, the most obvious difference is that they, unlike snakes, have eyelids and flat black tongues. They will be fully grown after 6 to 8 years although the females can breed from 4 to 5 years and I’m told they can grow up to 50cm, although I have yet to see one of ours half that size.

Balsam bashing

Despite South Gloucestershire Council, back in February, imposing a blanket ban on either group working in or near water, we do seem to have won the battle of the balsam this year. Although quite an attractive plant, Himalayan balsam is very invasive and no good for wildlife, so a fair part of the year is spent clearing it from the reserve. Although it can grow to 10ft, it has a small root ball so is easily pulled up by even the youngest helper and I’m very fond of telling them that if you stamp on it, it sounds like dead men’s bones! Each year we have less and less balsam and that’s purely down to the hard work of our dog walkers pulling their ‘ten a day’ and to our volunteers both on workdays and on odd free evenings when they can be spotted prowling through the undergrowth. I genuinely think they get more excited at finding a balsam stalk than they do at finding a £5 note.

More: Working on water; Organised walks »

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Nature conservation group report for May

Posted on Friday 14th June 2019 at 10:08 pm by SH (Editor)

Scouts from the 1st Stoke Gifford Group standing on a large fallen tree during a bat walk.

An update from Sara Messenger of Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group.

Pollution

Photo of a pollution sheen on the surface of water in Stoke Brook.

On Wednesday 1st May, we received the unwelcome news that we had pollution in our brooks again, and it was again coming from Stoke Brook by Sherbourne’s Brake. Reg Ward kindly doubled back to get some photographs for us, as these are required as evidence, and it was reported to the Environment Agency. The oily pollution had travelled through Forty Acres (Stoke Gifford) and I believe they also reported the problem. Although some areas still have oily patches, we think we have been lucky this time, as we haven’t found any signs of  lasting damage,

Savages Wood paths

Unknown to us, our paths had, for some, become a bit of a campaign issue. We are well aware of the state of the paths and have been lobbying the land owners (SGC) for many years for them to be improved; unfortunately their tree officers believed that a more solid path would have a negative impact on the tree roots and therefore the length of the trees’ lives. Path making methods have improved over the years and we were finally able to agree on a method which protects the tree roots while providing a path that does not resemble the Somme at its worst. In April 2018, we put together a grant application – which was unsuccessful, but after some tweaking, a second application was submitted in December 2018 which was approved. We are very pleased to finally be able to announce that the Enovert Community Trust has given us a grant of £25,000 which will shortly be used to improve more than 500m of woodland paths at the northern end of the reserve in Savages Woods. The total project budget is £29,444, so the extra funding has come from a combination of match funding supplied from South Gloucestershire Council’s Member Awarded Funding (MAF) Streetcare budget, the Conservation Group’s own funding, which came from our small reserves, and £2,152 of further MAF funding from Cllr Brian Hopkinson.

More: BSCS primary phase wildflowers and Scout’s bat walk »

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