SUMMER 2012 - SPRING 2013
We've completed our third year of coppicing in this lovely Sibelco owned Surrey Wildlife Trust reserve ancient woodland. The tasks here have consistently generated very high numbers of vols, despite occasions this winter that it resembled more the Somme, with Mr Moulder in particular complaining about which idiot (Simon!) picked the middle of a river to site our ride fire! We've cut a second coup or cant area further into the wood, an area of more hazel than ash under oak standards, and we also have a lovely patch of Butcher's Broom (Ruscus aculeatus) in the middle of the area. SWT Rangers have now deer fenced it, and Tony J made excellent repairs to the deer fencing of our first coup, using the woodman's string - honeysuckle. Our famed Christmas task, saw us dining on spit roast lamb & pork, washed down with mulled red grape juice. A big thank you to everyone who brought contributions to share, not least Jan, a Dutchman from Utrecht who had found us on the internet and as he was coming to Reigate for Christmas, arrived with his grandson and Dutch goodies to join in! See you next Christmas Jan?!! Earlier in the summer, we had a coppice crafts day where apart from the usual cleaving, shaving and turning, there were various 'special' projects on the go. Ian carved out a bowel from a large lump of ash, Tony made oak slats for a bench he is repairing, Bryan continued with his seat project, and Oliver made a new hand mallet for the Group. Simon had done a piece for BBC Radio Surrey and we were visited by a couple from Horsham who had heard it and were actually wardens at the Warnham Nature Reserve. Aside from the early morning downpour with thunder overhead, giving us all an experience of rainforest conditions, when the sun came out for the rest of the day, we were treated to the sight of a fritillary butterfly (probably a Silver Washed) using the coppice coup - a new species as far as we're aware for the Copse, and one attracted directed as a result of our conservation work restoring the coppice cycle. We will see how the ground flora is responding to our coppice work, in the new Task Programme. Talking of new species, Gill found a vivid blue fungus, which having forwarded a photo to SWT who took expert advice, replied that it was Cobalt Fungus (Terrana caerule), a Surrey rarity.
After Kitchen Copse, this important Borough Council owned SSSI, has occupied many of our winter tasks. It was good to be back tree clearing after a three year absence, as part of the first stage of the heather restoration programme. We kicked off before Christmas on the area by Bonny's pond (well, the site of it!), where both Common Heather (Calluna vulgaris) and the national rarity Dwarf Gorse (Ulex minor) were being shaded out. We then moved into the Glade area felling pine and birch as part of the ongoing restoration programme on this part of the Heath. We have a wonderful wet flush here, which is responding well to the clearance both in terms of increasing wetness as a result of reduced draw up of water by the trees, but also in terms of species. With Common Heather appearing on the drier areas, we also have Crossed- leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) which prefers wetter areas, and is only the third place on the Heath where this exists. We also have two Sphagnum Moss species here. wet/bog aspects of heathland in addition to the dry heath is a vital component to the diversity of the site and how the Heath would have been historically. We chased the flush into the birches clearing its line, but at the same time retaining a visual screen for local residents. RBBC Rangers were clearing the Glade pines too, and it was great to be joined by RBBC Ranger Sally, the chainsaw guru amongst us comparing notes on the three operators different techniques to felling. We also discovered the Max is a dab hand with a throwing line, and found a perfect technique of RACV roping the trees and Sally felling them. The Jamaican ginger cake was also excellent - thanks Sally! The Heath tasks in the Glade/wet flush have been characterised by the weather - cold and wet thrown at us, and then the last task of the season the tundra and permafrost set in with everyone looking more like Scott of the Antarctic with just a slit for the eyes visible. But then we are RACV! We also undertook a couple of tasks 'halo releasing' some of the veteran oaks at the back of the Heath. Halo release involves felling the younger trees around the old tree, which is in danger of being crowded out and suffering as a result. One of these tasks was with the new Grammar School Bronze DoE intake. Simon got them going, Bryan did the tools and technique tuition, and then Mick drove their enthusiasm on in the afternoon with a para style tag team sawing competition! Simon also did guided walks for both Heritage Week and also St Mary's Church group, together with a study afternoon for Grammar School A level geography students looking at delicate habitats. Earlier in the year we had a corporate day for Tower Watson staff, clearing and stripping away the bracken and litter layers, to get back down to the mineral layer and release the dormant heather seedbank enabling it to germinate. You'll see from the latest programme that we'll be following on with the next stage of heather restoration, clearing the litter layer in the areas we tree felled over the winter. What has been noticeable this year, is the just how much support or understanding the wider public now have for the work we are doing for the Heath.
We've increased our tasks on Redhill Common, clearing both Laurel and Sycamore, and at the same time making some of the paths/tracks more open and accessible - not least to the Rangers' vehicle. We kicked off with a September corporate day for Black & Veatch, then another one for Tower Watson, together with a final task for the Grammar School DoE Bronzers. And all before we got stuck in properly with the 'normal' RACV tasks, when we were joined by local residents, from the Rehelde Association. Indeed Simon, their Chair arrived and promptly presented us with a completed membership form to join the Group. Welcome Simon, that's exactly the sort of commitment RACV style we like! Again, the weather hit us hard here on a couple of tasks, not least how to burn up laurel when everything is soaking wet, it's raining/sleeting and there is no wind. The first time we have to thank RBBCs Rangers who dropped in to see us, decided to stay (have you noticed how people jump ship to join us!) and then used their leaf blower to vent the fire! (probably the only useful purpose for one of the most pointless and unenvironmental bits of kit.....). The second time took all Mick, Bryan & Simon's ingenuity and skills as they literally logged an old fallen birch to get at dry seasoned wood to keep the fire going, and yes we burnt all the laurel up. We'll return to the Common later in April to work with the residents in a step inspired project .We look forward to a long and successful partnership working with them to care for the Common.
