Nature conservation group report for May

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.


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.

The proposed project will see 550m surfaced path (stone to dust) link the northern and western paths. SGC will project manage the scheme, which we expect to start in the week commencing 17th June and we estimate that the contractor will be on site for up to three weeks.

Three SGC staff, myself and Rob Williams held a site meeting on Friday 24th May to look at the exact route through the woodland. Only a small part of the route has had to be changed as the gradients were felt to be too steep for wheelchairs, but otherwise we have stuck to the plan! If you’d like to see the route for yourselves just look for the painted arrows on the ground. And I learned a new word: ‘epicormic’! This is when small shoots/leaves grow out from previously dormant buds on the side of a tree trunk, it’s usually only seen when the tree is under stress. Fortunately, we don’t seem to have too many of those.

The lakeside path is often very muddy, but Green Gym took the opportunity to use the bark chippings that were left over from the lake island works and have spread those over the worst of the path. We are also intrigued, or maybe that should be confused, by the small central section of this path that was improved. We have no idea when this section will be completed. We would have preferred it to have been done in time for Bradley Stoke’s 10k race on 9th June, but in the absence of any communication we’re pegging our hopes on dry weather between now and then.

BSCS primary phase

Green Gym have again been clearing the school bank of bramble. Although a good habitat and food source, in good weather it can grow 3” a day, and it’s a never ending and tiresome task to try to keep the paths clear. Clearing it from this area also allows more light into Savages Wood, which improves the undergrowth. We also cleared all the bramble from the primary school entrance and Andy Wright and I had a hugely enjoyable session with a class of very enthusiastic and knowledge pupils who came and planted wildflowers on the newly cleared bank. Each pupil was given a trowel and their own packet of seeds and a marker, and they set to work. Once finished, we had a lively discussion on the number of hearts that a worm has (seven) and the number of earwigs that can roll up (two) and I’m sure, much to their parents dismay, I introduced them to goose grass, or, as I was solemnly informed: sticky weed! We are hoping that later in the year when the new hedging plants arrive they will return to help us plant them.

Bat walk

Another lively evening was had when we put on a bat walk just for the 1st Stoke Gifford Scouts. They learned about bats and I learned Scouts are louder than Girl Guides, but in a good way. With dusk still sometime away, we headed off into the woods, where our large fallen tree was our first stop. Having climbed all over it (but of course we’d completed our risk assessments) we then headed off for a stop at the pond to look for newts, then on to see the hedgelaying that we had done earlier in the year, before heading back into Savages Wood. Here they found our second large fallen tree and kindly assessed its climbing potential for us (who knew Scouts bounced?). Dusk was still refusing to grace us with her presence, so, after an inspection of the orchards and the old pump track, we called it a day and headed back. We may not have found many bats this time, but I think we found much fun and a very welcome donation to our tea fund.

• How to contact the Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group…

t: 07497 006676
Facebook: Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on pages 10 & 11). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH (except August), to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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