COCKSHOT HILL SANDPIT
This lovely Borough owned former sandpit is a hidden gem, and is protected for both its geological and ecological interest. We are currently trying to encourage the Council to transfer the site from its Property to its Countryside Department, and as part of that we undertook a suite of monthly tasks to reinforce just how important a site it is, and as an example of what some sustained management could achieve. One very important aspect of this site is it's bare ground and the importance of this for a group of insects called Hymenopera or solitary bees and wasps. Indeed the sandpit has some species of rarity, and over the previous two years we have progressively cleared the sand faces of vegetation resulting in the Hymenopera species increasing. Guided by our Hymenopera expert and local resident Jeremy Early, our mission was to join up two sandfaces over three months, to provide both westerly and southerly exposures, in both vertical and flat profiles. We were again joined by the Borough Rangers, who strimmed and chainsawed their way with us, and Jeremy is now wearing a permanent grin on his facing waiting for spring and summer to arrive and see what is attracted here to our work. We will return again in the autumn to carry on!
DOVERS GREEN POND
A new site for us. This narrow area of common and quite species rich grassland straddling the A217 south of Woodhatch has a pond lost in the corner of it, so our mission was to open this up sensitively. Again, the weather hit us, with pouring rain, but not before Tony J was seen arriving shaking his fist in defiance out of the car window and shouting 'RACV hardcore'! It was wet, but an adjoining resident was so impressed anyone would even think to do anything in the conditions, brought out teas & coffees. Our second task was then thwarted as we were quite literally snowed out. We will return in the autumn to continue the job.
A single biannual task, saw us pulling both the Reedmace (Typha latifolia) and clearing the more terrestrial vegetation at the southern/Earlswood Common end. With Bryan driving the land team, we found yet more white post and chains hitherto lost to view. The pond is in need of quite alot of TLC, but we are working on a plan with RBBC!
REIGATE PRIORY LAKE
We returned in the summer to undertake the removal of some of the protective netting cages to areas of successful planting, reinforced those where damage had occurred or it was needed, and then replanted the islands. Working with RBBC Rangers and their team, we replanting the two islands, which the previous park manager had opened the netting on resulting in the waterbirds grazing off the plants. We used Reedmace (Typha latifolia) and Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliate)sourced from the Castle Moat, an alien free site. Girls from DoE decidedly the best way to plant was sitting down in the water to cool off! We'll see how it does and will return to the lake in the summer.
A single annual task, with the Parish Council and locals with some 39 vols in total! Not just the pond this year, but also path and bus shelter clearance, as well assorted other jobs. I know Simon and the Parish Clerk are scratching their heads as to what to do this September such was the success. It may be we put the pond on a biannual task regime?
A relatively quiet period for us, after a series of Reedmace (Typha latifolia) pulling tasks on the Moors. We've followed this up with willow clearance and burn ups, then a late winter clearance of debris along the Redhill Brook removing any woody debris blocks and litter. We took 3 binliners of plastic rubbish (half of what it used to be, but still too much) and a fire extinguisher! The marsh has been flooded more than any of us can remember, with the Brook have broken it's banks in several places that has had the Wildlife Trust calling in the Environment Agency. The weather also stopped Linden Homes complete their replacement of the bridge between the two lagoons at Holmethorpe, as well as completing the cycleway link alongside the railway line on the Moors. The upside is the waterfowl have loved it!! You look across the Moors, and purr with 20 years of restoration work done here. Of course we have our Toad Crossing on Bletchingley Road by Spynes Mere which each year we warden, but apart from one mild wet evening, when some toads put in an appearance - absolutely nothing! Yet!!! Currently there appears to be two schools of thought. Firstly that everyone went in that wet mild nigh, or two they'll go with a rush as soon as it warms up!! If you would like to join our band of wardens helping the toads across the road please let Simon know. Very sadly, Steve Bolton our SWT Ranger for all our sites has taken a two year special projects post within the Wildlife Trust, and whilst he will still be involved with Holmethorpe and the Watercolour development overseeing it to completion, we await an appointment of a successor. Steve will be a hard act to follow, and he has been brilliant to work with, and he and Simon have provided an incredibly effect double act.
One thing that we have singularly failed on is RBBC Ranger Tasks. We put these in to support the Rangers work on a Thursday, and they have been hardly supported by our own vols. The Rangers even have tried that well used RACV tempter of food - but even that has not generated a result. So we will put that to bed for the moment.
Finally, thanks for all your effort. Simon makes no apologies for having driven us hard over the winter. The results are there to be seen on what we've achieved. The cream does come to the surface, and anything else would not be in the true RACV tradition.